For the past thirty years or more, the travel industry has relied upon the trusty printed brochure to wet our appetites for holidays at home and abroad. We’ve become accustomed to the idea of thumbing through acres of paper and booking our escape to the sun based on fuzzy photographs and ‘artist’s impressions’. I wonder exactly how many holidaymakers have uttered those immortal words, “it didn’t look like that in the brochure?” during this time.
However, thanks to the massive advances made in web based mapping technology, this is all set to change. Applications such as Bing Maps World Tour, which uses Microsoft’s Silverlight technology and the Bing Maps mapping API, and the European Environment Agency’s Eye on the Earth website, which is built on the Windows Azure platform and Google Earth mapping are great examples of how the technology has revolutionised the way web users experience online mapping imagery. These mapping technologies have also paved the way for the travel sector to re-think how it can use the internet to present consumers with complete travel information in one place, e.g. embedded into an online travel map, to make finding and booking a holiday an enjoyable, easy experience.
Let’s take this one step further. Imagine popping into your local travel agent, or even sitting at home, and being able to interact with the screen to research and book your next holiday. The kind of technology that would enable you to do this was featured in the 2002 Hollywood movie, Minority Report. However, it’s no longer in the realm of science fiction thanks to the introduction of Microsoft Surface. Blend this technology with 3D street level mapping which is now available with Microsoft’s Streetside and Google’s Streetview and we’ve opened the door to a whole new perspective of what we can expect in the not too distant future.
95% of the UK road network has now been plotted in Google Streetview, an incredible logistical exercise on its own. You may even have seen one of the hundreds of specially rigged ‘Google Cars’ driving around capturing the imagery over the last 18 months but don’t worry, all faces and vehicle registrations have been disguised to comply with privacy laws!
This imagery means tourists and those holidaying at home can get an incredible amount of destination information, as well as being able to plan an itinerary based on the surrounding area and distances to attractions, for example, through just one application. Granted, you will only get an aerial or bird’s eye (if the mapping platform used is Microsoft’s Bing Maps) view of your holiday cottage if it’s down a private farm track (at the moment) but how about ‘walking’ around the nearest village or town? No problem.
For those of you who’d like to find out more about Bing Maps in particular, you can visit and join the Bing Maps User Group which was co-founded by Earthware’s Technical Director, Brian Norman. At one recent session, the group heard from Jim Lynn from BBC Vision, who presented “Adventures in Mapping” to give more of a taste of what we could see in the future.
Earthware’s development team is at the forefront of groundbreaking online mapping technology and new applications and is working in a number of industry sectors keen to embrace the power of interactive mapping technology to bring their business propositions to life through the internet.
Not only that, in these environmentally conscious times, it’s comforting to know this technology could help the travel industry take a huge step forward in reducing the thousands of tons of paper it uses each year.
To find out more about using Silverlight or Windows Azure technologies or the Bing Maps or Google Maps online mapping to communicate your business, please contact us.