GPS research project topic

Stroller linux.luser at
Sat Apr 26 00:26:19 CEST 2008

On 25 Apr 2008, at 20:57, simarillion wrote:
> ...
> Now I have to do a student research project and because I'm a big  
> fan of the
> openmoko/freerunner project I want to combine this. ...
> I must give them a topic that must
> contain research and the GPS. Now is the question, what research  
> with the
> freerunner and it's GPS device can I do that would help the openmoko
> community and seems to be something that institute would support.  
> It should
> not be "only" writing a gui or something like that.
> I have got to improve, develop, add or optimize something.

Hi there,

What I'd really like to see for OpenMoko & GPS is a way to text- 
message (SMS) your location to someone. When an OpenMoko device  
receives a text message containing a location it automatically opens  
(say) a GPS-compass and points the direction and distance to the sender.

I do not know if this would satisfy your research criteria, but there  
are a number of ways the project can be developed.

The address book must have a new option so that you select a contact  
and then choose "Find me!" - this automatically gets location from  
the GPS and sends it in an appropriate format.

The SMS application on the receiving OpenMoko must recognise the  
location format and pass the location data as a parameter to another  
(user specifiable) application. The map or "compass" application must  
be patched to read parameters when it is opened and point the compass  
at that location or show it on the map.

The location should probably not be automatically added to the  
recipient's waypoint database, because the receiver will probably  
never use that location again. It is acceptable to create a waypoint  
called "temp" if it does not exist and overwrite "temp" if it does  
exist already. If the user renames the "temp" waypoint to something  
more recognisable (eg: "bar on the beach") then it should not be  

My interest in this is that I used to fly paragliders pretty  
seriously, and once one becomes adept at flying more than a 20 or 30  
kilometres, getting home becomes a problem. Usually your friends will  
come looking for you - when I first started flying many people did  
not have mobile phones, and their prevalence became a god-send.  
Nevertheless, one may still be limited to describing one's location  
as "just a few miles past Uckfield, I'm right by a white farmhouse  
but I'm walking to a nearby cross-roads; I'll tell you what its  
signposts say when I get there". The problem becomes compounded when  
one is on holiday - in the Alps it is easier to fly larger distances,  
and once into the next valley one may not know the name of the town  
near which one has landed. One may land only a mile or two from the  
highway but be unable to describe one's location because one doesn't  
know to say "I'm on the side-road which leads to $town". Further, the  
retrieve driver may find it difficult to get directions from locals,  
especially if the driver doesn't speak the language, and consider the  
roaming charges incurred by long and complicated conversations of  

When I was last flying seriously there was some initial talk by the  
marketing departments some manufacturers (Nokia?) of adding this  
feature to their phones. So I would guess there are one or two models  
already on the market which do this. The OpenMoko needs to be able to  
interpret the location format of these phones, and the address book  
needs a function to specify alternative formats for the "find me!"  
SMS, so that it can be sent to Nokia or Motorola (which surely use  
proprietary location formats).

Clearly, this feature sells itself to walkers and hikers and outdoor- 
pursuits enthusiasts, but it would also be of great use to the wider  
population. I think that after you've used this feature just once  
you'll never want to be without it! Say you are meeting friends in a  
club or a bar, and you don't know where it is. They just send you an  
SMS and your phone bleeps and you look at the screen and it says "300  
metres that way" (and if they're two or three streets away the needle  
points in the right direction when you come to a junction). This  
becomes even more useful when you're driving across down because  
Bob's recently moved house or there are a bunch of people in town for  
a MeetUp (tm) this evening, but a crowd have arrived early and have  
found a park to laze in (I'm thinking especially of typical Internet  
MeetUps, when many people may be from out of town, and don't know the  
area; neither party may be able to give good directions!).

For this to work all mapish (i.e. map and GPS-compass) applications  
need to accept parameters and behave sensibly with them (EG: "/usr/ 
bin/kompass 44.093333,6.236389" needs to start that program without  
the user having to separately enter the destination) but in case the  
software author does something stupid one needs the option to  
manually specify the command line called by the SMS receive  
application (eg: "/usr/bin/gmap --destination $1", where the SMS  
application inserts "44.093333,6.236389" or whatever for $1; it is  
conceivable that the device owner might need to write a Bash script  
to parse "44.093333,6.236389" and instead spit out '/path/to/app -- 
destination --format=long-winded --northing 44° 5′ 36″ --easting  
6° 14′ 11″' on stdout.


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