It occurred to me, whether or not software already existed for this, that creating a realtime view of contacts made would not be too difficult endeavour, providing a few prerequisites can be established. These are:
- Obtaining near-realtime logging data for contacts being made (from the N1MM software the club uses)
- Obtaining position information as this data is received, from at least one call sign database
It appears that the N1MM software supports contact broadcasting via UDP, which is perfect for our requirements. This way, we can have the machine that is generating the contact visualisation receive contact data in real-time. Here's the reference I found.
Next, is the problem of obtaining position information for a call sign. The question here was whether there was a programmatic interface to a major call sign database, and indeed it appears that QRZ supports this via http, so long as you have a subscription. Clearly, any given query on this database for a given call sign is not guaranteed to provide lat/long info (if the owner of the call hasn't entered it), so it might be nice to use address info (at least state/province/county/town info) to derive an approximate lat/long. This might be possible via other web services such as Google, but will need further research.
So, it looks like we can cover the prerequisites for an application to work - at least at a minimum level. The next steps are to try out the QRZ look-up and build a call sign to lat/long class. If this works, another experiment should indicate whether N1MM stations can be configured to broadcast reliably to a 'visualisation machine'. If that also works, then things then the fun can really begin :-)