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GeoCam Mobile Architecture

Throughout this document I'm going to assume that the reader has a fairly good grasp of the Android basics. That is, they know what an Activity, Service and other Android-related terms/jargon means. For those who are unaware, please familiiarize yourself with the fundamentals first.

Overview

GeoCam Mobile is a series of activities that are centered around a core service. Most of the activities exist to give an indication as to the current state of the service, or provide inputs to the service.

The service, in turn, does most of the work with in the application. It handles delivering data to the server and keeping logs of where the phone goes.

Additionally, there are a few databases that keep a history of locations and tracks, and a queue of things that need uploaded.

GeoCamService

GeoCamService is the core service of the entire application. It is always running when the application is running. It handles the LocationManager for the entire application and emits a broadcast intent when a new location fix is known. In this way, all of the location-based services are centralized.

Note: GeoCam Mobile only supports location updates from the GPS. It will quit if the user has it turned off and is unwilling (or unable) to turn it on.

GeoCamService tries to be smart with the rate at which it requests updates from the GPS, only requesting frequent updates when any of the activities are in the foreground. See ForegroundTracker for how this is handled.

The service is also responsible for uploading any of the data products. Currently this amounts to Photos and periodic live position updates. There is also support for uploading recorded GPS tracks, but the functionality is currently disabled.

There are two upload mechanisms. The first is a priority queue that takes data products out of an upload queue (See GeoCamDbAdapter) and uploads them to the server. This is where the bigger, formal data products are uploaded such as images and tracks. The second upload mechanism is an ad-hoc upload thread that uploads live position updates. We separated the two to be sure live updates don't block due to a large image to get through. (Although it might anyway, it hasn't been tested.) For the protocol on how the server sees these data products, see the protocol document.

The service talks to all of the other activities either though an broadcasted Intent (for GPS location updates) or the GeoCamService AIDL. This allows the activities to ask it to increase the GPS rate, tell it to start and stop track recording and let it know when the entire application is visible or not.

Taking Photos

The most basic task that GeoCam Mobile strives to accomplish is uploading geo- tagged, oriented photos to the server. To do this, CameraActivity and CameraPreviewActivity were born. CameraActivity takes care of actually taking the picture, while CameraPreviewActivity allows the user to associate an icon and notes with the picture before adding it to the upload queue for the service.

CameraActivity has the additional tasks of listening to the accelerometer and recording the orientation of when the image was captured as well as camera-related things such as auto-focusing and actually taking the picture.

Tangent: If I were to rewrite this application, I would use the built-in camera application and listen for orientation data elsewhere. This allows a much more integrated and streamlined interface. This would have the added benefit of allowing people to pick previous photos to upload as well, even if it means we don't get precise camera orientation information (or perhaps location data) with the picture.

The photo, if it's accepted to be uploaded, the service is notified and the image is thrown into the GeoCamDbAdapter to cue it for uploading. Note, that due to the protocol the image is actually added to the queue three times, one for each downsample factor.

Recording Tracks

The second data product that the application supports uploading is GPS tracks. While the software contains the code to do this, it is currently disabled by hiding any buttons to get to the TrackMapActivity. Once enabled, the tracks are recorded through the TrackMapActivity by talking to the service, which handles recording the track points in the GpsDbAdapter and actually uploading the tracks.

For details on how the tracks are actually uploaded, see the protocol document.

Status Screens

The home screen (GeoCamMobile) and UploadPhotosActivity are mainly status screens indicating the state of the service. The home screen also gives access to the different features of GeoCam (taking photos, etc). The Upload activity gives the status on how many things are in the upload queue and any errors that may occur.

Other Activities

There is one little activity called AuthorizeUserActivity. This activity exists purely for as a mechanism for deterring the general public from using and uploading photos, even though it was published on the market. Until the user inputs a secret key, the application wouldn't start. The secret key can be found in the GeoCamMobile activity.

Compatibility

GeoCam Mobile is targeted at the Android 2.2 SDK. However, we also have legacy devices, such as the HTC G1, which only run the 1.6 SDK, that we would like to keep the software running on, if possible. Because of the incompatibilies and changes from the 1.6 to 2.2 version of the SDK, there are some utility classes that provide shim layers and smooth out some of the bumps. These can be found in Reflect. Most of this is voodoo learned from Google I/O talks and deal with the camera and service foregrounding.

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