It was only a matter of time before technology eventually improved upon those blurry time-and-date stamps that so frequently label our snapshots as having been taken several years in the future. Granted, the new digital application called geotagging may not offer such time-traveling possibilities, but it does promise to change the way we collect, store, and view our media.

Using either cellular triangulation or GPS technology, geotagging enables users to record the exact location where their images were captured.This information -- known as “metadata” -- tracks longitude and latitude coordinates and associates (i.e., tags) them with photos,video, blogs, and websites.

Enough with this technobabble,though. Bottom line: How can this stuff help you? For starters,geotagging makes it possible to share images taken on a trip by organizing them on mapping programs like Google Earth. Or, would-betravelers planning a vacation can search the web for photos or videos taken at the precise location they’re interested in visiting. (Afterall, it might be helpful to check to see if that body of water billedas a “crystal clear lake” is actually a weed-choked trench.)

If the wave of new products offering geotagging technology is any indication -- options include separate data loggers, web applications,Wi-Fi cards, and built-in GPS-navigation systems -- the ability tostore location-specific information will soon be a standard feature oncameras, phones, and other digital devices.

And this may just bethe tip of the iceberg. In a few years, inhabitants of a brave newgeotagged world could take a snapshot of a restaurant and then quicklyfind the menu online. Or, a hiker could photograph an unknown mountaincrag and use geotagging to identify the rocky outcropping and locatepossible trails for scaling it.

Regardless of the many marvels of geotagging that may await us, though, you won’t be escaping those endless flicks of quasi-anonymous cousins eating ice cream cones at Carlsbad Caverns anytime soon. -- Ben Detrick

Tag, You’re It!
Applications and devices that will help you find your way.

HoudahGeo Mac-based software codes photos for programs such as iPhoto, Flickr, orGoogle Earth -- but, if you don’t have a GPS device, you have to dragphotos onto maps manually.

Pharos Trip and Pics A GPS receiver and photo journal, this tracks location and time alongwith accompanying images made suitable for Google Earth or MicrosoftVirtual Earth. $100.

ATP Photo Finder Pop a memory stick from any camera into this stand-alone hardware and sync the images with GPS location data. $90.

Merax Photo Finder This pocket-size GPS device logs time and location and then embeds it into the image file. $150.

Amod AGL3080 Logs location-specific information and connects via USB for plug-and-play with any computer. $100.

Flickr For known locations, simply go online, zoom in on a Yahoo map, and drop the photo in. Free.