Geotag Hack for Garmin Nuvi/Panoramio Photos

How to manually geotag photos for the Garmin Nüvi 1490

Does NOT require the Garmin Connect software.

Recently (yesterday) I was nominated to read up on and figure out the Garmin Nüvi 1490 GPS unit for a friend of the family. Well, looking through the features, I found that photos can be loaded into the unit and displayed in various locations, such as the bootup screen, a simple slideshow, or even as a navigate-to-photo feature!

Now, I assumed that somehow the unit would read out Geotagging meta data from any old photo you might tag in something like Picasa and copy to the unit. But this is not so. Actually, Garmin has signed a contract of some sort with Panoramio, an online photo-sharing site specifically for photos of general public areas, usually landscapes, historical photos, or any other pictures based mainly on a location. By connecting the Nuvi to the computer, one can navigate to, browse the map for specific Panoramio photo, which, if they have geotag information loaded, will show up on the map, and add it to a separate dock area, which, by using the Garmin Connect software, can be downloaded directly to the GPS unit.

All well and good, except that in the last month and a half, I’ve uploaded about 20+ photos to Panoramio and NONE of them are showing up on the Garmin Connect map, though they specifically said in the Panoramio forums that they would after some time. And to top it off, a photo that my dad posted about four years ago is also not appearing! Not very on top of this little feature, are we?

Besides that, all of the other threads on Panoramio boiled down to “downloading Panoramio photos to your computer is illegal” and NONE of them gave any helpful information.

So, I decided to do some research and figure out just exactly how the Garmin Connect tool synchronized with the photos feature. When I plugged the unit into the computer via USB, two new drives were mounted: the Garmin Nuvi drive, which is the image of the internal memory, and a Removable Disk, which was accessing the Micro-SD expansion port.

Navigating into the Garmin Nuvi drive (on my machine, I:), there are a number of files and folders:

  • /.System
  • /Garmin
  • /GPX
  • /help
  • /JPEG
  • /keyboards
  • /Reports
  • /Screenshot
  • /Text
  • /Vehicle
  • /Voice
  • .Volume.icns
  • autorun.inf
  • nuvi_drive.ico

Navigating into the GPX folder, I find three files:

  • Current.gpx
  • Panoramio_20110810T103416.gpx
  • Position.gpx

From my previous research using our own GPS unit, the GPSMAP 60CSx, I know that GPX files are an XML-based file that can be opened in any text editor, and record specific gps coordinates along with names of the locations, timestamps and sources. Knowing that the Garmin stored everything in GPX made decoding it so much easier! With this knowledge, I was able to determine that GPX/Current.gpx is the database that stored saved searches, tracks and tagged photos downloaded from Panoramio, GPX/Panoramio_20110810T103416.gpx is the list of geotagged photos downloaded from Garmin Connect/Panoramio, and GPX/Position.gpx is probably the unit’s current position.

Assuming that the Current.gpx file is updated regularly based on what the the unit is detecting, I decided to decode the Panoramio_20110810T103416.gpx file. And it worked! The conclusion I came to was the following: photos downloaded from GC/Panoramio are not tagged in the unit using JPEG metadata, and the unit can’t detect JPG location metatags. Instead, Panoramio also sends location data alongside the photos that the unit downloads, and injects this information into the Panoramio_*.gpx file. THEN when the photos are opened in the viewer, the proper location-based tools are activated.

Here is a waypoint for a specific Panoramio photo:

With this information, I think it would be fairly self-explanatory to edit this file. I have yet to actually try it out, but when I figure it out, I’ll get back with you!

SUCCESS!!! I simply added a new <wpt> ... </wpt> section to the panoramio_20110810T103416.gpx file and when I rebooted the unit (unplugged it from the computer), the photo appeared in the list AND had the location tools in the lower corner, along with my username and all that!! WONDERFUL!

And just as I suspected, Current.gpx was also updated to reflect these changes, even though I didn’t do a thing to them.

So all that needs to be done to add photos to your Garmin, and tag them without worrying about the Garmin Connect/Panoramio tool, simply copy the photos into one of the locations where pictures are kept on the unit. The tool downloads them to /Garmin/JPEG/, but I’m sure /JPEG/ will do just fine (/JPEG/ is where all the sample photos are kept).

Then edit the /GPX/Panoramio_.gpx file and add a new waypoint using the <wpt> ... </wpt> tags as shown above. Or if you have a secondary program to save GPX files, I’m sure there is a way to just fix this up to save in this format. Also, the datecode in the filename is in the following format: yyyymmddThhmmss, so in my case, it was 20110810T103416. Just to keep up with the consistency, I also changed the filename to Panoramio_20110810T173100.gpx.

So in the end, here is the waypoint I manually and successfully added, along with the required XML and GPX definition tags:

I’m sure if you wanted to add non-panoramio files, it would be just as easy. Just change/remove the few tags to reflect something else and you’d be good to go!

Now to write a program to do this for me…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *