Friday, September 03, 2004
GPS and DNS
Having had an interest for some time in first-person augmented reality (different from third party augmented reality systems where someone else is adding a virtual component to your environment like the guys in this earlier entry are doing), I've always had some idea that it would be necessary to have geographic information tied into the Internet somewhere. I didn't really give it much thought, though, as there were other interesting things to think about.
Recently, however, I was driving up to Canada and kept finding myself thinking things like "I wonder those statues are all about," and "Ooo, you can learn to fly helicopters over there; I wonder how much it costs." This further led me to thinking about how you might actually go about tying in physical location information with the Internet.
I know that some cell phone services will already let you find things like the location of every ATM near you, and the top 10 cheap restaurants in your area, both based on your triangulated position (or the location of the cell tower you are currently connected to, or the like) based on interactions with your phone. But it seems to me that for a system where information is tied to a location to actually work, the process for finding that information should be based on some Internet standard, and not controlled by cell phone companies or other such parties.
The seemingly obvious solution would be to augment the current DNS system so that it could do the same translation with geographic coordinates as it does with names. (This all assumes, by the way, that GPS receivers will be small enough to be integrated with cell phones in the near future, which seems like a good bet.) Some modifications are likely required, however, so that you could say "Give me all of the things within 50 meters of my location" as well as things like "Tell me what is at exactly x and y".
An example of how this would work is if I'm tooling down the highway and see something of interest, I can request all of the geographic entries near me, and have them displayed on a map of my surroundings. I can then pick the particular location of the item I'm interested in (this is a short-term scenario; in the slightly longer term, computer assistance will help you get at the exact thing your are interested in (perhaps, for example, by pointing) without the intervening steps). The geocode of that location would then be looked up in the DNS system, which would return the location of its information server, which might return an HTML doc, some XML, or the like.
It seems likely that the demand for these kinds of services (at least in the US) will begin to peak around 3 years from know, with focused interest lasting from 2-5 years after that.
I did a quick Google search and came up with a couple of references to this kind of thinking.
RFC 1876 seems to be dealing with including geographic information into DNS (though I have only skimmed the spec).
There's also a reference to "The Addressable World" in a doc I found on the Institute for the Future's website.
Finally, there is a paper dating back to 1996 about GPS-Based Addressing and Routing on Rutgers' site, which seems (again, I only skimmed it) to be in the ballpark as well.
Anyone know of any progress on this front? I'd be surprised if there wasn't something in Japanese discussing an existing implementation on this, but I don't read Japanese, so no luck there.