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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

Listen to Echoes from Woices – Ideas for the Location Innovation Awards

Have you registered for the Location Innovation Awards? It’s not too late.  The Location Innovati0n Awards don’t close until February 16.

Recently I came across a site that shows potential, but they are not yet using GPS or mobile. Nevertheless, their concept is very good. In simple terms Woices allows you to record comments on the net about places that you have been to, called ‘Echoes’. Using reverse geocoding you can tag the location to  a map so that people can go to a map and see the locations that have ‘Echoes’ and then listen to them.

From a Location Innovation Awards perspective, this would be a great concept to make mobile. Whether it’s through GPS or triangulation, it would be a simple thing to create an application that takes advantage of the mobile knowing it’s position, recording a voice message and a photo and then uplocaing it to a website.

The concept of a social community sharing information is becoming commonplace, but most of these applications are web based. This is fine when you are planning a trip, but could be much better if it was made more mobile.

When I travel overseas and am looking for accomodation or activities, I check them out on Travelocity. The reason I do this is because the public can upload comments. Last year I had a short holiday in jamaica and found this system very helpful. For example the first resort I looked up in Montego Bay looked great on the hotel’s website, but the comments said things like, “If you are single and want to party 24 hours a day, this place was made for you. Don’t bring your kids. ” Using people’s comments I found the perfect resort and it was exactly what the comments said it would be and I was very happy with my selection.

Mobility means you can do much more. For example let’s say you are in Rotorua and looking for somewhere to have a brunch. Using your mobile you could search for cafe’s or restaurants within a kilometer of where you are and listen to the ‘Echoes’ other people had left. For example “great food but it took an hour to get it to the table’.

From a tourism perspective, sharing information that you can access from your phone could be great. I was talking to someone recently who went on a motorhome tour of New Zealand and they told me that some of the best places they stopped for the night weren’t marked on any maps, they found out about them from other motorhomers who told them where to find spots where they could park by the water and enjoy wonderful sunsets. A GPS mobile application could allow you to locate all sorts of interesting places based on the recommendations of others.

Voice messages like this can be in multiple languages and would allow you to enjoy high tech results without requiring you to have computing skills  or sophisticated technology. In addition to info from fellow travellers, this is also a great opportunity for locals to share information with travellers about local history, amenities and attractions and people have already started doing this on Woices.

A concept like this in a mobile environment would fit into several categories of the Location Innovation Awards, including the best Tourism Application and the AA Maps Widgets which could earn you a luxury adventure in a Maui Camper.

December 7, 2008 Posted by | AA Maps, awards, competition, competitions, geosmart, gps, lbs, location innovation awards, maps, new zealand, satnav, social networking, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment