Locating objects just an app away

Your GPS-equipped smartphone might be able to tell you where you are, but a new Australian software application will also tell you the location of any object you are looking at, even many kilometres away.

Your GPS-equipped smartphone might be able to tell you where you are, but a new Australian software application will also tell you the location of any object you are looking at, even many kilometres away.

Spatialeye from Melbourne-based developer EYEfi uses a smartphone's GPS, gyroscope and compass features coupled with downloadable terrain data to provide accurate location information on any object the device is pointed at. Even a building, tree or mountain.

According to the inventor Simon Langdon, Spatialeye enables users to accurately determine the location of points of interest without the need for triangulation. Hence a photographer could determine the location of the object photographed, not just their own location at the time of taking the photograph. Points of interest can also be easily shared with other users.

"As long as you can see it, we'll tell you where it is," Mr Langdon said. "Just zoom in, click, and we'll tell you where it is on the map."

The app is about to make its debut for consumer use, with the technology having been deployed in an incident-management and field dispatch system for VicRoads and other in-field applications. An earlier version had been tested by the Victorian Department of Sustainability and the Environment (DSE), which used fixed cameras with high-quality optics and mountings to test its accuracy spotting the location of bushfires and lightning strikes.

The underlying technology behind Spatialeye is EYEfi's SPARC algorithm, which uses sensor data from the smartphone and geospatial information to mathematically determine the real-world location the phone is pointed at.

SPARC capability has also been trialled in detecting lightning strikes, which often cause bushfires. The technology also worked effectively with other electronic devices and camera types, including thermal imaging cameras.

Mr Langdon said digital terrain data could be pre-loaded for any given area, allowing Spatialeye to work effectively regardless of whether the user had wireless internet coverage. Accuracy was to within 150 metres, with 95 per cent accuracy at 15 kilometres.

Mr Langdon said that, unlike competing location systems, Spatialeye did not require any modification of the smartphone's hardware. So far it has been trialled on a Nokia Lumia handset running Windows Mobile 8 and Nokia's HERE mapping technology, but Mr Langdon said Spatialeye would be made available for other operating systems over time, along with an application programming interface for developers.

"The technology is so versatile that if we tried to develop an app for every scenario we'd imagined, we'd be developing for the next 10 years," Mr Langdon said.

Nokia HERE's business development manager Rohan Fernando said Spatialeye was a complementary technology to its City Lens augmented reality application, which overlaid user-generated information onto the real world when viewed through a compatible smartphone.

"What Spatialeye brings is the ability to create new points of interest," Mr Fernando said "To my mind there are many different applications where that capability can be applied."

DSE's director for spatial information infrastructure Bruce Thompson said the technology offered triangulation without a second source, and proved a successful augmentation to the department's human spotters.

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