FONFinder is Progressing!

14Apr07

It’s been a while since my last private, spare-time-wasting geek development project. In fact, it’s been so long that I even closed down the no.5 geekvault in the meantime! (It’s the no.5 blog’s equivalent to Google’s Google Labs – sorry for the shameless exaggeration 😀 )

But now, after all these months, I’m back! Working on a small geo-hack for mobile phones: the FONFinder. It’s a mobile mashup I’m creating upon request for a friend. He’s a FON user (or Fonero – to use the technically correct term), which means he’s sharing his wireless LAN access with other FON users, and in turn gets to use their WLAN for free.

He thought it would be neat to have an application or Web service to quickly find out where the nearest FON hotspots are while on the go – so that he could get free broadband for his WiFi-enabled Nokia N80. FON has their own Google Map where you can look up hotspot locations. But that’s useless on the N80 (and practically any other mobile phone today).

Now that’s where the FONFinder comes in: Based on a street address you type into a Web form, it automagically generates a map image of the nearest FON hotspots, returning the output as a plain XHTML page. Since no client-side JavaScript is necessary, it’s compatible with basically any mobile phone and browser on the market.

It mashes up stuff and APIs from several sources:

All the rest (i.e. drawing the hotspots on the map image) is done in Java, with the help of a few open source libraries such as Apache XALAN for XPath querying and the JH Labs Java Map Projection Library, a Java port of the popular Proj.4 cartographic projections library.

The project is now 90% done. I’m still working on nice-ening up the graphics, using IP address lookup to pre-set the country in the street address form and (potentially) providing an alternative .WML version of the service for older phones that support color graphics, but no XHTML (again: thanks to the guys from WURFL!) So stay tuned if you’re a Fonero with a WiFi phone 😉

UPDATE: A first pre-alpha version of the FONFinder is now live at fonfinder.mobi. Also see my announcement here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I’m tracking bugs, issues and feature requests here.



5 Responses to “FONFinder is Progressing!”

  1. 1 chr

    great work!
    I’m no network engineer, but if you could access something like a “network key”, you could cache user given addresses along with that key and suggest following users with the same already a fon hotspot without entering location.
    I remember christopher schmidt talking about something similiar at where 2.0 2006: http://crschmidt.net/symbian/

  2. Do you mean the “locative technology” sample? Yes, thats the cell ID, i.e. the identification number of the GSM antenna the phone is currently connected to. Using that one for location is quite a neat approach. Some of the current social location-based apps like Plazes are using it. Unfortunately, though, I can’t tap into this sort of information from the browser (yet). But on the other hand: the guy who I’m writing the FONFinder for has already ordered a (GPS-enabled) Nokia N95. So who knows – a downloadable FONFinder client with GPS and CellID included might be the next geek-project on my list 😀 )

  3. 3 kael

    The FONFinder looks like a great tool ; exactly what I’m for looking for. Using it with the GPS of N95 would be very cool, though. 🙂

  4. 4 kael

    Addendum : perhaps implementing it as a widget for Nokia S60 could be an alternative to J2ME. But I’m not sure if it’d require a permanent GPRS or WLAN connection.

  5. kael: good point about doing this as a widget! I’m not sure if its possible to access the GPS from the Web runtime, but I think I’ll check that out (if I can manage to snatch the N95 from my colleagues desk, that is 😀 )


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