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Christchurch Traffic Map

Our AA Traffic team has been flat out updating road closures and incidents in our system for the AA Maps and AA Roadwatch websites as well as car navigation (specified models of Navman, TomTom and Garmin Asus) and subscription alerts nationwide, but have also done a lot of work to provide quality information for the Canterbury area. This includes the Earthquake Cordon Zone. Its well worth bookmarking if you are travelling around the area as where possible, we do also include real time traffic flow.

Whilst we have been told by many people that they have been very impressed with our data quality, we would like to point out:

1.       All Road condition reports for Christchurch is provided to the AA by a number of 3rd parties .

2.       As all of these Agencies in the Christchurch area are inundated with Earthquake recovery, the information we are receiving may not be current.

3.       We are unable to guarantee accurate driving directions for the Christchurch Area as conditions are changing rapidly.

4.       Our advice to all motorists is not to drive in the earthquake affected areas unless absolutely necessary.

5.       Expect significant delays and ensure all precautions are taken to avoid accidents.

March 3, 2011 Posted by | AA Maps, AA Traffic, car navigation, driving directions, Garmin Asus, gps, location based services, map tools, maps, Mobile maps, navman, new zealand, new zealand maps, real time traffic, satnav, tomtom, Traffic, Web Map | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

GeoSmart adds Live Traffic Flow Data to AA Maps and Roadwatch online and TomTom Go Live

Over the last 8 months we have been building an environment that allows us to capture live traffic flow data from thousands of vehicles that are tracked using Fleet Management systems from our number of our business partners as part of our AA Traffic solution.  Over the last 4 years we have been refining web sites such as AA Maps and AA Roadwatch adding all sorts of web map features such as road conditions, accidents, road construction and maintenance, live airport timetables, live Cook Straight Ferry information and more.

This is a continuous work in progress, but today we have turned on our most exciting feature to date, which is live real time traffic flow and congestion data covering all major roads and arterials throughout New Zealand. You can view this exciting feature on both AA Maps and AA Roadwatch, simply by clicking on the Traffic drop down menu on the top right of the page and selecting Traffic Flow. You can then either zoom in on the map to the area of your choice or click on the traffic light icon to zoom in to the city of your choice.

The data you will be viewing will be up to date to within 5 minutes. This is going to become a very useful tool for motorists whether they are going on a trip, or simply heading out for business meetings, or off to a concert or sporting match. We have also made some other changes to this service, allowing you to selectively view incidents by a wider range of categories, which are:

  • Reopened Roads. In the past it was easy to see when a road was closed, but not as intuitive when the road reopened. This is now a new category highly visible with its green icon.
  • Critical Incidents
  • Moderate Incidents has now separated
  • Minor Incidents which were often road shoulder maintenance or situations that frequently didn’t seriously impact traffic flow

We have also added more webcams. There is a lot more happening in January February that I can’t tell you about yet, so keep an eye on our blog to find out more.

The other very cool thing that has happened is that due to the high quality of our AA Traffic by GeoSmart data TomTom has launched their Go Live 1000 and Go Live 1050 in New Zealand, the first country outside of Western Europe. This means that people who purchase these devices, which have a Vodafone SIM Card in them can get not only real time incident data, but also real time flow data on them. This is an amazing feature which will advise you of the expected time delay on your journey caused by traffic congestion and if appropriate offer you an alternate route. For those people who say they don’t need car nav because they know their way, they don’t know what the traffic is like ahead of them.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | AA Maps, AA Traffic, Auckland, car navigation, driving, driving directions, geosmart, map tools, Mapping Applications, maps, new zealand, new zealand maps, real time traffic, satnav, tomtom, Traffic, Uncategorized, Web Map, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TomTom now has a Kiwi Voice

Over the years many people have mentioned that they wish car navigation devices had a Kiwi accent that they can relate to.  We told you in our September blog that TomTom was running a competition to find that special iconic voice. Well it’s a done deal as told in this NZ Herald article. Ben Harper (no not the musician) has won himself a new Suzuki Swift RS and a new TomTom. We are told that you will be able to download his voice in time for your Christmas road trip.

November 2, 2010 Posted by | car navigation, competition, competitions, driving directions, geosmart, new zealand, new zealand maps, satnav, tomtom | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Support for Mobile Location Based Apps in New Zealand

Are you developing applications for mobiles such as iPhone, Android or Windows Phone 7? Do they have a location aspect to them? If so, we would like to help and perhaps partner with you.

We have the only fully driven road centreline of all roads in New Zealand and a range of web services and API’s designed to help you with your application development. No maps aren’t all created equal and while overseas companies offer maps of New Zealand, if accuracy and quality is important for your application you might like to read on a little.

The New Zealand road network was originally designed in Scotland in the 1800’s. Many of the roads were never constructed, but they have a legal status and are known as Paper Roads. These roads have a legal status and therefore exist to some degree on traditional map datasets used by many mapping companies. This of course produces many problems when it comes to providing turn by turn driving directions, whether that is in car navigation or in an application that provides directions.  Imagine driving at night or in bad weather and being told to turn right into a farm paddock or perhaps through a farm gate.  If your application is providing linked directions from A to B and part of the sequence doesn’t make sense, you have a problem, Houston.

GeoSmart has many web services and API’s and good developer documentation including examples and tutorials on our Developer Page. I won’t go into detail here because you can find them there. It is also worth having a look at our flagship website which is AA Maps. AA Maps uses many of our tools, most of which can also be used on a mobile, for example:

  • Search for street names and numbers, places, Points of Interest
  • Proximity Search
  • Turn by turn directions from A to B to C (and the ability to swap the order and recalculate)
  • Real Time Traffic Incidents
  • Search for Points of Interest by category
  • Terrain View
  • Reverse Geocoding (finding the nearest address to a set of coordinates)
  • Route Optimisation

There is no cost for a Developer Agreement and we have a number of commercial models based on the opportunity. If you are developing an application that is location based in New Zealand, we would like to help and we know New Zealand best because we have driven every public road and many private roads in the country.That’s why when companies such as TomTom, Navman, NZ Automobile Association to name a few, who are not prepared to compromise on quality and accuracy come to us. To see more sites developed using our API’s and Web Services, check out the Showcase sites on our home page for some examples.

if you are looking at building location based apps of any sort, for browser or mobile, contact us now so we can discuss how we can help.

October 8, 2010 Posted by | AA Maps, AA Traffic, Auckland, car navigation, driving directions, geosmart, gps, iphone, lbs, lbs games, location based services, map tools, Mapping Applications, maps, Mobile maps, navman, new zealand, new zealand maps, proximity based marketing, real time traffic, route optimisation, Route2GO, social networking, software, tomtom, Traffic, Uncategorized, Web Map, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be the Kiwi Voice of TomTom

TomTom New Zealand is running a very cool competition together with The Edge radio station. Have you ever thought about what you would say if you could control the voice on your nav unit. Move over John Cleese and Homer Simpson bro, it’s time for a Kiwi voice.

Over the next few weeks you have the opportunity to enter a competition which will decide not only whose voice will end up as the voice of New Ziilund, but every day someone will win a TomTom and the grand prize winner will win a Suzuki Swift. You can listen to the entries on The Edge competition page, such as yesterday’s TomTom winner “Sweet As” and the Suzuki is being kitted up as a recording studio and doing a road trip around New Zealand where you can meet it and record your TomTom GPS voice.

The TomTom road trip starts in Invercargill on Monday 4 October and works its way up to Northland on 15 October. You can of course also enter online.

So put on your best Kiwi accent and join the fun.

Carl Fletcher and Vaughan Smith, hosts of The EDGE Fletch & Vaughan show, have already put their hands up to potentially become voices and are excited to find the person to be the new TomTom GPS voice of New Zealand.

“I mean imagine being THE voice that is chosen as most iconically Kiwi, how much of an ego boost is that? Your voice could be the voice that represents all Kiwis and is used worldwide by anyone with a TomTom GPS.  We have so many unique sayings that we can throw in there as well to really Kiwi it up, I mean there’s ‘sweet as bro,’ ‘choice eh’…and then the classics like ‘yeah yeah…nah’.  It’s going to be an epic campaign, with an epic prize to boot,” says Fletch.

Of course TomTom use GeoSmart Maps on their systems, because they have to have the best:)

September 29, 2010 Posted by | car navigation, competition, competitions, driving directions, geosmart, gps, maps, Mobile maps, new zealand, new zealand maps, satnav, tomtom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2011 Rugby World Cup

The Rugby World Cup in Auckland is just over a year away and GeoSmart is looking forward to the opportunities that come with it. As New Zealand’s premier location-based services (Mapping) company there are many areas that we will be looking at. These include:

  • Cartography. We produce many printed maps. These include map books for Wises and the NZ Automobile Association, as well as several travel atlas products for various organisations such as the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association, which includes locations of Points of Interest of unique interest. We also produce custom maps for many organisations ranging from hotels to regional tourism organisations.
  • Car Navigation. GeoSmart is the provider of map data and Points of Interest for the leading brands including Navman and TomTom. Many people coming from overseas will be able to use our map data to find the venues, accommodation, attractions, parking, bars and much more for the Rugby World Cup, making their trip stress free. We also now offer real time traffic to car navigation which would be great if you are trying to get to a venue close to kick off.
  • Real Time Traffic. We built and manage the new AA Traffic service. This service provides information on traffic incidents that might interfere with people getting to the match on time.  We do this with a number of services including subscription alerts via Email and Text Messaging, which can be found on the AA Traffic website. Traffic is also shown on other AA websites, Roadwatch and AA Maps. Real Time Traffic is also of course available on your car navigation product such as with Navman.
  • AA Maps website. This website is the perfect site for local and overseas travellers. A significant proportion of web traffic to AA’s websites come from overseas and this includes AA Maps. People are guided here with links from affiliated motoring associations around the world as well as people looking for services such as driving directions. This is a great site for people planning their routes, looking for other things to do while they are travelling, where to stay, where to eat and drink and where to have some fun and adventure.
  • Mobile Applications / Location Based Services. We are working with several companies who are developing applications for smartphones such as iPhone and Android. When your mobile knows where it is, it becomes easy to use GeoSmart’s highly accurate data about New Zealand roads and points of interest to add value to people touring New Zealand following the rugby tournament.
  • Web Mapping. Many companies use GeoSmart’s web mapping tools in their custom environments. Examples may be found on our home page. If you are looking to add maps, points of interest and turn by turn directions to your site, we would love to chat with you about how we can help.
  • Carbon Friendly. This has become a very important topic and one that we are committed to supporting. We are able to support concepts such as Eco-Routing, in effect, finding the route that uses the least fuel and carbon waste. Our RAPIDcV has been continuing to drive all of New Zealand at around 15cm accuracy, not only getting an accurate road centreline but also measuring the road’s inclination and even the camber of corners on the road. This highly accurate data allows us to support organisations focused on sustainable eco friendly policies.
  • Multi-modal routing. We have been developing solutions supporting the ability to guide people through various means of transport from foot to motorised. This includes situations where one trip might include different forms of transport. Rugby fans might use a combination. For example, they might drive to a carpark, then use public transport, finally walking from there to the match venue via restaurants and bars. Each transport medium has its own set of rules. For example a person walking, doesn’t need to worry about one-way streets and may be able to take advantage of short cuts through arcades etc, to get to their destination.

Whilst the Rugby World Cup may be over a year away, GeoSmart is working closely with our partners to assist them in achieving their goals, through the use of our data, web services and API’s and other products. If you would like more information, you will find our contact details here.

March 7, 2010 Posted by | AA Maps, car navigation, carbon footprint, cartography, driving, driving directions, geosmart, GIS, gps, iphone, lbs, location based services, map tools, maps, Mobile maps, navman, new zealand, real time traffic, route optimisation, Rugby World Cup, satnav, Sport, tomtom, Traffic | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A World first with TomTom on iPhone

New Zealand is the first country in the world to get TomTom car navigation on iPhone and of course it is using the latest GeoSmart Maps.

Whilst the penetration of iPhone in New Zealand isn’t huge, the timing is perfect, in a competitive market with Telecom’s XT network and the new models of iPhone now being available. The new laws about not using hand-held mobiles fit perfectly too as there is a new accessory available which is in effect a TomTom car kit, comprising a windscreen mount which allows you to also use your phone in hands-free mode.

TomTom has taken advantage of the accelerometers in iPhone. Simply flipping the phone to it’s side, the application will run happily in landscape or portrait mode, which is also supported by the car kit. The car kit includes a speaker and microphone, external GPS (so it can even work with iPod touch) and it can connect to your car stereo system.

August 16, 2009 Posted by | car navigation, driving, driving directions, geosmart, gps, iphone, maps, Mobile maps, new zealand, new zealand maps, satnav, tomtom, Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

What Tools Do You Need to Develop a Mobile LBS Application Part 4

A key component and possibly the second highest webmap query on the Internet is for Driving Directions and this has even more relevance in a mobile scenario. Driving Directions is a key point of difference for GeoSmart in New Zealand. In many other countries, the government provides free or low cost map data of a very high quality and suitable for car navigation and other purposes. In New Zealand this isn’t the case. The LINZ maps are the official datum for cadastral property boundaries. However, their road centreline is derived by a computation of the property boundaries.

As I’ve previously mentioned, New Zealand was town planned in Edinborough in the late 1800’s and many of the roads they draughted were never formed or constructed. They are known as paper roads. These roads exist on paper and on the LINZ map data used by services such as Google Maps, but they physically don’t exist. An example is Threepwood Road in Otago. If you have a look on the hybrid mode of satellite view and map view on Google, you will see that while the road exists on the map data, it physcially isn’t there in the satellite photography. This would cause a real problem if you wanted to go for a drive on it.

When GeoSmart discovered this problem and realised that, while it didn’t matter a lot for printed maps where you still have to analyse the data and make a decision on where you drive yourself, practically speaking, if you used either car navigation or a printed set of directions and couldn’t see a map as such, paper roads could cause a lot of confusion and grief. With LINZ having the only full maps of New Zealand, we decided we had to make our own maps. To do this we drove almost every road in New Zealand and also used a lot of Orthophotography to develop a driven road centreline, eliminating all paper roads and at the same time creating an accurate road centreline.

While collecting this data, we were also able to collect information such as the intersections controls (roundabouts, traffic lights etc), turn restrictions (one way streets, no left turns), speed zones, whether the road was sealed, accuracy of street signs and much more. We were even able to establish things like the angles of corners and inclination of roads (how steep they are etc).

This enabled us to build the car navigation dataset used by all the major brands including TomTom, Navman, BMW, Ford, Siemens VDO etc. It also allowed us to create sites like AA Maps and provide the API’s used on Wises web site. Now you can go to AA Maps, plan your journey and print out turn by turn directions from anywhere in NZ to anywhere in NZ and be confident that the instructions will work.

So, from there to your mobile. The Directions Web Service will work on any device that can identify a start point and where the user wants to go. The User Interface is up to the developer  and will probably vary from phone to phone because of its controls and screen size. For example a touch screen such as that on the iPhone or Windows Mobile, would have functionality closer to a web page, whereas a phone without a touch screen would have to function differently. That is really just a design issue, not a significant barrier.

If your phone has GPS or the ability to use cell tower triangulation, it will know where it is. But it is also possible (if you know) to tell your mobile where you are and where you want to go This could be an address you want to get directions to, or it could be Points of Interest from our POI Web Service mentioned in Part 2 of this series. Once you know the start and end of your journey, you can use the Directions web service to guide people directly to your desired location.

So now you can have turn by turn directions delivered to your phone. This could be send as an SMS with text directions, it could be an MMS combining text directions with an image of the route map, or an image zoomed in to your destination, or it could be information in your mobiles web or WAP browser, with enanced functionality.

Here’s the thing. If you are at home or in the office, you can use your PC, but it is of no use to you in your car or away from the computer. You may not know where you are going to want to go until you are out on the road. An LBS application with the Directions Web Service can give you the same freedom, without the necessity of interpreting a map, or more commonly the map isn’t there when you need it. Pick up the kids, meet someone for coffee, find your way from the car park to the show. All easy to do with LBS.

Just as a footnote, a few days ago a 62 year old woman set of from Christchurch to her  home on the West Coast of the South Island. She didn’t arrive and her friends and family spent a couple of days searching for her after she crashed her car down a 5 metre embankment. She was eventually found but the story could have been very different. She may not have been found at all, or not until it was too late to save her life, or she could have been found very easily. If she had a mobile with GPS, after she had been reported missing, if the phone was within coverage, it could have been called and located using an LBS service using GeoSmart tools and her searchers could have had turn by turn directions on their mobiles, right to the spot where her car was.

I suspect this sort of application will be available within the next few years, but someone has to create it first. Tracking elderly people is something that is also a major opportunity.

April 5, 2009 Posted by | AA Maps, cartography, driving directions, geosmart, gps, lbs, location based services, maps, Mobile maps, navman, new zealand, new zealand maps, satnav, tomtom, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Tools Do You Need to Create a LBS Application Part Two

One of the key things people want in an LBS application is to be able to find Points of Interest (POI) including geographical, community and business POI.

GeoSmart has collected and continues to collect information about all the places that people would like to visit, and unlike other databases, includes a lot of information that has importance but isn’t necessarily business related. For example beaches and bays, public toilets, boat ramps, parks etc.

Our latest service is called the Point of Interest (POI) Web Service V2. We have full time staff focussed not only on collecting quality spatial information about places you might want to find for an LBS Service or Application, but also making sure that it is current. Where relevant we use ANZSIC Codes which are a standard supported by the NZ and Australian Governments.  These offer a layer of categories from high level to more specific, so you can look at food and beverage or Italian Restaurants at either end. We have a browser tool to help you find the correct category here.

Our comprehensive database which is used in various forms and subsets on websites such as AA Maps, Bayleys, Winejobs Online and many other sites has a wide range of POI. These include shops, petrol stations, banks, ATMs, schools and where relevant, make sure you get to the right place at the Point of Interest. For example if you are going to a hospital, you probably want the Accident & Emergency entrance. If you are going to the golf course or a school, you want the official entrance and so on.  Our data, where relevant includes information such as contact details.

The POI Web Service can also be used for geocoding street addresses in order to display them on a map, using our geotagged web map tiles, which can be used on a mobile or normal PC browser. We have a comprehensive database of New Zealand street addresses, which you can try out on the AA Maps website, using our autocompleter.

The range of parameters are wide and varied and you can find more information in the Developer Page.

A key commonality in successful LBS applications overseas is the ability to find the service you are looking for nearby. For example, you are in the city and want to find a nearby cafe for some lunch. The POI web service would let you specify how close you want to find one and even give them to you in order starting with the closest to you. Our POI database is also used in products such as TomTom and Navman car navigation devices.

Because the database is very comprehensive and constantly growing and being validated, you can pretty much develop your application and populate it with our data and be up and running in no time.

Another service that we offer in conjunction with the NZ Automobile Association is the AA Maps Bizlocator. This is a free service which allows any New Zealand business to register their location with us and at the same time get a free web map to put on their website to show people where their office, shop or other business location is, assign it to ANZSIC Categories and then be available for addition to our POI database, all for free. The only condition is you have to go online at least once a year to confirm that your data is current. Once the map is up, you can even get and print turn by turn driving directions from anywhere in NZ and print them neatly on A4 paper. All for free. For more information on that please go to this page, where you can set up an account and ‘Add Your Business’.

bizlocator

This is part two of a series of blogs on tools for LBS applications. Please feel free to comment or leave questions on this blog.

Why not add this blog to your RSS Feed:)

April 2, 2009 Posted by | AA Maps, cartography, driving directions, geosmart, gps, lbs, location based services, maps, Mobile maps, navman, new zealand, proximity based marketing, satnav, social networking, tomtom, Uncategorized, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Tools Do You Need To Create An LBS Application in New Zealand Part One

The first thing you need is a map. Many people seem to think (as I did before I joined GeoSmart) that maps are fundamentally the same and equal. Makes sense doesn’t it. We’re a small country and you would expect all maps to have the same data.

That would seem to make sense given that the core data for New Zealand is supplied by the Government under the Land Institute of New Zealand. LINZ is the authority when it comes to things cadastral. They manage land titles, topographic data about New Zealand, hydrographic information, the official street name register and is a part of the NZ Geographic Board which is currently busy deciding whether Wanganui should now be called Whanganui.

When GeoSmart decided to enter the car navigation business, we quckly found that the ‘official’ maps of New Zealand have a ‘computed road centreline’. In effect that means that they use a system which places the road notionally between property boundaries. This wasn’t a big deal when it came to road maps because a road map requires that you plan your rate based on a paper image and if it is not exactly right, you can interpret the map and get to your desired location. This data also contains ‘paper roads’. Paper roads are unformed roads that were draughted in Scotland in the late 1800’s and never constructed. Again if you were to see a road on a map and it physically isn’t there, no problem, you can work your way around it. Consumers Institute has a number of pages on this topic.

Whilst not an issue on a printed map, consider the problems if you tried to use this data for car navigation and routing. When GeoSmart made the commitment to develop a car navigation database, it was quickly realised that it was necessary to drive every road in New Zealand and also use information gleaned from its Orthophotography in order to create an accurate road centreline database. In doing so, we were also able to capture information including one way streets, dual carriageways, turn restrictions, speed zones, the actual name on the street signs (which were sometimes different to the LINZ data) whether a road was paved or not and much more. In doing this we were able to create a database suitable for car navigation (over 90% market share including TomTom and Navman)  and many other services including Fleet Management (around 80% market share including Navman Wireless, Astrata, Xlerate, Argus Tracking, Blackhawk).

Fleet management is even more critical. One of the key reasons companies buy Fleet Management solutions is because they can claim back Road User Charges (RUC) as they are not liable to pay taxes when their trucks are on private property. If they were to try to do this using the computed road centreline, they would struggle to pass a Tax Audit because using in accurate maps, they could often be calculated to be off-road, when they are actually on the road. You can best see this in evidence by using a map dataset which overlays aerial or satellite imagery with the cadastral map data set. Especially in rural areas you will find that there are major discrepancies between the photography and the map data.

So after that long journey, GeoSmart is now able to offer you access to the Web Mapping API, which can enable you to offer routing, driving directions and other tools including displaying map tiles on a mobile or PDA display. You can search for streets, numbers and businesses.

If you explore the many LBS applications being developed overseas (some of which this blog will cover in the near future, you will see that driving or turn by turn directions are a very popular feature of LBS applications. Whether it is a LBS game, a buddy finder, proximity based marketing, planning a run or cycle trip, routing has a part to play and is one of the major reasons that people internationally use LBS applications. If you don’t have a map book (we create the Wises and AA Maps you probably have in your car)  or folded map with you, you have less opportunity to interpret data that is inaccurate, so it is imperative that you use accurate information in your application.In countries where the Government provides accurate maps (such as the USA) this is very easy to do, but in New Zealand, to date only GeoSmart has a fully driven road centreline. And of course as you know from a previous blog, we are now re driving all of New Zealand in the RAPIDcV with around 20cm accuracy.

The RAPIDcV GeoSmarts hi-tech data capture vehicle

So if you want to create an application with accurate maps and directions, the SmartFind WebMap API is a key component. If you would like to check this out, we do of course have the ability to give you a Developer Agreement at no cost so that you can start creating your application.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | AA Maps, car navigation, cartography, driving directions, geosmart, gps, lbs, lbs games, maps, new zealand, proximity based marketing, satnav, tomtom, Uncategorized, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment