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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

Mapping New Zealand with the RAPIDcV

The car is the brainchild of our GM Phil Allen who says “This is the most advanced mapping car to drive New Zealand roads. We have driven all of New Zealand’s roads with differential GPS before, but this car has leading edge technology. New technologies demand superior quality data.”

While other cars are getting pretty good information and imagery, pretty good isn’t enough for today’s needs. This car is collecting up to a terabyte of data a month from five cameras catching lane information, street signs, turn restrictions and points of interest. We are capturing lane information, road curb and other information of value to councils, road maintenance, utility companies (managing roadside assets) and much more. We are also taking a 360 degree panorama photo every 50 metres.

So what’s leading edge? How about an IMU? This is an Inertial Measurement Unit as used in modern missile tracking systems and allows us to capture data with accuracy of 15 centimetres, even when the GPS signals are weak or lost. With traditional differential GPS accuracy is lost when the satellite signal is poor such as behind volcanic hill shadows and particularly in places in the South Island where the satellites are very low on the horizon or totally obscured from the GPS antenna.

The car is capturing valuable information including inclinometer (the rate of incline and decline of the hill which can be useful for all sorts of things beyond navigation, for example in data for cycling, training for marathons, car rallies. It is also measuring road camber.  By providing road camber information to services such as Fleet Management it may be possible to reduce truck accidents where they approach corners to fast for the height and load, based on knowing the angle of the road camber through corners.

Nothing has been spared when it comes to accuracy. The nature of the work means that we had to use a SUV and the trade off is body roll. To compensate for this we have sonic technology which measures the body roll and this is used in data calculation algorithms making sure that our data is highly accurate.

This unique vehicle is going to enable us to provide for the ever changing demands of new technologies with the best national data ever collected in New Zealand. It is part of our continuous ongoing driving program supporting a range of products including the leading brands in Car Navigation (brands such as Navman and TomTom) and Fleet Management (brands such as Navman, Xlerate, Astrata) as well as clients who will use the imagery to reduce the need to do their own driving.

GeoSmart has built a console to monitor the information and is also creating plug-ins to allow the visual data to be used in conjunction with GIS systems such as Intergraph and has the ability to pinpoint the location of street hardware such as power poles and transformers.

When people see the vehicle, we want them to know what we are up to, so they will understand that we are working to enhance the mapping products and services they use including websites like AA Maps and Wises, the Map Books they carry in their cars and the car navigation devices they use.

December 1, 2008 Posted by | car navigation, driving, driving directions, gps, lbs, maps, new zealand, satnav, Uncategorized, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Digital Maps of New Zealand

We don’t advertise very much and often people find us as a last resort when they want digital maps or printed maps for posters, books, advertisements and other tasks. There is a little information on our website about Digital Maps, but because we do lots of custom work, it’s not easy to describe products as such. If you want to print or display anything to do with New Zealand maps give us a call.

In additional to the more complex products we supply to companies such as Wises and the NZ Automobile Association to name the biggies, we do lots of work with digital and print maps.

Recent jobs have included maps for use on print advertisements, large PDF maps which will be used for a service company offering services to 2 major councils and printed maps to go on posters for a major trade show which will feature the outlets for the clients products, throughout New Zealand.

We have a client who produces maps for tourists with Japanese Kanji characters overlaid on the maps to help non English people find their way around tourist areas. We supplied the maps with street name labels, but all other labels were removed.

We are able to provide customised maps of all of New Zealand, down to specific localities and we can swtich on and off a wide range of features. You can even have purple parks and green water if it suits your purposes. We have our own plotters so can also print to demand.

We also do map books and travel atlas products for major brands in New Zealand and can produce custom books or products. So if you want a custom printed map to hang on your wall, a map book as a corporate gift, a digital map image in PDF, EPS, TIF, JPG or other format or any other form of cartography, give us a call or email

June 12, 2008 Posted by | cartography, maps, new zealand, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment