dopplr and other ways to have fun with location updates stuff

Yesterday, Andy sent me an invite (btw – thanks, Andy!) for dopplr – another online service where you can see online where someone is at any given time.

I’ve mentioned before that I have tried stuff like Plazes, as well as trying out my own approach (which you can see in the right-hand column of this blog’s front page, or by going straight here). Dopplr is still a closed beta though, so I hadn’t had the chance to try it before.

So far, I quite like it – it adds a couple of interesting points…

  • planning ahead – not only can you tell it where you are now, but you can tell it where you will be. This is quite a neat idea, and allows for some neat features where dopplr lets you know if your travel plans cross over with any of your friends plans or take you near any of your friends hometowns. I really like this idea – going to be somewhere at the same time as a friend you haven’t seen in ages? Why not see if you can meet up?
  • privacy – only your dopplr friends can see your location info. Probably sensible, although a bit boring! I’d rather make my profile public if I could… despite my recent wobble about security worries!

I’m not sure that I really travel enough to make dopplr useful for me – other than the occasional trip to London, I don’t really get to go anywhere! And I can’t really add trips to go and see family, because towns like Newbury are too small for Dopplr to know about them! (A little annoying actually… hopefully they will let you add new places soon).

Speaking of location-updates stuff, I keep meaning to do some work on my own effort. To recap, at the moment I have a Windows Mobile client which periodically sends a location update of longtitude and latitude coordinates to a web server, either from an internal database of known locations or using the internal GPS chip. To save time and battery life, if possible it tries to match it’s location with one from the database by looking for known WiFi networks.

If all else fails, the known locations can be provided as a list to choose from manually, or it can provide a text box to manually enter a text description of a place.

I’d like to extend this by adding:

1) Support for postcodes – Another manual approach, it’d be nice to be able to enter a postcode for where I am – for times when I’m in a building without line-of-sight for GPS to work. This isn’t my idea – it was mentioned recently on Richard Jones’ blog but it’s quite a neat solution so I want to have a play with it when I get the chance.

2) Support for mobile phone cell-ids – Another neat idea that isn’t mine :-).
Alexis suggested using the ID of the cell-tower that my phone can see as another way to identify my location. This is quite a neat idea… although it hinges on me being able to programmatically access information about my GSM signal, and ideally find a database of T-Mobile cell-towers with locations. I’ve not had a chance to look into this yet, but watch this space 🙂

4 Responses to “dopplr and other ways to have fun with location updates stuff”

  1. dale says:

    There’s another mention of dopplr with some good screenshots on Roo’s blog.

  2. dale says:

    I’ve got an invite for dopplr if anyone else wants to give it a try!

  3. […] should probably come along, too Technorati tags: minibar, minicamp, barcamp, location awareness, london, […]

  4. robshavell says:

    hi Dale,

    i’m interested in what you’re building. we hacked together a social travel site called traveltogether mainly for planning group trips but have something new on the horizon integrating search and location. i’d like to discuss what you’re doing with the client updates at some point. shoot me a mail if you get a chance.