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A different approach to GPS-enabled cameras

NXP's software-only solution to GPS enabling digital cameras may overcome some of the hurdles to adoption.

NXP Software

Photography's essential use of GPS differs from the typical GPS application in one significant way: You don't need it to tell you where you are, only where you've been. Why does this distinction matter? Because the former requires far more real-time horsepower and precision than the latter does. For digital photography, that translates into the difference between bulky, expensive power-draining solutions or small-footprint, cheap, energy-efficient ones.

At least, that's the thinking behind NXP Software's swGPS technology, and I think it has a lot of merit. With the swGPS software embedded in a camera along with a small receiver, every time you take a shot, the camera takes a "snapshot" of all the GPS satellite signals it can pick up plus a time stamp and then saves a tiny file with the info. According to the company, it consumes only 27mJ of power per shot. When you download the photos to a PC, it syncs with NXP's servers to turn that miscellaneous signal data into a location stamp for each photo. In contrast, a typical GPS solution does that synchronization while you're shooting.

The first product available using NXP's SnapSpot swGPS technology--Jobo AG's PhotoGPS, a $149 add-on that fits into a camera's hotshoe--will ship this summer. I'm just hoping that the execution works as well as the theory sounds.