Mobile search engine a product of graduate's passion

Computer engineering student develops mobile, internet-free directory

Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) Bachelor of Engineering graduate Jay Park says being a long-time fan of Apple products, plus a desire to build a better business search engine for mobile Apple devices than was available from Google Maps, was what motivated him to develop Find! NZ.

Park developed the application as part of his studies for the MIT degree, in which he majored in Computer Engineering. The application enables iPhone and iPod Touch users to search for local businesses and amenities, without connecting to a mobile network or using a wireless hot-spot.

“I’m a big fan of Apple products,” says Park, who came to New Zealand from Korea in 2000. He had worked as a graphic designer in Korea and then as a computer technician in his first few years in New Zealand, before taking up full-time study at MIT.

“I’d always dreamed about working with Apple products and the opportunity came up to be a software developer with Apple products when I was doing my degree.”

Last year, after completing his studies, he taught himself the Objective-C programming language, on which Apple’s Cocoa frameworks are based. He then wrote NZ Geodesy, which allows local iPhone users to fully utilise the iPhone’s GPS features, which aren’t compatible with some of the map grids used in New Zealand.

After developing NZ Geodesy, which is a paid application, Park came up with the idea of a mobile business search engine for Apple devices that wasn’t reliant on a network connection, as using Google Maps on the iPhone didn’t satisfy him.

“I wanted an offline search engine exclusively for New Zealand and a more user-friendly interface,” he says.

Providing an offline service meant linking up with the Zenbu open source New Zealand search engine, which provides all the data accessed by Find! NZ.

The application can be searched via business type, street, city or region and there is an option to provide contact details for businesses to make bookings or place orders and so on.

Reviews of Find! NZ for the iPhone were largely positive, but it quickly became apparent that iPod Touch users weren’t able to utilise the application to its full capacity, as the iPod Touch lacks full GPS capability. As well, its location services are based on IP addresses, thus requiring an internet connection.

One review Park received from an iPod Touch user noted: “No location services? No luck.”

The solution was to develop an updated version that allows iPod Touch users to set their location manually, using the street name function.

This was achieved by integrating the New Zealand street GIS database into the application.

Find! NZ has had more than 20,000 downloads since being released in April, with Park joking that there are no more bad reviews from iPod Touch users.

Park has no plans to start charging for the application. “I want people to be using it.

“It’s like a Yellow Pages in your phone.”

His priority now, after graduating from MIT and developing Find! NZ, is to gain employment.

“When I started studying in 2006, the job situation was good,” he says.

However, things are somewhat less rosy now and Park is still searching.

“I don’t mind if it’s Apple or another platform. I enjoy programming and design,” he says.

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Tags manukau institute of technologyDevelopment IDjay parkdirectoryiPhone

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