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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

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.

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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