GeoSmart Weblog

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Route2GO Improving Productivity and Profit for New Zealand Companies

GeoSmart has just released a new version of  Route²GO as a web service, providing vehicle route optimisation for company fleets as small as one vehicle, but scalable to any size of fleet.

This new service is based on what we know of in the industry as The Travelling Salesman problem. In effect if I have x number of places to visit in a day, what is the most economic order to do them in?

Typically route optimisation involves buying an expensive piece of software that only large companies (by NZ standards) can afford, together with employing an expensive engineer to run it. GeoSmart has now released the same technology as a web service, pricing for which is transaction based. This means that it can be used by a furniture store with 1 truck, as easily as for a large company with many vehicles.

There is a small amount of work involved in order to access the web service, which can be done by web developers or anyone who understands how a web service works. It could be merged with something as simple as a spreadsheet, or tied in to a legacy application. It would work very nicely with a range of applications from CRM, Accounting Software, ERP, dispatch and more.

For technical details on how Route²GO works, please visit our Developer Pages. For examples and more information on the benefits, we have information here.

Now we are looking for NZ partners. We do not typically sell solutions to end users. We work with partners who can add this service as a value add into their solution, or perhaps even create a new niche solution. We have some partners already in this space, including companies like Gen-i and Navman Wireless, but we are also keen to find more.

Many products have a long ROI period, which makes them hard to sell, especially in today’s economy. Pricing for Route²GO is transaction based. This means that until you start using it, you pay nothing. Pricing is also scaled based on volume over a year and also the amount of detail in our output. The cheapest result is simply the order to drive the visits in, with the option of estimated driving time and distance for each stop. The next step includes turn by turn driving instructions and the full monte includes the ability to view and print out full turn by turn directions complete with route and locational maps, that can be panned and zoomed before printing or importing into an application.

What skills do you need? If you can structure a query as outlined here, then you have the requisite experience. We offer a free Developer Agreement to companies looking to partner with us. There are no costs associated in developing a solution or testing with this web service.

We are happy to meet with potential partners or clients, to discuss their needs and help them find the best solution both in the web service and the integration, but our part stops at that point as we do not compete with our channel.

Want to know more? Contact us.

November 30, 2009 Posted by | AA Maps, car navigation, Delivery, driving, driving directions, Freight, geosmart, GIS, gps, lbs, location based services, map tools, maps, navman, new zealand, new zealand maps, optmisation, route optimisation, Uncategorized, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Networking and LBS

So what does social networking have to do with LBS. Right now, perhaps not a great deal, but very soon, it could have a great deal to do with mobile. Social networking is a massive growth segment of the Internet. There are some interesting things happening in this area. One is that Social Networking, which began largely as an online way of connecting to people in more meaningful ways, not only people you know, but also people with whom you have business or personal interests in common.

There has been an interesting evolution in Social Networking recently. The first is that it has gone mobile in a big way. I have been talking with Telcos from UK, Europe, the USA and New Zealand over the last couple of months about LBS and Social Networking. All of them have confirmed that close to and in many cases more than 50% of all mobile data traffic today is taken up by social networking. They didn’t plan for this, they didn’t market or advertise it, they didn’t expect it. Consumers just made it happen and in many cases, developers created mobile phone applications that can be installed as a simple download allowing people to use elements of applications such as Twitter, Facebook, Hyves and many others on their phone including the ability to upload photos and post them on your social networking site, as well as connecting to the phone to ring them, from within the mobile.

In one of my personal blogs, I have written about Social Networking including the first in a series on the use of Twitter for Business. One of the changes that is happening is that the social networks which were largely around connecting to people via the internet, but now there are all sorts of real face to face connections being made. Groups are using social networking to meet their ‘friends’ in the real world. For example, we are members of the Wireless & Broadband Forum. The forum has recently started to use Facebook to invite people to attend their events such as Wireless Wednesday, which was where we held the Prize Giving for the 2009 Location Innovation Awards. I also belong to a number of other business groups which use Social Networking to organise get togethers or ‘meetups’.

Given the interesting change that social networking is evolving from an environment where people find each other and commuicate on the Internet, to actually meeting each other in the real world, LBS offers a great opportunity to enhance that by facilitating finding each other, getting driving directions from where you are to the meeting place. GeoSmart of course has many tools to facilitate this in the mobile environment, such as identifying where you are and providing Driving Directions to the meet location. Geocoding and Reverse Geocoding can identify where you are now and the location of your destination. The Point of Interest Web Service V2 can identify a street address, but also contains a huge database of POI including cafes, restaurants, accomodation and lots of other business data as well as petrol stations, ATM’s, Public Toilets and even boat ramps if you are going to meet on the water.

A lot of mobiles now have GPS built in and for those that don’t, the ability to identify the nearest cell site(s) is another way to get at least an estimate of the location of the user.

Of course another very important component is maps. You can find out more about why our maps are the best in New Zealand for LBS here.

If you are using social networking on your mobile, Location is one of the most relevent components and you will find more information about this in coming blogs, so why not subscribe with your favourite RSS reader, so that you don’t miss anything.

April 22, 2009 Posted by | driving directions, facebook, geosmart, GIS, gps, Hyves, lbs, location based services, location innovation awards, map tools, maps, Marketing, Meetups, Mobile maps, new zealand, new zealand maps, satnav, social networking, Twitter, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 Develop an LBS Application Part 3

Geocoding and Reverse Geocoding are key components for many LBS Applications.

Geocoding is the process of generating a set of co-ordinates, which are subsequently used to display a location on a map. If you have a huge database of addresses, we typically do this as a batch process and have tools designed to try to compensate for poorly laid out databases, or errors such as mispelling, wrong suburb or when people like Real Estate Agents make up their own to make a location sound more attractive. A common one for example is Whangarei Surrounds. There is a place called Whangarei, but not Whangarei surrounds. Computers being fairly literal, if you try to search for a place that doesn’t exist in the database, you have to get creative.

Services like the POI Webservice V2, whichwas mentioned in the previous blog, are designed to help you with this requirement. How you do this depends on the type of application you are developing. For example:

  • If you are using an SMS service, you would have to have a very good address, if you want to get a good result. If the address doesn’t exist in our database, we can return a set of co-ordinates that are next best, for example if we don’t have the exact street address, we can return the middle of the street. One common issue in New Zealand which dates back to the days when we had lots of councils who didn’t consult with each other on street name allocation. As a consequence of this there are many duplicates. For example there are 23 different Queen Streets in Greater Auckland.
  • An autocompleter is a great way of getting to the correct address first time. You can see a nice example of this on AA Maps, where a new request is made of the POI Web Service every time a new character is entered, if the right result comes up at that point, you can click on it and then perform the action desired, such as viewing it on a map. This can function easily in a PC browser and can work fine in many mobile browsers. The main difference in a mobile would be that you reduce the number of results displayed in a list to make it user friendly on the smaller display.

For developers, there is much more detailed information in the Developer Section of our web site, including code examples. We support a wide range of results from text to javascript and html.

Reverse Geocoding is a powerful tool for mobile devices. What this does is using the co-ordinates derived from the mobile phone, we can display the users current location on a map. What we can then do is provide information about Points of Interest close to the user.

The first thing we can offer is the nearest street address. This can be used in various solutions such as

  • Buddy Finder
  • Locating children or elderly people, to ensure they are where they are supposed to be. This can include things like geo-fencing (which will be explained in a future blog).  The concept for children or elderly people might be to make sure they are at school, or perhaps close to the home or retirement village. It is very common for elderly people with Alzheimers or other conditions to wander off and then lose track of where they are or how to get back. Reverse Geocoding could enable authorised people to find out where they are if they have gone missing. Geo-fencing allows you to create a ring or polygon around the area they should be at, for example the gardens and surrounds of a rest home, but set of an alarm within a system if people leave that area, or go within a predefined distance of that area.
  • Locating people for health purposes. For example a system in Europe was designed to locate people such as diabetics who are away from their home and don’t have their insulin with them. Reverse geocoding could locate exactly where they are, while a proximity tool could identify the nearest Pharmacy which could prepare are dose and put it on a taxi to the patient’s location, even if they are disoriented and not sure where they are themselves.

This leads on to another benefit of reverse geocding in mobile applications. One of the most common services being developed for mobile applications is the ability to find Points of Interest nearby the location of the person’s mobile, without them having to be able to identify their location. This would then utilise either a proprietary database, or the GeoSmart subscription POI database which was mentioned in our previous blog. We have an extensive database covering most locations you might want to find when you are out and about. It could be (follow the links for examples on AA Maps web site) a motelBP petrol station, a public toilet, a National Bank ATM, a pharmacy, cafe or pretty much anything. This makes it really for people to find anything they need within proximity of their location, without having to kow where they are.

Proximity Based Marketing will be a huge growth area for LBS which is enabled by these tools as is Location Based Social Networking.

Of course if you now have the co-ordinates of where you are and the co-ordinates of the location you want to go to, you can now offer turn by turn directions to that location n the mobile. This will be the topic of our next blog, so if you are interested in this subject, please bookmark this blog, or add it to your RSS aggregator such as iGoogle.

Geocoding and reverse geocoding a critical tools for mobile LBS applications.

April 2, 2009 Posted by | AA Maps, driving directions, geosmart, GIS, gps, lbs, location based services, maps, Mobile maps, new zealand, proximity based marketing, satnav, social networking, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Location Based Services and Agencies

Now that the Awards are over, at least for a few months,  I’m hoping to have a little more time for blogging.

I have been talking to a number of agencies over the last 3-4 years about LBS. I don’t know whether it was me or that the bright lights in this agency space seem to all go offshore, often within the same company before we get to do anything together. Companies like The Hyperfactory have been doing some cool things on the edge of LBS, but it seems that all their cool stories these days are also overseas. It was great to see them enter the awards this year, though and they have a Finalist Award to add to their trophy room which must be bursting at the seams.

The types of LBS applications are very wide and we could have had many more categories in the awards. The thing is that location is simply what it sounds like. It is about where you are and what you are doing wherever you are. It could be about having a pizza delivered to you on the beach, or about catching the bus to Get Somewhere. It could be about going on a treasure hunt or finding a bar or cafe nearby afterwards. Location is ubiquitous, just as your mobile phone is. You are always somewhere. If your phone knows where you are, then it can help you find things, places and people. It can help you be entertained, help you with your sport or hobby, provide you with localised information, the list is infinite.

So back to Agencies. LBS adds another vehicle to incorporate into Marketing and Advertising Campaigns. It gives them the opportunity to come up with fun and compelling ways for brands to interact with consumers and other customers at the time and place that has the most relevance. Traditional forms of advertising are very often scattergun and rely on high levels of repetition to realise a call to action. Traditional Direct Marketing (DM) considers 5-7% response to be a good result. In my book that says that over 90% of the DM spend is wasted. Why is that? Because most people are not open to buy or looking for their products at the time they are ‘exposed’ to the promotion. In addition to that, most people are smart enough to look for what they want, when they want it. They will then either check out their favourite stores or use Google to find the products they want.

The other huge resource that people use is Word of Mouth Marketing, which these days means talking to people close to them, or just as likely today, to use Social Networking sites to ask the opinion of their ‘friends’.

So what can agencies do? They can come up with campaigns or solutions that are relevant to people’s interests at the time and place that is relevant to them. The time and place to tell someone about the great new winter fashion that is in their favourite clothing store, is when they are entering the mall. The time to tell people about the new Stephen King book is when they are near the bookshop.I’m going to talk a lot more about these concepts in the coming days and weeks, so why not subscribe to this blog with your favourite RSS aggregation app  like iGoogle.Just to put things straight, LBS is not something that will replace other forms of marketing, it will augment the campaigns, reinforcing the messages and making them relevant and encourage an immediate call to action. It is an enabler and a tool that will help brands fine tune their target marketing and improve its effectiveness.

I will also explain in future blogs how the tools and data that GeoSmart Maps has, can facilitate the creation of the applications or features of LBS from a laymans persepctive. I’m not a developer, but what I do understand very well is what each tool does and how it can be implemented to achieve the results you want. So if you want to know more, watch this space, bookmark it or get yourself an RSS Reader.

Also, do feel free to comment or ask questions.

A PAcked Room of LBS Enthusiasts at the Location Innovation Awards

March 25, 2009 Posted by | Agencies, awards, competition, competitions, geosmart, gps, lbs, lbs games, location innovation awards, maps, Marketing, new zealand, proximity based marketing, social networking, viral marketing, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Free New Zealand web cartography tools for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Free New Zealand web cartography tools for educational and non-commercial purposes.

As the Gold Sponsor for GeoCart’2008, the National Cartography Conference at Auckland University from 1-3 September, GeoSmart Maps Ltd General Manager Phil Allen has announced that GeoSmart is offering a set of web tools for web cartographers for use free of charge for educational and non-commercial use. He will outline these in a presentation at the conference on Wednesday 3 September.

“As the leading supplier of commercial cartographic products in New Zealand, we would like to encourage development of new applications,” said Phil Allen. “There are so many opportunities for people to develop wonderful web and mobile applications and we have the API’s and web services, as well as a wealth of geo-spatial data about New Zealand. “

The tools GeoSmart is making available include:

· Web mapping API

· Points of Interest API

· Geocoding and reverse geocoding web services

· Directions API

· Route Optimisation API

· Vector Graphics API

· Map datasets (NZ map base, Cadastral map base, Census map base)

Using such tools, web cartographers can build complex web, Location Based Services (LBS) and Mobile based GIS solutions such as; Carbon footprints for businesses by measuring the journey times of staff going to and from work and including their business activities to computing calorie burn when a user creates a walk/cycle/running route. The tools include all of the APIs required and a set of maps with many code examples. Allen’s paper will present these tools and advise how educational institutes and the web cartography community at large can take advantage of these for promoting and enhancing our industry.

For more information please contact Luigi Cappel luigi.cappel@geosmart.co.nz

August 29, 2008 Posted by | car navigation, carbon footprint, cartography, driving, driving directions, gps, maps, new zealand, route optimisation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment