Trends in Mapping

After 8 years of working in GIS within Microsoft and Bing Maps with some of the leading brands in the industry and a few smaller ones as well as a few start-ups you tend to find that the discussion points, pain points and needs of the many tend to follow a certain theme.

These themes, for me have formulated into or have evolved into a set of trends that I use to define the use of location intelligence within the corporate and consumer space which I am now going to share with you.

I must highlight that this is by no means a confirmed list of industry trends but more an observation on the key factors that impact the use of mapping or are factors that, in my experience, have been considered when integrating a GIS platform within an application be it mobile or web based.

1. Evolution from a single location

The most popular use of web mapping has been within store locator type of applications. Typically these applications only required the need to provide a single location as a reference point. Where is my local store, where is my local station, where is my local restaurant? These are the type of questions that were answered by these applications. However, consumers are now no longer satisfied with just finding their local store or restaurant, they need more information regarding their search or context to their search results. Be it the opening times, is there a pharmacy etc. at my local store or an image of the property, potential costs for purchasing the property, local transport facilities etc. If searching for a potential property. Our need for information has become far greater than before and as a result has provided companies with an opportunity to share more information.

2. Location to Location intelligence

With this shift or evolution from a single location companies now have a greater opportunity to share data and information relevant to the search results. The basis of this information is not only to inform but to add value to the end users search experience. People now wish to see:

· Location data

· Local attractions, attributes, destination data relevant to the application

· Travel information

· BI data

clip_image002

Integration of maps into web applications is becoming ever more challenging as the demand to see more is becoming greater. We are seeing traditional GIS players such as ESRI, Ordnance Survey, MapInfo etc., providing their customers with the opportunities to integrate their content and data with the more dynamic interactive maps of today.

The dependency on maps is growing at a faster rate as the desire to see more increases.

Big Data and the Cloud presents another twist to the movement of Location to Location Intelligence. It presents an even greater opportunity for companies to manage their data and GIS tools provide the medium by which content and data can be presented in a meaningful to the end user.

But what we are also seeing is more and more organisation becoming content generators and distributors, providing data such as census data, purchasing behaviour, social behavioural data etc. with a geographic relevance for organisations to ingest and present to their users.

3. Desire to see more

Organisations are now starting to pay attention to the information they present either internally or their workers or externally to consumers. Too much information can be overload and too little can lead to end users dis-satisfaction. British Airways use of mapping, within their Avios application, is an ideal application demonstrating the “not too much, not to little” concept. The application allows its users to search for a holiday destination based on their points balance, the information presented allows them to see the number of destination choices available, the destination and the number of points required. The value here is allowing the end user to make a decision, a choice, without distorting the selection process with other unnecessary information. We can say that the content itself now has a currency for the site holder. The currency of the content will only retain its value if it fulfils the requirements of the user.

clip_image004

We must also be mindful that the desire to see more is not only confined to the content integrated. Basic features of any interactive mapping platform is also a key requirement and as such Better Geocoding, Clarity and Accuracy of Aerial, Satellite imagery is also imperative. Maintenance and regular updates will ensure that the content retains its currency to the end user.

4. The Social Scene

The use of Social Media tools over the last decade has increased beyond comprehension. There was a time where our daily activities; what we do, where we dine, where we stay, our vacation destination etc. is ours, private, well in this world of check-ins, tags our everyday experiences are now known to the world be it through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Myspace or Foursquare. This increase in Social media has provided an ideal platform for marketers to gain an insight into our behavioural patterns – where we shop, where we dine or go on holiday, how we interact with their products and brands. Understanding our location in these instances provides an important role in supporting how a marketer can gear a campaign. An active Social check in endorses your social activity and location as well as providing an ideal opportunity for organisations to target their services to you. At present this is pretty much untouched but does present an untapped opportunity for brands to provide targeted time based incentives.

clip_image006

Foursquare have begun to test this in markets such as the US. Check-in to a certain location or venue a user is then presented with an opportunity to take advantage of an offer in the nearby vicinity or encourage multiple check-ins in the same location to benefit from a future saving.

Facebook presents an open opportunity for SME’s to encourage their customers to check-in and share their location and experience with their friends – and incentivise this exchange for their troubles, an ideal way to promote a brand.

The London 2012 Olympic Games was classed as the most digitally connected event during Social Media Week in London 2012. The BBC and LOCOG were able to determine the success of the Torch relay by mapping Tweets from spectators, Sponsors such as Samsung, GE, Coca Cola ,were able to collate valuable data based on the events that they were connected to, athletes shared their experiences of London, the games as well as the facilities provided for the games. As social listening tools become more and more intelligent we will see an increase in their adoption as key tools in driving marketing behaviours and devising campaigns and offers based on location.

5. Make it Mine

Over the years the desire to make maps a part of the look and feel of a website has become a key factor in differentiation for many organisations. It’s the small changes, the subtle differences that make the greatest impact, a branded pushpin, mirroring corporate colours within the borders or pop up box, changing the navigation controls for your own user base, the personalisation of maps has grown to provide the consumer with a better user experience but has also become a key component for organisations in enhancing their brand awareness.

Many organisations spend considerable time and budget on customisation of the mapping integration and in some cases involve design agencies to add that little extra.

Take the image above under “Desire to see more”. The map forms part of the Avios experience to the British Airways Executive Club Member. The look and feel, navigation controls, information boxes, pushpins etc. all represent the corporate image and therefore provide a complete user experience in line with the rest of the site.

But this does not just end on here. The ability to integrate data specific to your application and specific to the needs of the end users is another form of personalisation as is the presentation of that information.

6. Integration

There is an abundance of different technologies available for companies to invest in and the investment decision is based on a multiple factors; business needs, budgets, suitability, functionality etc. The need to and ability to integrate mapping tools with other technologies has become ever more important. As a result these technologies need to provide the flexibility and the ease to integrate within their current environment technology. Additionally many companies invest in more than one mapping platform to fulfil a given a task as the capabilities of the platforms can differ. Even in this scenario there is sometimes a need to integrate.

Whatever the need may be organisations need to consider the following when developing an application that integrates a mapping interface:

· mobile technologies

· Cloud solutions

· Browser independencies

· corporate infrastructure

· Incumbent investment in Technology

· Flexibility of integration

· Scalability

· Roadmap of the platform

Whether it be the map styles, data or even just how the maps are integrated, mapping tools need to be flexible to allow for easier integration of data whether the solutions are internally focused or external. The ability to create a unique experience for the end user can be the deciding factor sometimes on the success of the application.

7. Maps in Apps

Finally, no trend would be complete without the mention of mobile. My reference to mobile encompasses not just cellular devices but also tablets and smart devices. With the growth in these devices presenting apps over the last decade maps have become one of the key factors in app development. Maps in Apps provides companies with providing a different representation of their service, allows organisations to add greater context to data. Mapping providers, as a result are changing the way maps are made available to developers.

clip_image008

Subtle changes such as making the overall map control lighter for mobile devices, providing offline capability in mobile applications, incorporation of augmented reality are just some examples where either individual components or complete functionality is made available to organisations and the development community to benefit from and utilise.

With the apps currently in the various market places or stores, irrespective of operator, we can say that many of the mobile apps incorporate some if not all of the above 5 trends.

CONCLUSION

With a wide array of mapping platform choices available to organisation the decision as to which is the most suitable is not an easy one when developing an application for your customers or for your own use. However by having access to the right tools, documentation and support in delivering a platform that ticks all the boxes is of paramount importance. Bing Maps provides a wealth of resource to its customers and to the development community through the availability of an interactive SDK, API’s to suit yo9ur application requirement, Enterprise Support Team, technical documentation available via MSDN as well as local technical support via your Bing Maps specialist who you can reach via mapemea@microsoft.com.

Advertisements

Bing Maps for Travel

Bing Maps has been an integral component for many travel companies across the globe. Whether it be used for searching for holidays or for agents to help in booking your next trip, Bing Maps has been seen as the platform of choice.

Our focus in providing solutions to our customers at an enterprise level and supporting the developer channels has been a key reason why organizations such as Marriot, British Airways, EasyJet have benefitted from the Bing Maps platform. Working with these organizations has also helped us further understand a number of other factors why Bing Maps is the platform of choice:

  1. The provision of a robust platform that is scalable to their business.
  2. Enterprise Support that is knowledgeable in not only supporting the ongoing use of Bing Maps but also aiding the initial development of their application
  3. Flexibility in the API’s to support multi-device and multi-browser environments.
  4. Global Footprint that aligns to their business – Bing Maps provides Global Imagery updated frequently to provide the most up to date and high resolution images
  5. Platform that allows them to be creative with the different styles available through Bing Maps be it through Birds Eye or Satellite Imagery or Road Maps.
  6. Bing Maps allows them to be Inspirational, Creative, Flexible and Dynamic. A great example of this is the EasyJet InspireMe service.
  7. Searching for Point of Interest is made easier as Bing Maps provides access a large categorized array of key businesses complementing the travel business such as Museums, Hotels and Restaurants etc.
  8. Accuracy is crucial in maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty. Through the Bing Maps Geo-coder and Routing services Travel Companies have the added comfort that their consumers can find & reach their desired location.

These are just some of the statements that we have heard from our customers. With the introduction of Windows 8 Bing Maps is ideally positioned to allow companies to extend their reach to their consumers by differentiating their service through the content they host and hold themselves. The British Airways Inspiration Application is a great example which is detailed further in this report.

Venue Maps in Bing Maps

Bing Maps is constantly striving to improve and enhance the services it provides to its customers. As well as the ongoing improvements new features and services keeps the platform ahead of the game and 1 such feature is the introduction of Venue Maps.

Born from a desire to show more than just finding your route from A to B, Venue Maps is designed to provide the user with another dimension to their location.

We are typically used to finding our way to the airport or amusement park by adding our location and the destination. However, would it not be great to actually see where the duty free store is at the airport once you check in or the actual location of Magic Kingdom when visiting Disney World?

clip_image002

First introduced in summer of 2011 in the US, Bing Maps now has over 4000 Venue’s worldwide ranging from Airports to Malls to Sporting Venue’s and this number is growing. Providing an additional dimension to mapping, Venue Maps is another key feature that Travel companies are keen to get their hands on to add value to their consumer offering.

From allowing users to simply navigate their way around the airport to travel companies monitoring visitor numbers to a specific resort or analyzing the best location for placing their promotional pod in a mall, Venue maps adds another layer of flexibility and functionality for improving the services they offer or how they manage their business.

Bing Maps also provides travel companies to embed their own Venues within their Bing Maps application, should it be the map of a resort or the layout of the Airport Lounge, through the use of a tool developed by the Microsoft Research Labs called MapCruncher.

All of these features – High Resolution Imagery, Points of Interest, Geocoding, Global Coverage, Venue Maps etc. have now all been extended to support the development of applications through the Windows 8 platform to gain presence in the Windows Store.

Bing Maps for Window Store

Bing Maps is integrated with Windows 8 out of the box. There are two development API’s available, The first one is commonly referred to as the Native control that allows you to use C#, Visual Basic, or C++. The second API uses JavaScript and is based on the Bing Maps V7 AJAX web control. This makes it easy to take existing web applications using Bing Maps and re-use a lot of the code to create a Windows Store application. If you are interesting in using Bing Maps to create a Windows Store app take a look at our training kit.

British Airways has created an excellent Windows Store application called The British Airways Inspiration App. This application is a great example of how a Windows Store app can be used to create an enhanced user experience and drive customers to your site. Rather than redeveloping their booking engine into a Windows Store app they took some of their great destination guide information that is often over looked on their website and turned it into an app where users can get ideas of places to travel to. They include information about destinations such as average temperatures, cost of a round trip ticket and a map of the location. If the user selects a month to travel to the destination they will be taken to the British Airways website.

clip_image004clip_image006

Bing Maps for Mobile

The Bing Maps V7 AJAX control was designed with mobile in mind. The base control weighs in at only 38kb in size and makes use of HTML5 when available. It’s supported on all the major mobile platforms such as iOS, Android, Blackberry and WP8. Pairing this map control with tools such as jQuery mobile or PhoneGap will allow you to create excellent mobile map applications that have a mobile friendly user interface.

There are a number of great mobile applications already out there using Bing Maps. Two applications that make use of venue maps to show users the maps of airports are the United Airlines application for Windows Phone 8 and the FlySmart app for iOS, Android, and BlackBerry. These are definitely worth checking out.

clip_image008 clip_image010 clip_image012

Add Bing Maps to your Travel App

Now that you have seen all the great value Bing Maps can add to travel apps add it to yours. The Bing Maps platform has a number of API’s available to suit your needs. Read through the documentation or jump right in and try the interactive SDK. For more information or development assistance see the Bing Maps blog or forums. If you have any licensing questions contact us here.

Vikas Arora, Bing Map Solutions Specialist

Ricky Brundritt, EMEA Bing Maps Technology Solution Professional

Mindshare and Kinetic join forces for Cannes Lions interactive event map

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is the world’s biggest celebration of creativity in communications. As the most prestigious international creative communications awards, more than 28,000 entries from all over the world are showcased and judged at the Festival. Winners receive the highly coveted Lion trophy, presented at four award ceremonies throughout the week.

The Festival is also the only truly global meeting place for advertisers, advertising and communication professionals. Over 9,000 delegates from 90 countries attend seven days of workshops, exhibitions, screenings, master classes and high-profile seminars by industry leaders such as Dan Wieden, Sir John Hegarty, Bob Greenberg, Maurice Lévy, David Droga, Mark Tutssel, Sir Martin Sorrell and Tham Khai Meng, as well as people like Mark Zuckerberg, Ben Stiller, Yoko Ono, Kofi Annan, Steve Ballmer and Bob Geldof.

This years Cannes Lions event which took place from the 17th to the 23rd June, saw Mindshare helping its clients and partners navigate the venues and streets of Cannes through an interactive map designed by Kinetic’s applications development team

In its rooftop penthouse, Club Mindshare, one of three large screens was given over to an interactive map of the event showing bars and restaurants, the schedule for the Lions event, local weather and Mindshare contacts.

Mindshare commissioned Kinetic to produce the application calling on the Out of Home planning and buying agency’s extensive experience of Bing Maps, Silverlight and mapping applications. Kinetic was able to produce a functionally-rich application which allows users to interact directly with the map and its contents through the touch-screen interface, on which the Mindshare team can update content locally as they ‘diligently’ research the bars and restaurants around Cannes.

Mindshare CTO Steve Plimsoll commented from Cannes: “The application is already proving useful, with lots of engagement from delegates attending the Club Mindshare venue.”

As of yet the use of mapping tehcnologies within Media Advetising and Creative Comms has not fully reached the dizzy heights but with agencies such as Mindshare and Kinetic truly realising the benefits of platforms such as Bing Maps we should start to see many more……..Watch this space !!!

Can I take a look inside ?

For many years mapping services have answered one of those tormenting questions …….”How do i get there ?”  The benefit of using a city guide either in the form of a paper map, online map or via a mobile has proven to be invaluable to millions worldwide.

But what if you wanted to take a peek behind the doors or under the roof.

What if your question is – “How do I get to the store within the mall ? ” or ” How far am I from the stage ? ” or ” Is it a long walk to the gate  ?”.  Well look no further.  Over the last 12 months those clever guys in our Bing Maps development team have been working actively to answer just those questions through the introduction of “Venue Maps”.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The introduction of Venue Maps has provided a new dimension to mapping.  This new feature allows users to navigate through a mall, airport, stadium or even university.  With over 900 venue maps and growing Bing Maps team are working daily on providing new Venue’s.   The maps are not just limited to providing with a lay out or footprint but provide contextual data – Business name, contact details and links to home pages where available.  As well as through Bing.com from your desktop, Venue Maps are available through mobile devices that support HTML5 capable browsers including iPhone, Android and RIM devices.

Innovators in mapping

The success of Bing Maps within the Enterprise space is not only down to the platform and it’s features, development toolkits etc…..but also down to those organisations and individuals who grasp the toolkits and add that element of creativity, flair and magic or in my mind they give it the “Houdini Effect”, adding an element of magic to present and display information in such a way that truly does take your breath away.

Over the years we have worked with a number of organisations that take control of the resources available and start to mould and build amazing solutions.  The solutions that really take your breath away are those

I personally have had the honor of working with a number of Certified Partners and Agencies that have created some amazing solutions with Bing Maps but have also taken that leap of faith by integrating other Microsoft Solutions and Serivces such as Silverlight, Pivot, Photosynth etc.

These organisation range from creative individuals to creative design agencies that have the vision to see beyond what maps can offer.  You will see a selection of these partners and specialists in my Developer Links resource.  If you require further support please feel free to contact me via vikasar@microsoft.com .