RMIT's School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences developed a method for integrating spatial coordinates into an SMS text message and released the technology for doing so as an open standard called GeoSMS. The standard has now been put to use in the first mainstream mobile application, an Android reference app called "I Am Here," available now in the Google Android Market for free.Researchers at
In August, PhD student Matthew Kwan shared the news of the upcoming Android app and the general availability of the GeoSMS standard by way of the GeoSMS blog. The idea for the technology was sparked by a personal experience he had when he was at a large music festival and spent half an hour searching for a friend. "There has to be a better way," he thought at the time.
To create GeoSMS and the accompanying app, he took the recently ratified geo: URI standard, which helps identify geographic locations, and put it into SMS. The method basically involves embedding one or more geo URIs in the body of an SMS text message, separated from the message text by one or more spaces, explains the GeoSMS website.
A message containing such an URI is known as a "geotaged" SMS. For example:
I'm at the pub geo:-37.801631,144.980294.
Kwan says that text messages saying "Where are you?" are the most commonly sent SMS, but the technology itself isn't currently capable of identifying where someone is located. GeoSMS changes that.
Kwan would like to see GeoSMS implemented into new phones and other commercial applications in the future. "The software is available for free through the Android Market, published by RMIT. Its source code can be found online," he said.
"GeoSMS is an open standard, so hopefully handset manufacturers will build it into their phones in future. In the meantime, there's nothing to stop someone developing a commercial version for the iPhone or Nokia. In fact, we'd encourage it."
"I Am Here" Android App
To demonstrate how the technology works, an open-source Android application called "I Am Here" has launched in the Google Android Marketplace. The app allows users to send and receive geotagged SMS texts and will displays those received on a map. It also shows a compass needle and distance counter that can be followed to the destination.
The app itself is somewhat bare bones, as many reference applications are. But the potential for using this technology in other ways, including everything from socializing to rescue operations, is intriguing.
You can download the Android app from the Marketplace or scan the barcode here.