Twitter Announces Geo-Location API

Hi everyone!


Well, this is my first blog on the blog site, so first off, I’ll hijack the topic and quickly introduce myself. I’m Anthony Jones although i’m known by a lot of people as AJ, Anthony, Ant, Tony or a multitude of other variations. I started with Gaia Resources in July this year, and I’m really happy to be part of such a progressive and forward thinking organisation. I’ve been a software engineer for the last 10 years working for a couple of different companies, most recently in the defence simulation and training industry.


OK, now time to get to the point of this post. Twitter have announced the imminent release of a new feature to their microblogging service. Their new geo-location API (application programmers interface, essentially a toolkit for software developers) will allow tweets to be marked up with a latitude and longitude thus making them spatially aware. At the outset, this would appear to be a pretty simple feature addition however it does give rise to some interesting possibilities.


I’m sure that there’s probably already a few developers out there that have added geo tagging to tweets for their iphone and other smartphone applications using the new API. We’ve already seen apps like Tweetie and TwitterFon that have been geo-aware for quite a while now, but the addition of this new API will allow for standardisation across the board on how tweets are marked up.


With all these tweets now being marked up, I can see a few immediate ways of putting this information to good use. For followers of twitter feeds, it now means that twitter feeds can essentially be used in a similar fashion to GeoRSS. If the follower was, for example, an Earth 2.0 server, then this would allow for smartphone or laptop users to input species sightings from the convenience of their existing Twitter client – just choose from a dropdown of quick texts (a feature of most good Twitter clients) and viola – A complete Darwin Core format record input into the system, with full metadata. Of course, as with most things, the real advantages of this technology are realized by using it in concert with a variety of other standards and technologies such as EXIF, GeoRSS, Darwin Core etc.


Another application of the technology could be the development of low cost tracking systems that use Twitter as  their communications and logging mechanism. Of course, as with all cool technologies, this could be used for evil instead of good. Users of the technology need to be aware that they could be potentially publishing information into the public domain about their habits, where they are and what they are doing. Only through education and good software design can these privacy issues be avoided.


You can read Twitter’s blog post here, or email me directly here.

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