Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service

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Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 3/15/08 3:16 PM
Mail to Map/SMS-to-Map/Mail to GE service: new twist in (r)Evolution

The idea of creating a simple “Mail-to-Map” service came when I was tracking White-Tailed Deer in the suburbs of Pennsylvania. The GPS coordinates were send by the collared deer as a SMS/Text Message via GSM/cell-phone networks to a server in Sweden, and then relayed to my e-mail account. I was surprised to find out that there was no way for me to gain access to the server, so the creation of dynamic kml/kmz files straight from the server was out of the question. All what I was left with was a set of e-mails with 8 coordinates in each.

Here is my first attempt for a solution, which reads coordinates in e-mail and relays coordinates in real-time to the Google-Earth/Google Map service. I believe this is the fist successful solution of Mail-to-Map service which is based entirely on free web services. Let me know, if it is not correct.

Important notice: since the displayed coordinates belongs to a live animal (currently a white-tailed Deer nicknamed Thor), by reading this page and looking at the map you are accepting terms of agreement: “do not harm the animal in anyway’. Actually it lives on private grounds or a preserve territory anyway.

So, if you want to see the resulting dynamic map, skip this section and click at the map links or download the kml file.

If you are interested in details, here they are.

1. Set up a blog dedicated exclusively to ‘mail-to-map’ service. There are number of possibilities for doing that. For this project I used Be sure that the blog is set for only for you to edit.
2. Set up e-mail address within blog setting, so that you can e-mail the data to the blog. Use this e-mail address for the step 3.
3. Set automatic mail forward to the e-mail address set in the step 2. I use g-mail account with associated filters to forward only messages referred to particular collar (individual) number.
4. set up a spread-sheet in google-documents and link the blog to the spreadsheets. I use command “=importxml("","//p[1]/text()")”. The resulting spreadsheet is here:
5. Consult google-spreadsheet documentation how to filter/sort the location, and this posts ( ; ) how to construct kml files from the spreadsheets. Mind, that if the coordinates are ‘blank’, the google-maps/google-earth service will treat such locations as ‘syntax error”. In my spread-sheets I corrected “GPS timeouts” by substituting “blanks” with average locations for entire sms message (8 gps fixes).
6. Now link the kml portion of the spreadsheet ( to google maps (example here), and create “Network link” as advised in this post (). The resulting KML file is here. Do not forget to “publish” the spreadsheet, and tick the widnow “Automatically re-publish when changes are made”. The address “pb-UYBP_92h9qQKwbVy07Zg” is unique for your spreadsheet.
7. Now, important notice about refresh rates. In my example the coordinated arrive via email every 40 min, blog is updated almost instantly, spreadsheets are updated/re-published c. every 5 mins, but I have notice that it may be as long as 20 mins on some occasions. So it is prudent to set refresh rate to 20-40 min in the network link, so it will deliver the up-to-date coordinates.
8. For web-pages and imbedded iframe links: it is important to set “No-cache” options, and refresh rates. I used all possible solutions to make the web page browser independent:
The last tag was instrumental to tame IE.
Refresh rate was set to 900 sec by the command
<meta http-equiv=Refresh content=900>
Failure to set auto-refresh and no-cache options will result in displaying out-of-date locations.
Important is to center the map on your coordinates. I achieve it my pointing g-maps to get ll from the cell in my spreadsheet: “ll=”.

The resulting Google-Map is here , and kml file (network link) for Google-Earth is here.
A block diagram of the totally free web based Mail-to-Map service is below.

Potentially such simple Mail-to-Map solution can be used for a variety of applications such as satellite telemetry, fleet monitoring, iphone coordinates display, sms-to-map service, etc.

Special thanks to Valery aka Valery35 for ideas of blog usage.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service lorenzojuan 3/16/08 7:45 AM
!!!Extraordinary Proyect!!!
I will link "Primary health Care" SMS/ GE.
Record Clinic SMS/GE with use proyect JAVA.
Trabajar en epidemiologia con earth google
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Valery35 3/16/08 11:17 AM

Your deer have now himself blog! He write into his blog everyday article
GE have now deergeoblogger!
Posted by Siberians deer.

By definition Blog = backward log. You use blog as log
Great services. Best way!
What in next? Argos SMS? GPS SMS? Google mashup editor feed?
Every deer must have blog!

We have time and permalink for all messages.
Applications | Blog | Geoblog(ru) | Inform++ (ru) | Google profile
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Delta102 3/17/08 6:19 AM
What a great use of GE,And what a handsome Buck !
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service giasen 3/17/08 11:17 AM
Can you mount a camera to it?
GPS devices
Multi-Dimensional Google Earth
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 3/17/08 2:33 PM
Potentially yes, but this is another project. We also think that we can make 'street-view' of the entire forest where the animal roams. That would be less stressful way to address the questions.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Frank4 3/18/08 5:19 AM
Great project... I've written a post about your deer tracking system at the Google Earth Blog.
Frank Taylor - Author of Google Earth Blog
All about Google Earth news, features, tips, technologies, and applications. Also read:
(If you have story ideas, please send me a private message.)
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 3/18/08 9:14 AM
Thanks, Frank4
It looks that our deer-geoblogger is going to be a star of several blogs.

Nice blog, great job

Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Gerardo64 3/18/08 12:34 PM
Congratulations for your work!
I have a suggestion: Why don´t you change this post name so it includes something like "Deer Blogger" or "Deer Tracking via e-mail" so we could search and find it in the future.. As you can see your deer got a lot of fame in these days...and for sure is the way we are going to remember this interesting post.

3D Models for Google Earth (My personal site)
Puro Google Earth (Mi Blog sobre Google Earth en español)
Dropbox - Other Server to free host your KML (or whatever) files.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 3/18/08 8:21 PM
Well, the post is not just about the deer. The collar which is now on the deer will sooner or later run out of the batteries, and we will have to drop it off using the remote command....

However the method is applicable to a plethora of various applications: birds with satellite transmitters, cellphones with gps, etc...

As regards the deer in the title: I tried to put these terms too, but the length of the title is limited, so I was prevented to put it on.

Thanks for the comment anyway.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 3/19/08 7:22 PM
Thanks for the warm words.
And thank you everybody for pointing on irregularities of the 'last message received' window in the web page. Fixed now.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 3/23/08 7:47 AM
Since many people have pasted my post at their blogs, and some, with their own comments, I feel that I want to address some of these comments.
1. Hunters are not following this deer. Hunting season is over, and moreover this individual lives in built up areas. If a person with a gun comes to this area, you know what will happen.
2. Thor is not 'poor deer'. It is an alpha male, who probably fathered all young in the area.
3. The collar will be dropped of using remote mechanism very soon, so there is no way the 3.5 hours track segments will help hunters in the next hunting season (in the next fall).
4. Main danger for the deer in this area is road traffic. Please mention this in your blogs.

And thank you for your attention anyway.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service sky_dog 3/25/08 4:13 AM
Cool project..

I am curious. Have you considered mologogo? Seems simpler and only $10 per month for Boost services.

Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service mvalenci 3/26/08 1:56 AM
can you please let me know which kind of software did you load on the phone to do the GPS2SMS functionality?
is this a free software? can I get a source for it?

Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 4/2/08 4:30 AM
Well, I have not. The commercial service you have indicated uses only Cell Phones, and it cannot be that flexible for, say, animals. And also you have to pay for it. Not Google philosophy!

But thanks for bringing that to my attention.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 4/3/08 8:01 PM
We did not have any special software on the cell phone. The deer carries a collar from a Swedish Company Televilt ( which uses GPS/GSM cellphone grid to carry the SMS messages. So, the collar is not a standard cell phone. You can get such modules very cheap
and they will send the GPS signals to your GSM modem. Naturally, the SIMM card and fees are on you. But such project can use the suggested mail-2-map service.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 4/8/08 7:33 AM
Last weekend the spreadsheet was 'polluted' by the data from another collared deer. The problem was fixed, thanks guys for sending me a note.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 4/10/08 8:06 AM
I have heard that is it possible to implement state-space model on this dynamic track, and thus is is theoretically possible to display different states of the animal (e.g. encamped, travelling, running away) in different color. Has anybody done anything like that in Google-Spreadsheets?
Or Kalman filter for G-spreadsheets, anyone?
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service MarketKnowledge 4/10/08 5:00 PM
This is incredibly cool. Consider the applications for exploring the behaviors of shoppers, commuters, cyclists, runners, etc. Way cool!
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 4/15/08 8:54 PM
Yes, that is a beauty of the method.

And since the data are attached to a dynamic Google-spreadsheet you can make analysis "on the fly". Basically, instead of looking at the individuals, you can display concept-oriented spots (e.g. places where the speed is at minimum, or where the trajectories become erratic), and thus use this knowledge for marketing, etc.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 4/21/08 10:23 PM
Today the deer was using paved area of a car park.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 4/28/08 5:44 PM
This was the last day of transmission: the collar has run out of the batteries.
As soon as we place a collar on a new deer, we will stream up new data.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 5/6/08 7:00 PM
At the moment the collar is not transmitting, and it appears that the drop-off mechanism failed. We work with Televilt/Traceit to find a solution.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 5/28/08 7:08 AM
At the moment we have a new animal nicknamed "Solomon" running with the collar. The data are relayed to the same web page Mail-2-Map service or a mirror Mai-2-Map at the BA College
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Frank4 5/29/08 4:00 PM
Any plans to release a new KML file for tracking Solomon?
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 6/1/08 11:23 AM
The Solomon's data are streaming on the old kml file in the head of this post. If you have the initial kml file on your client, it will show the current data. No need to change the file. As posted, the dynamic maps are here:
and mirror

As you see, the url of the maps did not change.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 6/4/08 2:28 PM
Radio Canada was so impressed with the method of relaying the coordinates via Google's Cloud, so it decided to interview the coder.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 6/16/08 12:45 PM
In the past two days Solomon's collar failed to relay new positions. We are working with the collar's manufacturer, Tellevilt, of Sweden on the problem.
Re: Mail-to-GE; Mail-to-Map service Siberian 6/27/08 1:02 AM
It looks that Solomon's collar (Televilt-Followit, Sweden) has failed. Out of 3 collars in service we have 3 failed (reasons different).

Will keep you posted on the development of the situation.