Geotagging your photos

How to get the most out of GPS and digital photography

Geolocation, or geotagging, of photos seems to be all the rage at the moment. It allows users to add GPS data to their photos, so that mapping software can recognise and pinpoint the location where the photo was taken. It lets users search, locate, organise and share their photos in an easily understandable and easily categorised fashion.

When we first explained geotagging last year, we recommended the Sony GPS-CS1 as an excellent manual geotagging solution for beginners. Since then, however, geotagging has been made even easier, with numerous cameras and mobile phones being released that have geotagging capabilities built-in, allowing the process to be automated. The Apple iPhone 3G, and Nokia's N78 and N96 are just some of the mobiles, while General Electric's E1050 digital camera implements geotagging through an integrated GPS receiver.

Although geotagging has obvious benefits in terms of categorisation of photos, the ability for users to share photos with this additional data is only starting to be realised. GPS makers Garmin and Navman are at the forefront of this. Through Garmin's use of Panoramio software and Navman's own NavPix database, users can download geotagged pictures onto capable GPS devices and then utilise the geographic data to actually travel to those places. This has potential impacts on global tourism, social communities and the integration of GPS capability into mobile devices.

Garmin and Panoramio

Garmin's geotagging solution provides users with an interactive photo sharing experience both on PCs and on GPS devices. The solution involves the use of Panoramio, which overlays geotagged photos from around the world onto Google Earth and Google Maps. Users can upload their geotagged photos onto the site for all to see; a photo gets attached to the location it was taken on Google Earth. Users can then view a location and the attached pictures and download them to their Garmin GPS device.

So far the solution seems to be somewhat successful. There are more than 100,000 geotagged pictures in Australia alone on Panoramio, giving plenty of options for tourists and photo enthusiasts. A Garmin device isn't required to use Panoramio on the PC, so anyone can peruse photos from a particular location.

To get the most out of this solution, however, a Garmin GPS is the best option. Upload the desired picture to your device and it will determine the best route to get to the destination, allowing users to get the most from their geotagging experience. Our device of choice would be the Garmin nuvi 760. The combination of text-to-speech and Panoramio capability ensures ease of use, allowing people to quickly and simply find the location they've chosen.

Navman and NavPix

Navman has decided on a more straightforward approach. Its NavPix feature closely resembles photo sharing communities such as Flickr, with users able to create personal albums that are categorised by location and topic. Although GPS data does not reveal a picture's topic, geotagging data enables an easy way to record a picture's location. Users can create local albums using Navman's NavDesk software and then upload them in a batch to the NavPix Web site.

Unfortunately, the NavPix solution is restricted to a simple search function, rather than the interactive mapping solution offered by Panoramio. Search is also somewhat complicated given that photos are categorised by suburbs rather than cities. Nevertheless, the system is functional and easy to use, allowing people to peruse photos, and upload them, using NavDesk software, to their capable device.

Apart from the S30, most Navman S series GPS devices are capable of using NavPix. The S50 and S90i are both great GPS devices that can use NavPix. Our pick would be the Navman S80. The inclusion of text-to-speech technology in this model means the S80 provides the best method of getting to your desired location, particularly with complicated intersections. The S80's Bluetooth capabilities allow users to associate a NavPix or regular 'point of interest' (POI) with a number in their mobile phone. Users can then call the destination straight from the S80, using the Bluetooth hands-free capability during driving.

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