Building a mobile site and applications with Django and Python

Recently we created a mobile site for an interactive bicycle tour. (you need to use mobile browser to access the site or you’ll get a redirect) is a multimedia enriched bicycle tour through the historic parts of the city of Oulu. All content is provided by OnGo.

The route, which you can bicycle through is drawn on Google Maps. There are nine  action points where the user can listen to streaming audio clips, with still images, in his/her mobile phone. This is sort of  augmented reality experience: The user sees the real world (where he/she is now bicycling) combined with the historic events (audio playback narrative). For example, at Linnansaari (a location on the route) you’ll see the actual 17th century castle ruins and the narrator tells how the castle exploded when fire, caused by a lighting, reached gunpowder warehouse… boom. The explosion caused stones fly over 400 meters.

Alternatively, the clips are available as podcasts from Oulu Tourism pages. You can download them into your iPod for offline listening and use in conjuction with a paper map. This demostrates interesting mix of multichannel publishing: paper, web, mobile and podcasts.

The tour is bilingual in Finnish and English.

There exists unreleased iPhone application, based on PhoneGap, which allows the user to track his/her location real-time on the web page. We didn’t see it worth of trouble to go through Apple iPhone application review process. When location based service support comes for the browser this feature is indended to be included as the standard HTML5 feature of the service.

There also exists Nokia Series 60 mobile application, based on PyS60 and Series 60 BrowserControl API, which allows the user to track his/her location in real-time. The application provides wrapper around Series 60 WebKit control and allows Javascript to access phone native functions (GPS) over localhost socket communication. Like with Apple, we didn’t see real-time tracking feature interesting enough to go through Symbian Signed process to get our application released. Also, BrowserControl had seriousquality problems and we didn’t consider it stable enough for the end users. Some work is available in PyS60 Community Edition repository.

The service is hosted on Python specific virtual server on Twinapex services server farm.

1. Features

  • Premium content tailored for audio listening
  • Dubbed in English and Finnish by a professional voice actor
  • Bilingual: English/Finnish
  • Adapts for smartphones (WebKit based browsers) and low end phones (XHTML mobile profile browsers)
  • Streaming video and audio (RTSP / progressive HTTP download forv iPhone). Different audio quality is provided on depending on the handset features.
  • Screen resolution detection based on user agent sniffing. Three different version of images are used.
  • Custom Google Maps component for mobile is used. The component adapts for different mobile phones based on sniffing. Features include zoom, show action point, show the current location, search street address name. This component can be published on a request.
  • Management interface features include video upload, video transcoding different mobile versions and editing bilingual content
  • Apex Vertex handset database is used to detect the user’s mobile phone capabilities
  • Apex Vertex logging and traffic analytics capabilities are used for the site statistics

2. Software stack

3. Development effort

Development time: Around 100 hours. Three different developers where involved. Used development tools: Eclipse, PyDev, Subclipse, Subversion. There were around five meetings between the content provider and the technology provider. Few beta testing rounds using iPhone application were performed by bicycling in -10 celcius degrees weather (north and so on…). No polar bears were harmed during the creation of this mobile service.

The service is linked in from Oulu Tourism pages and thousands of paper brochures printed for Oulu summer season 2009.

About the author Mikko Ohtamaa

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