Apr 212011

Those of you who have known me for any period of time will probably have been aware that you could find my current location on my personal website (which is now this blog). This was originally just the Google Latitude ‘badge’, which was quite a simple map representation of my current location with a guestimated range bubble around me. This is still displayed on every page in the right hand column. It only however, identified the town at best in textual format, and offered no historical view ability, or alternative display methods when I was somewhere I go regularly.

Since the 19th February 2011, I have been storing my Latitude location as updated automatically by my mobile phone that goes with me everywhere. This has been updated every 60 seconds into a MySQL database, along with a reverse-geocode lookup from the Google Maps API of the best possible postal address from latitude/longitude, an accuracy estimate (can be spot on with GPS, within 50 metres with wifi and city centre 3G coverage, and upwards of 2km in the countryside), and a timestamp. A couple of authorised PHP shell scripts do all the raw collection and storage operations. This then allows me create my own map of my location that I can play with, as well as offer minimaps of my ‘last 5 positions’ and anything else that might take my fancy.

For example on my location page now, I calculate the time I have been somewhere and also check my current location against a database of places I frequent on a regular basis and stay at for quite a while when I get to them. There are 9 entries in it. A short sample are my house, my girlfriend’s house, a couple of Starbucks that I go to regularly, and where I work. If it calculates I am within a permitted range of any place in that database table (each entry has a specific permitted range) and I’ve been there for more than a few minutes, it’ll “check me in” to that place and display precisely where I am. Once I begin moving again, it’ll check me out and begin the usual ‘roaming’ display once more.

If I ever get asked “To eliminate you from our murder enquiry, where were you at 5.33pm on the 2nd April 2011?” I can honestly say IKEA, Lakeside Retail Park, W Thurrock Way, Thurrock RM16 6, UK!

Some may question the logic of doing this – surely it’s invasion into my personal life? That may be so, but given any of my friends could ring me and say “Where are you?”, what’s the difference?