BBC Open Air: location aware Breathing Spaces
18th September 2009
The BBC’s Breathing Spaces project was aimed at getting people out and about in nature as well as setting up projects to create their own Breathing Spaces. Examples they gave were of putting up a bird feeder or taking part in the inaugural National Moth Night on 18th-19th September (we’re thinking of leaving the light on for them tonight).
An extension of this is Open Air, which uses Google’s Gears browser add-on to do some clever location finding gubbins. So, if you go to the site it checks where it thinks you are and then tells you about the closest Breathing Spaces. It also provides a weather forecast for your area.
It seems that Gears is a bit underdeveloped for mobile devices and isn’t available for my Nokia N96 yet, neither does it seem to be available on the iPhone. So, I installed it on my laptop and the Open Air site correctly determined my location to within a few hundred yards and suggested that I go rambling around the Jewellery Quarter at Christmas or to go to Aston Hall.
Initially I thought that as I was sitting on the city council’s network and the Digital Birmingham office is a couple of hundred yards from one of its Internet feeds the accuracy of the location finding was more luck than anything else. But then I tried it out from home, with a VPN connection to the city network. Open Air was still able to place my location very accurately. Which is curious.
I’ve taken a look at the Gears Geolocation API, but to be honest I still don’t really understand how it works (I don’t have GPS onboard, I’m connecting wirelessly to my home router, connected to BT Broadband, VPN to city network). It would be good to hear people’s explanation of how they think it is done.
Anyway, I wonder what other usages the BBC will make of this? The BBC Internet Blog describes this as a demo of what could be done with location based search especially for mobile devices. It does show the potential that Gears has, when it is developed for more mobile devices, for providing applications through the browser rather than requiring separate applications that we have to download to our phones
Hat tip to Stu Lester of Service Birmingham for pointing this out to me.