Yahoo!’s Tagzone: Good enough for Google Earth?

Astute reader Ron Schott writes in about Yahoo!’s foray into gotagging: Zonetag Photos, “a research prototype release from Yahoo! Research Berkeley”.

Is this what Dan Catt has been up to recently? Ron does some digging and finds Dan in the Zonetag Flickr group, so we’ll assume yes. (Before Dan went to work at Yahoo!, he was responsible for Geobloggers, which mapped geotagged Flickr photos onto Google Earth.)

What is Zonetag? It’s not a mapping solution per se, but a mobile publishing tool for cell phone cameras that incorporates an automatic geotagger. In English: It will let you upload your cell phone photos to your Flickr account via your phone and automatically tag the photos with the ID of the cell phone tower you’re using.

As soon as somebody in the Flickr photo community associates that cell phone tower ID tag with a ZIP code or city location tag, all photos with that tower ID will then be linked to the area in which you took them.

The service is experimental and works in the US only, with Nokia Series 60 phones. Here is an example of a “celltagged” Flickr Photo, with a ZIP code tag attached. Here are all 1968 zonetagged photos to date.

Implications for mapping & Google Earth? These photos aren’t nearly as precisely positioned as longitude/latitude tags generated by GPS-based devices, and will likely be scrunched up at one location for multiple cell towers if many are displayed on a map. We’ll see if that proves to be “good enough” for mainstream use, given the ease of publishing to Flickr. I suspect people will expect more precise positioning when zooming in close with Google Earth.

5 thoughts on “Yahoo!’s Tagzone: Good enough for Google Earth?”

  1. I’m nothing to do with ZoneTag :) apart from maybe having introduced the concept of more complex tagging into Flickr (and I’m not totally sure I was the first).

    I’m doing something quite different ;)

    Anyway, there’s quite a bit more going on under the hood of the ZoneTag project than just “You’re near this cell tower”, there’s a whole bunch of, cell tower strength, time of day taken, time of year taken, who else has also taken photos in the same cell tower, when, what tags did they use and so on. Thrown ontop of that is some backend image recognition, to try and pin point where you are.

    If you know roughly where someone took the photo, have other photos from the area, and a load of really clever stuff, then the image recognition actually becomes practical.

    This slide:

    …gives the quick estimate that with image recognition, placement goes up to about 70% hit rate.

    There’s also another angle to this that’s less location based, but depends on location. If a whole bunch of people suddenly take photos in the same cell tower location at the same strength at the same time, then it can be automatically flagged as something interesting is happening.

    I’m going to throw up a blog post about ZoneTag soon, but I have to wait until after Friday :)

  2. Um, wow, somebody’s been thinking this through. I was wondering what all the other “cell:” tags were for… Any chance of shedding some light of this in your blog post, Dan?

  3. Sure, I’ll try to give a good break down of what it all means, and why it’s all a “good thing”.

    In the mean time I have some diagrams to put together :)

  4. A couple of notes – ZoneTag can connect to a GPS device via bluetooth, providing ‘geo:’ tags as well as ‘cell:’ tags, for the pleasure of Dan Catt (our favorite geoblogger) and other geofans out there. See, for example, here.

    And regarding Riya, maybe the Friday timing with Dan’s post is a coincidence, I don’t know, but the fact that their work is related is not a coincidence. They’ve been following quite closely ideas generated by Marc Davis and myself, both of us now at Y!RB. See here.

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