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Geotate service geared to ease geotagging

The NXP Software spinoff hopes camera makers will use its online service that it believes can make it more practical to add location data to images.

LAS VEGAS--A company called Geotate hopes to use an Internet service to lower a significant barrier to the technologically challenging practice of geotagging.

Geotagging, which uses a global positioning system to attach location data to photos to build in more descriptive data, is at present a difficult and largely manual process appealing mostly to serious photo enthusiasts. That's largely because it's too hard right now to build GPS directly into a camera for automated geotagging, so photographers must carry a separate GPS device and then marry the location data to the photos after the fact.

But Geotate, which NXP Software is in the process of spinning off, thinks it has an answer to some of the GPS integration difficulties for camera makers. Here's how it works, according to product manager Paul Gough, who described the technique Wednesday at the Photo Marketing Association trade show here.

First, a camera has to include a built-in GPS radio or have one attached externally to its flash hot-shoe. When a photo is taken, the camera or an external device records about 2 milliseconds' worth of GPS signal data.

That's not enough for the camera to get a location fix; one of the big problems of geotagging is that GPS receivers often take 30 seconds to get their first fix. Geotate's method, though, relies on a central server that later can figure out the location information from just that brief record of GPS data by comparing it to its detailed records of GPS satellite positions.

Geotate today has Windows software that handles communication with its server, and that software then embeds the location data in JPEG images. (It doesn't support raw images or Mac OS X at this point.)

Eventually, Gough said, he hopes camera makers will license the technology to build their own interfaces. Geotate plans to license an API (application programming interface) that could give camera customers access to the service for a particular camera or for a subscription, he said.

Geotate also announced a partnership Wednesday with a New Zealand company, Rakon Limited, to integrate its software with Rakon's GPS radio hardware. The radio measures 1/4 inch by 1/5 inch.