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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

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 10

Wow, where did the year go? This has been a huge year for GeoSmart and 10 looks to be equally exciting.  If you want to catch up with us, you have a few hours before we close for summer holidays. We re-open on 11 January.

The big one for the year just gone has to be AA Traffic. This was a long time in the planning and it has been very exciting for us to set up this real time traffic service covering all of New Zealand. Have you tried it yet? Check the Traffic web site before you go on holiday.  You will find that we have extended the free email and txt alerts until the end of January. You may have finished work, but accidents and other incidents don’t go on holiday. On the traffic page you will also find that we have Cook Straight Ferries as well as domestic and international airline departures and arrivals for Auckland and Christchurch airports.

If you set up a free account, you can have Roadwatch automatically open up to the area you live, work or play in so that you can see if there is anything you need to know about. Road works and ramp closures can be really frustrating, so this is a good place to keep an eye out for anything that might get in your way. They are time sensitive, so it is worth looking at before you get in the car, you can also click on Upcoming Events, to see if there is anything happening in the future that might make you want to change your plans.

If you haven’t already, you will see that our AA Maps website is continuously evolving with new features.  One of my favourites is the proximity feature. Pick an address or Point of Interest and you will see that you can now look for something within a 5km radius. For example if you were going to Rotorua for Christmas, you could look for  restaurants or bars within walking distance of your accommodation. You can also plan an entire itinerary, and drag and drop and drop the stops to help you fit more into your time while saving gas and carbon emissions. You can plan your trip, drag the route on the map to change the roads you will drive on and print it all out to take in the car. Of course you can view AA Traffic incidents and web cams on AA Maps as well, which again makes it a great site to check before you hop in your car.

We are thrilled to be able to give people who buy new Navman car navigation devices between December and January a free Lifetime License to AA Traffic. This is the ultimate way to get your traffic alerts. We are currently broadcasting in the greater Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch areas and more will be added in the new year. This totally changes the concept of GPS and car navigation. You can set it so that it only warns you if there is an incident on your route and gives you the option to accept an alternate route avoiding the incident. Who wants to spend their holiday stuck in their cars in a line behind an accident you could have avoided? You might have avoided buying nav because you know your way around, but you would never have known that the road was blocked ahead for the next 4 hours due to a serious accident. You will also love the ability to find your nearest petrol station, ATM, cafe etc, or perhaps a rest area, or a dump site for your campervan. And when the kids ask “Are we nearly there yet?” You can say, “we will be there in 17 minutes”:)

Of course we love our partners TomTom very much too. Their IQ Routes (which of course uses our road data)  has even surprised me on occasion in finding a new way to drive home, that I had never thought of. Other than AA Traffic, they share all the same excellent information that our other car navigation partners do.

We continue to add new data to our car nav solutions including 3D buildings, lane guidance and enhanced Points of Interest data. Car nav is a never ending part of our product development and we stay aware of all the new developments and features that our partners are planning so that we can offer the best possible data for New Zealand going forward. Of course our data collection and driving never end. The RAPIDcV continues to collect lots of valuable data and we have some exciting plans for enhancing this in the new year.

We have joined the adoption of social networking with a Facebook Fan Page where we are engaging with the public with competitions and discussion related to traffic issues. We also have a Twitter page, which we use in a similar way to share information and develop a community of people interested in supporting our efforts to share up to date information.

We have a number of new web mapping clients and several more that will go live early in the new year. For businesses who want quality map data, routing and access to our extensive Points of Interest database, our data is updated 11 times a year making sure that you can rely on our products. We feature some of those sites on our home page.

We launched the new Route2GO web service, which was a long time coming. We have so many companies who have been waiting for this and are very exciting to see new 3rd party solutions being developed that will help businesses with route optimisation as well as calculation of fair pricing for freight and travel costs. Whether it is a large transport company, a taxi service or a furniture shop with a single van, we now have a solution that will make life easy for you. We are working with and seeking new partners who would like to integrate these tools into their solutions for their clients as our model is to work with partners, not to compete with our clients in developing end user products.

There have been exciting developments in Fleet Management and we have had many new companies join us this year for everything from vehicle tracking to Road User Charges, with a number starting to adopt the concept of digital hubometers. RUC is here to stay and with over 80% of Fleet Management companies using our data, it would be fair to say that it is the standard.

We are working on many off shore projects and you will hear our name much more often outside of New Zealand, mostly with partners. A major part of our IP is the knowledge of how to build quality map datasets and then provide web services and API’s around this data.

We ran the Location Innovation Awards and in May we sent the lucky winner to the USA to attend the Where 2.0 Conference. We are going to run the 2010 Location Innovation Awards and have already had some exciting offers of sponsorship in prizes and technical support. We are changing the timing  this year to make it easy for our university partners to fit the Awards into their calendar, as we were very excited about the work that many students, especially at Massey University prepared. New Zealand has a huge amount of untapped talent and we look forward to helping the legends of the future make themselves known. Location Based Services are going to hit their straps in the next couple of years and you will see the GeoSmart name a lot in this context.

If you haven’t seen them, we now have regular e-newsletters. We used to print them, but print means cutting down trees and isn’t as multidimensional. You can find them here and also subscribe if you would like them in your inbox.

If you are still with me, thanks for reading this blog. There was much more activity that I could tell you about, but it’s time to take a deep breath and recharge, ready for the most exciting year yet in 10. I hope that you will be a part of that with us as I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and warm happy holidays. Thanks to everyone at GeoSmart and our many partners for helping to make this year the success it has been. We look forward to catching up with you soon.

December 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are Maps all Created Equal?

I really enjoyed reading Brian Rudman’s article in this morning’s NZ Herald. It was about Google Maps and the quality of their data in Auckland. Basically it was about the usefulness of Google Maps to help people find their way around, getting walking and driving directions, and most recently the inclusion of information to help people find out which buses to catch and how to get to them using data from ARTA.

I urge you to read the story, because it highlights some interesting points that we often struggle to explain to people.

I’m not knocking Google, I love Google and spend a lot of time using it, as do many of my colleagues. But here’s the thing. Google is a data collection and aggregation tool that enables people to access data from multiple sources and use it for their purposes. In some cases Google creates the data, which includes having people drive vehicles such as the Street View cars to help people make better use of maps.

The problem we frequently have is that people think that, because there are Google Maps and Google is ‘the authority’ then their maps must be the best, or, as people often learn the hard way, that Maps are all pretty much the same.

If that were the case, there would be no need for GeoSmart, because Google obviously has far more money and resources than we do. What we have and they don’t, is a mandate to have the best possible maps that can be used to meet people’s varying needs. One of the key components in this, is what we call our ‘turn restriction database’. We know where all the roads are, we know which ones have traffic lights or roundabouts, we know which ones are one way streets, or have no left or right turns. We know the streets where you can turn legally, but a large vehicle probably wouldn’t be able to complete the manoevre.

We know which roads in NZ actually exist. What do I mean? New Zealand was town planned in Edinborough a couple of centuries ago and some 20% of the streets draughted, were never constructed. We know those as paper roads. These still exist on our government maps (which services such as Google use) because they have a legal status and the Government can still retake the land to build them.

For decades, our people have maintained maps of New Zealand working with data we collected by driving and flying New Zealand over and over again. We continue to do this and move the boundaries taking advantage of new technology so that our data quality and accuracy stays ahead of the needs of our clients. For example, with the RAPIDcV, we now are able to collect data at 15cm accuracy for future car navigation and safety systems. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, Eco-routing and other future technologies will only work with quality data and for these services, near enough is definitely not good enough.

When people buy car navigation systems, they are relying on accuracy to help them find their way around. There is a good reason why quality brands such as Navman and TomTom come to us for data, because near enough is not good enough. If you take a look at web map sites where you can see the roads on aerial photography and where they show the roads using the labels, you will see that they often don’t match up. In other words, they are not spatially accurate.

If you want to claim tax rebates for times when your commercial vehicle is not on a public road, you need to to be able to prove accurately, where you drove. If your map itself isn’t accurate, then your argument must be flawed.

In the old days, we looked at a map and interpreted the data in our heads. If something didn’t look right, we worked our way around it, and it wasn’t a problem. When you put your map on a computer and have the computer make decisions for you, the quality of the data has a far more serious impact. That is why we have a large team of professionals employed in NZ to make sure that we have as accurate data as possible. That is why the NZ Automobile Association invested in our company.

One of today’s problems is that these maps are now accessible on mobile phones and other devices. People assume that all maps are basically the same and then don’t understand when they get a poor result. They might blame the phone manufacturer or the technology, but the old addage in the computer industry is still true. GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out.

So next time you want to rely on a data source, don’t assume that all maps are the same. They aren’t. In some cases it doesn’t matter, but in many cases it does. Our people care about quality, they use patience and skill to produce map data that people rely on.

Thanks Brian for showing us that map quality matters and being a multinational giant doesn’t necessarily mean they are always the best. Who knows NZ better than Kiwis? I’m sure you will find AA Maps and other sites that use GeoSmart Maps a tad more reliable.

December 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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 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

Location Innovation Awards Prize Giving

It’s almost over for the first year, the judges are deliberating and we are preparing the Prize Giving Event.

The GeoSmart Event will be held in conjunction with the Wireless & Broadband Forum’s Wireless Wednesday on 18th March. For more information have a look at the competition web site.

The quality of entries has been superb and the judges have been very impressed with the ideas that have come through in all of the four categories. Student entries have also been very good.

Come to the Awards night on the 18th and find out what LBS is all about. Find out how you can participate. Many applications are opportunities for web developers, telecommunications providers, media and advertising companies, brands, tourism, sport, entertainment, the list goes on.

All four categories; Proximity Based Marketing, Location Based Social Networking, Location Based Games and Widgets for AA Maps have been well covered.

The sponsors should be well pleased with the results and will be looking for ways to get involved in this disruptive technology that is going to change many of the ways we do business and interact with each other.  We owe special thanks to Sony Ericsson, MyMobile Magazine, Tomizone, Vodafone, Geekzone, TomTom, the Wireless and Broadband Forum, AA Tourism and Massey University for their support.

Given the success of this event, we have already started planning for the 2010 Location Innovation Awards, so if you wanted to get involved but left it too late, next year’s competition will be even bigger and better.

We hope to see you at the Awards Night, do make sure you RSVP as we don’t want to be turning you away at the door! Details are on the competition web site if we haven’t already sent you an invitation.

locationinnovation1

March 5, 2009 Posted by | AA Maps, awards, car navigation, competition, competitions, education, geosmart, gps, lbs, lbs games, location innovation awards, maps, new zealand, proximity based marketing, satnav, school, social networking, tomtom, Uncategorized, university, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GeoSmart adds new features to AA Maps

Are you deciding where to go on your summer holiday around New Zealand, or perhaps looking for a weekend adventure? Before you head out on your Kiwi Road Trip, have a look at what GeoSmart has added to the AA Maps web site.

There are many new and improved features. You can now create your complete itinerary and then change the order of the stops and even check the real time traffic conditions before you leave!

Let’s say you were going to take the kids to Rotorua. You had decided on the Luge, the Agrodome for a ride in the Zoorb, a jetboat ride and the other cool activities they have there, and Rainbow Springs to feed the trout. You set your itinerary on AA Maps and then decided to change the order so that you could finish the day with a meal at the top of the gondola ride and enjoy the views with a nice sunset. Now you can drag and drop the destinations, automatically generating new driving directions from A to B to C to take with you in the car, even showing the travel distance and driving time from one to the next.

You can find your accomodation from AA Maps and when you select it you can look for other amenities such as restaurants within 5km of the property. In this instance my search found 10 within 400 metres of the Millenium Hotel.

You can now set up a free account on the page and store your ‘Favourites’ so that you can find them again later and you can even leave a ‘rating’ once you have been there so that other people can appreciate the great experiences you enjoyed.

Many Kiwi’s feel they know their way around New Zealand and don’t need mapping websites. All good and well, but they don’t know there was a major accident which has blocked the Auckland Harbour Bridge or a slip which has closed the Milford Sound Rd. Now we have included AA Real Time Traffic as well as Traffic Web Cams. There are certain holiday spots that often have traffic jams at peak times such as Long Weekends or the start and end of major holiday periods. In winter there may be ice and snow, or slips that can close lanes or sometimes entire roads. Yu will be able to find this information on the AA Maps web site, where you can select from Minor Accidents, Major Accidents and Traffic Webcams where you can see the traffic flows, refreshed every minute.

If you live and drive in New Zealand, you are probably a member of the NZAA which has many great services to offer you. As a member, these are your services and another important feature is the Feedback button which allows you to tell us whatever you want to, whether it is suggestions for new features, a Point of Interest we didn’t know about, perhaps a restaurant that has changed ownership and has a new name. This is a never ending project as new technology continues to allow us to add new services and features.

If you would like a map on your own website, AA Maps will give you an idea of some of the features GeoSmart can offer you, but wait, there’s more. Many of the services we offer are not relevant to the AA Maps website. Of course there is also the AA Maps Bizlocator, which not only gives you a free map and directions from your company web page, but also lists it with car navigation brands so people in their cars can find their way to you. . We have lots of other services, so if it’s to do with location and you have a need, please feel free to ask us any time.

For more information about GeoSmart, please go to our Home Page. For AA Maps, click here.

This blog is offered as an interactive comunication, so please feel free to comment or make suggestions here as well. We welcome your feedback.

December 1, 2008 Posted by | AA Maps, car navigation, driving, driving directions, gps, maps, navman, new zealand, optmisation, real time traffic, route optimisation, satnav, tomtom, Traffic, Uncategorized, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GeoSmart Launches the Location Innovation Awards

At GeoSmart we believe that Location Based Services applications (LBS) on mobile phones and converged devices will be commonplace in 4-5 years time. We want to bring the future forward by challenging people to develop concepts around this space with the Location Innovation Awards. The overall winner will enjoy a trip to San Jose in California to attend the Where 2.0 Conference in May 2009.

There are four categories that may be entered. These are Social Networking, Proximity Based Marketing, LBS Games, and Widgets for the AA Maps web site. Our sponsors includeThe Wireless and Broadband Forum, Massey University, Tomizone, Sony Ericsson, TomTom, Geekzone, MyMobile Magazine and Vodafone New Zealand who have contributed wonderful prizes.

The competition launched on 6 October 2008 and entries must be in by 16 February 2009 which gives participants ample time to come up with their concepts.

A forum on Geekzone for the competition has been set up so that peple who need assistance or want to throw ideas around can do so. There will also be regular updates on the GeoSmart WordPress blog .

October 5, 2008 Posted by | gps, lbs, location innovation awards, new zealand, tomtom, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting the Best Car Navigation Directions

Every now and then I hear a story about someone who feels that their car navigation device is not giving them an appropriate route and telling them to turn the car around at the earliest convenience.

These days most car navigation devices are so intuitive that nobody reads the manuals. They charge the device up, stick it on the windscreen and get driving. In fact that is pretty much what brands like TomTom encourage you to do. They do also encourage you to go to TomTom Home via your PC and the Internet to download the latest map as well as the current configuration of the satellites so that you get a quick connection in the car. But this is not what I am writing about.

If you buy a new car navigation device using our maps (and given that we have 93% marketshare in the industry, in most cases it is our maps) you can pretty much rely on them being accurate.

There are 2 main reasons why people don’t always get the result they expected.

First of all you can program the way your navigation device gives you directions. Depending on the brand and model, you actually have the ability to influence the way the device works. For example:

  • By default your GPS unit is programmed to navigate via the ‘Fastest Route’. The way that works is that it will have a preference for the higher road classes, i.e. main roads, motorways, expressways and so on. The first reason for that is that major roads are designed for faster throughput. Often the speed limit is higher so you can drive faster. That means that if you can get to your destination by parallel roads such as Great South Rd in Auckland and Manukau and the Southern Motorway, the Southern Motorway will usually be much faster.
  • You can program your car navigation device to drive by the ‘Shortest Route.’ Now it will compute your route solely on driving distance. In some areas this may be quicker, for example many rural roads in the Waikato are long straight roads and in many cases have very little traffic. This could make the journey faster, but this is local knowledge. In urban areas taking the shortest route may well mean getting stuck at compulsory ‘Stop’ or ‘Give Way’ signs at the major roads while the traffic using the ‘Fastest Route’ zips past in front of you while you are waiting.
  • Some devices, such as some of the Navman models allow you to use a ‘slider’ function which allows you to weight the routing style to a balance that you like. This is complex and unless you know what you are doing, I would stick with ‘Fastest’ and only change to ‘Shortest’ where you are pretty certain it will get you there on time.
  • Another factor is local knowledge. When you commute or go to certain places regularly, you will have learned about the odd bottleneck which doesn’t conform to the general rules. The GPS unit is a computer and designed to work within a set framework and a local bottleneck does not come into the equation, yet. So the best scenario is to use a combination of your local knowledge and the instructions from your nav unit.
  • Some devices have a lot more functionality. For example they might let you avoid main roads or motorways, avoid toll roads or gravel roads and so on. If you spend a lot of time driving to unfamiliar places, it really is worth having a look through all the menu options to see what you can do.
  • There are many other levels of information in your device including a large file of Points of Interest. These include everything from your favourite brand of petrol, ATM, accomodation or food, as well as public toilets, boat ramps and pretty much everything you could wish to drive to including emergancy locations such as hospitals, accident & emergancy. You can look for these closest to the car or near your destination.

In summary, what you have is a highly sophisticated computer and like most computer programs, most people only use a small percentage of its functionality. I recommend that you start using it on ‘Fastest Routing’ until you are familiar with how it works. Try ‘shortest’ when you are not in a hurry, or when you are travelling short distances. Then either read the manual or go through the set up screens and check out all the other great functionality your device has to offer. You will be pleased that you did.

September 22, 2008 Posted by | car navigation, driving, driving directions, gps, maps, navman, new zealand, satnav, tomtom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment