GPS Phones and Real Time Location Based Social Networking

by Gong Liu June 21, 2009 08:16

Pharos Traveler 137 GPS Phone 

Recently I was on a hunt for apps and services that could best illustrate the power of Pharos' adward-winning Traveler 137 GPS phone (I work for Pharos as you may notice from my profile). The spec of the phone is as follow. You can get more info about it here.

ShoZu App and Services 

My hunt led me to ShoZu. According to their website, ShoZu is the leading provider of mobile social media services that connect mobile consumers with their online social networks, personal blogs, photo storage sites and other Web 2.0 properties from the handset. In other words, with ShoZu app and services, you can, from your cell phone, upload/publish photos, videos, and blogs to multiple social networking, photo sharing websites, such as Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. The GPS in your phone comes into play when you geotag your photos, videos, and RSS feeds before uploading. Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification metadata to these media. Both Traveler 137 OS and ShoZu app are capable of geotagging. Geotag-aware websites (such as Flickr and Picasa) can then pick up the metadata in the media and display them on a map for your friends and followers to see. The following figure shows various components and players involved.

   

To use ShoZu, you need first to create a ShoZu account. Currently, ShoZu account and services are completely free of charge. The following screenshot shows my ShoZu account settings. 

 

A destination site is a website or an email account that accepts uploads. In my case, I set up 5 destination sites Flickr, PicasaWeb, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, and an email destination. When I take a photo using my Traveler 137, I can choose to upload it to any one of these destinations. The best part of ShoZu service is that it allows you to specify multiple CC sites so when you upload a photo to one destination, it goes to all your CC sites as well. ShoZu does the distribution using their own servers so you won't incur any additional costs in terms of bandwidth usage and upload time. As shown above, I set up 3 CC sites, Facebook (CC), MySpace (CC) and Picasaweb (CC).

For some destination sites, you need to specify an exact location for your uploads. For example, the following screenshot shows that if I upload a photo to MySpace account, it should end up in the album called "ShoZu", which I created in MySpace account beforehand.

 

Once you set up your ShoZu account, you can upload photos and videos to your destination sites via MMS or email without the need of installing any additional software. However, by installing a ShoZu client app, you take full advantages of ShoZu services. For example, you can post to blogs, queue up multiple uploads at the background, and upload bigger images or video clips than allowed by MMS.

To download and install ShoZu client app, please follow these steps:

1) Go to the app download page in ShoZu web portal and select your phone by manufacturer and model. In my case, Traveler 137 was not in the list. I just selected a phone with same OS and similar form factor (HTC's Max Quartz), and it turned out working just fine.  

 

2) Enter your cell phone number

 

3) Once you hit the Continue button above, in a short while you should receive a text message containing a download link, as shown below (left).  

  

4) Tap the link to start downloading. Once the download completes, Mobile OS starts the installation automatically. And once the installation completes, ShoZu app activates itself automatically. It then pulls out your destination sites from your account settings and displays them in a window as shown above (right).

To use ShoZu app to upload a geotagged photo (or video clip) is as easy as 1-2-3.

1) Start the camera app in your Traveler 137 (or other GPS phone)

2) Make sure the geotagging feature is on and the GPS is locking on a signal (changing from to  )

3) Aim and shoot. That's it!

Note: depending on your ShoZu app options, you may need an extra step to comfirm the photo or add description before sending it

On the Receiving End  

Once you upload a photo to ShoZu, usually in less than a minute ShoZu is able to distribute it to the destination site of your choice and to all your CC sites for your friends to see. Here comes the real fun part if the receiving sites support geotag, as the photo can be displayed on a map and your friends will know exactly where you took it. They can switch to satellite view or even 3D street view to get to know the surroundings of your location. Most photo sharing sites support geotag. For social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, you will need 3rd party apps to achieve this. 

The following screenshot from my Flickr account shows a biking trip I did in Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach. I took numerous geotagged photos with my Traveler 137 along the way and sent them out immediately via ShoZu. My friends on several networks were able to learn lots about my trip (when and where) before I even got back home! That's what I call some amazing technologies!

 

The following screenshot from my Picasa account shows the same set of photos. 

 

Click the View in Google Earth link (assuming you have Google Earth in your computer) and you can view the photos in Google Earth as shown below. With Google Earth you have more options. For example, you can do a slide show with the photos or you can save the trip as a KML or KMZ file and publish it on other websites.

 

The following screenshot from my Facebook account shows the same set of photos. They are simply less interesting without the maps. However, I'm sure there are some 3rd party Facebook apps that are capable of handling geotag.   

 

Conclusions

GPS phones, such as Pharos Traveler 137, bring the real-time location-based element to the mix of technologies that power the current social networking phenomenon. Whether you are a photo sharing enthusiast, a social networking lover, or a sexting addict, a GPS phone might just be the thing for you. 

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