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Archive for the ‘Google Earth’ Category

Jenny Heaton Announced as Google SketchUp Competition Winner!

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

On Sunday 25th November local secondary school student Jenny Heaton was announced as the winner of Letchworth’s Google SketchUp competition, ‘3D_lgc’. Earthware had been a supporter and sponsor of this competition, and our Director Brian Norman a judge.

Jenny’s superb model of Letchworth Train Station that won her the top prize of a Google Nexus can be seen below, and viewed in Google Earth here: http://bit.ly/VhMnH1.

Letchworth Railway Station

Other excellent entries included:

The Cloisters, by Worlds6440

The Cloisters, Letchworth Garden City

The Spirella Building, by Seigeworks

Spirella Building, Letchworth Garden City

St George’s Chruch, by Matt

St George's Church

The winners were announced at an event in Letchworth Arts Centre which had been organised by students of North Hertfordshire College. All of the entries were shown at the event, giving the attendees and judges a chance to appreciate all of the excellent SketchUp work that has been going on in Letchworth over the past few months!

Brian, as well as the other judges, was impressed with Jenny’s model because ‘’it showed an outstanding attention to detail and the quality of both the model and the photography used stood out even amongst the professional modellers who took part in the competition.’’

Earthware would like to pass on a huge ‘thank you’ to John Webb, the competition organiser. John ran the competition with sheer enthusiasm from day one and we are certain that it never would have received the entries or coverage that it did, without him behind the driving wheel; congratulations and thank you John!

All of the entries can be seen via the following link; http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/search?tags=3d_lgc, and we would definitely recommend taking a look at all of the excellent competition entries in Google Earth for yourself!

5 ways to make your web mapping fly!

Monday, March 28th, 2011

map paper planeOver the past four years here at Earthware we have encountered a number of performance challenges when creating mapping applications on the web. We thought it might be helpful to bring together the 5 most common issues we’ve encountered, both when helping other developers or in some of our older mapping projects.

It’s unfair to call these mistakes, rather they are missed opportunities to make your mapping really fly. They are not exclusively focused on specific mapping API’s or web programming languages / frameworks so they should be applicable to the majority of web mapping applications with a little translation.

So in no particular order:

1. How accurate do you really need to be?

We often come across systems or code samples that both store, but more importantly transfer their position data (usually pairs of lat/lon) to very high levels of decimal places (often 13 or more decimal places). Did you know that 8 decimal places of accuracy is a real world value of 1.11 millimetre (at worst when on the equator). How many systems have you worked on that require you to map to 1.11 millimetre accuracy?

So assuming that for most of us meter accuracy is plenty enough we can reduce our values to only use 5 decimal places (1.11 metre accuracy). When transferring either points, or more importantly polygon data reducing your data from 13 to 5 decimal places is likely to decrease the amount of data you are transferring by at least half.

Typical speed improvement: 50%!

2. Load small, load often

Many mapping applications allow the user to drill into the detail of the data shown on the map. In the majority of cases the user does not require the full details of every single piece of data so why bother loading them all?

Typically in the mapping applications we encounter the initial view a user is presented with has a number of pushpins / polygons maybe with a text label and or an icon representing the ‘type’ of data shown (like a hotel, house, pipe etc). So the data we need to initially load for each point is a title, latitude, longitude, type and unique id. We don’t need to load all the description, photos, links or other data that will not be shown until the user clicks the icon/polygon.

At Earthware, the way we normally handle this is to have two services, one that returns the initial map data that matches our query, and one that returns the full details for a single selected entity. You can code your map so that it makes a call to the “full details” service when a user clicks a map entity and in our experience returning the data for a single entity is usually so quick the user doesn’t even notice the slight pause.

To see an example of this service architecture using asp.net and Bing Maps see http://bingmaps.codeplex.com/wikipage?title=Getting%20Started%20in%20Web%20Services&referringTitle=Home

Typical initial map load improvement: > 500%

3. Don’t repeat yourself

Often when helping developers improve their JavaScript map performance we come across an approach to loading the map data that we don’t recommend except in the most simplistic applications. That approach is to generate the JavaScript code on the web server that is used to create entities on the map and to pass this chunk of JavaScript back to the client and execute it there. For example, we see a service return the following JavaScript:

var pin = new Microsoft.Maps.Pushpin(52.011,-0.221, {text: '1'});
map.entities.push(pin);
pin = new Microsoft.Maps.Pushpin(53.011,-0.121, {text: '2'});
map.entities.push(pin);
pin = new Microsoft.Maps.Pushpin(51.011,-0.251, {text: '3'});
map.entities.push(pin);
pin = new Microsoft.Maps.Pushpin(50.011,-0.321, {text: '4'});
map.entities.push(pin);
pin = new Microsoft.Maps.Pushpin(54.011,-0.143, {text: '5'});
map.entities.push(pin);
pin = new Microsoft.Maps.Pushpin(55.011,-0.0123, {text: '6'});
map.entities.push(pin);

This approach seems to be popular with developers because it’s quick and simple to achieve. However, the downside is that you are constantly repeating the same long text phrases and transferring all these repeats to your user, thus slowing down their mapping experience to make it easier for you to code. This data could be sent in a simple data structure, like JSON, and with some simple code looped through and added to the map. The same data above in JSON would look like:

{points:{point:[{title:1,lat:52.021,lon:-0.211},
  {title:2,lat:53.011,lon:-0.121},
  {title:3,lat:51.011,lon:-0.251},
  {title:4,lat:50.011,lon:-0.321},
  {title:5,lat:54.011,lon:-0.143},
  {title:6,lat:55.011,lon:-0.0123}

]}}

To see an example of this data transfer architecture using Asp.net, JSON and Bing Maps see http://bingmaps.codeplex.com/wikipage?title=Getting%20Started%20in%20Web%20Services&referringTitle=Home

Typical map data load improvement: > 100%

4. Some data you just can’t load fast enough

As we have recently blogged the latest Bing Maps AJAX API is now even faster at showing pushpins on a map, but there is still a limit especially when you are working with older browsers. If your data consists of thousands of entities then it won’t take long before you either cannot transfer the data fast enough or the performance of your map is too slow.

So what can you do? Your users still need to be able to search all the data so you cannot just remove some. The most common solution to this problem is ‘clustering’ of map entities. This is where you group together nearby or overlapping entities and only show individual entities once the user has zoomed in. This can be achieved either using client side code (see http://rbrundritt.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/client-side-clustering-in-v7/) or on the server side before you transfer the data to the client (see http://www.viawindowslive.com/Articles/VirtualEarth/ClusteringVirtualEarthwithMSAJAXandC.aspx). The advantage of doing this on the server side is that you do not have to transfer the data for each individual entity but instead can just transfer the data required to show the ‘clustered’ entity.

There are other approaches to this problem including generating rasterised image tiles of your data and only showing interactive map elements once the user has zoomed in. This works just as well for pushpins as it does polygons. A good example of this ‘hybrid’ approach is the open source ajax map data connector project on codeplex: http://ajaxmapdataconnector.codeplex.com/

5. Transferring data as plain text is soooo slooowwwww

We have already discussed ways of optimising the data you send your clients (in 3.) above but that approach still ends up transmitting plain text data to your clients. There are much better binary formats you could transfer the data in that would massively reduce the size of your transfers.

The first and easiest of these is to use a compression format called Gzip that is seamlessly built into all modern web browsers and plugins (Flash and Silverlight). If on your web service you compress all your map data using Gzip your clients browser will be able to atomically decompress the data ready for you code to use without you having to change you client side code at all. Gzip compression is usually very simple to enable on your web service (see these links for apache, iis6 and iis7).

This approach doesn’t just apply to data transfer or mapping and (if you are not already) you should look at compressing other ‘static’ files like your JavaScript and css.

If you are using Silverlight to load data from WCF services then an even better solution is to use the built in binary http protocol.

There is usually a slight CPU cost to compressing the data but on a modern processor this is minimal and well worth the decrease in data transfer sizes.

Typical map data load improvement: > 50%

In Summary

Hopefully some or all of these issues might help you make a real, measurable difference to your applications performance and many of them are quick and simple to achieve. We would love to hear your real world performance improvements if you do use any of these tips so please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Tracking Santa in Google Earth

Friday, December 24th, 2010

We love this kind of thing but for today only you can track Santa delivering his presents in Google Earth. As I write at 13:15 GMT I can see him whizzing around Lae, Papua New Guinea and he is already up to 16.5 million presents delivered.

There are two major views to this implementation, the first being on landing at a destination you can see Santa whizzing around (see below):

Santa2

and the second is tracking Santa and his reindeers tracking across the sky in real time to his next destination (see below):

Santa1

 

Whilst at Earthware we try and avoid interactive mapping gimmicks, if there is a day when a gimmick can be allowed it has to be Christmas Day.  I am certainly going to go home and show this to my 3 and 4 year old children so they can get excited.

Well done to everyone involved in creating this fun Google Earth implementation and if you are still able to see it then you can view Santa’s journey at Norad Santa – track Santa delivering Christmas presents in Google Earth.

Google Maps gets 3D treatment in the form of Earth View

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

This week has seen a further development in global web based mapping technology with Google’s announcement that it has augmented Google Earth into Google Maps, creating a 3D rendering of certain locations when used with a supported browser.

This update to Google Maps, called Earth View, enables users to view 3D images of a number of the world’s most iconic places. In the UK, these include the Houses of Parliament in London, Stonehenge and even the Lake District.

Go to Google Maps and click the ‘New!’ link in the top right-hand corner and then enable “Aerial Imagery” and click on “save changes”. Then select one of the listed examples, sit back and enjoy!

3D Earth View Maps

Commenting on the Google’s Lat Long blog, Google Product Manager, Peter Birch, wrote:

“Earth View offers a true three-dimensional perspective, which lets you experience mountains in full detail, 3D buildings and first-person dives beneath the ocean. The motion is fluid, and you can see the world from any viewpoint”.

Coming five years after Google Earth was launched, Earth View is available through the installation of a browser plug-in it originally issued in 2008, enabling dramatic detailing using the Google Earth fly-through interface.

Grand Canyon, as viewed with Earth View

The Grand Canyon, as viewed with Earth View in Google Maps.

San Francisco using Google Maps 3d

San Francisco is one area where 3D perspective of an urban view is available in real detail.

(Credit: screenshots by Stephen Shankland/CNET)

Microsoft is currently working on its own 3D view of the world by enhancing its Bird’s Eye perspective in Bing Maps using the Silverlight plug-in.

Brian, Earthware’s Technical Director believes, “It is great to see these premium beta features make it into the consumer site offering some real competition to Bing’s 3D maps”.

Please feel free to contact Earthware if you are looking to explore how Google Maps, or any other web based interactive mapping, can help your business.

The Beginning of the End for the Travel Brochure?

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

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.

Google streetview car95% 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.

Google Street View Launched UK Wide In Commercial Property Website

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Within hours of Google launching Google Street View imagery covering 99% of UK roads, Earthware has released their first implementation of the new imagery in commercial property portal NovaLoca.com.

The Google Street View imagery in NovaLoca.com allows users to view commercial property in the major UK cities and in smaller towns and villages right across Google Street View in NovaLoca.com England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The user now gets an even better impression of what a property being advertised on the site is like, without having to visit it in person, making finding commercial property easier than it has ever been before.

Earthware and NovaLoca have been working together for a long time to keep NovaLoca’s property mapping well ahead of the competition. In October 2008 we implemented the very first UK street side imagery in NovaLoca’s maps for commercial property in London before Google released any of their Street View imagery in the UK. This latest addition means that Street View imagery is now a standard function of the property maps where ever you are looking for commercial property in the UK. Yet again, this means NovaLoca have beaten all their competitors by becoming the first UK commercial property website to be using this technology.

If you want to know how you can use online mapping and Google Street View in your website please contact Earthware on 0845 642 9880.

Google Street View Launches UK wide

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Google Maps have today launched Google StreetView imagery for the entire UK and we mean the entire UK!  Google Street View CoverageNearly a quarter of a million roads across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are now available to ‘walk’ down from your computer screen. The 360 degree pictures mean you can have a good look around as you travel down the street, and you can deep zoom into the images to see the detail (although faces and registration plates are blurred out in accordance to the privacy protection rules).

But Google have been even busier than that: they have also released Google Street View imagery covering the majority of France, Italy and Spain too.

Although Google Street View has been available in 25 major cities in the UK since March 2009, to now have Street View right across the UK is a phenomenal achievement from the Google Maps team and will be changing the way people use online maps to display geographical information in interactive maps. The StreetView maps can be embedded into any website to help businesses display their location and any geographical information on a map, immediately we see major benefits from property mapping and travel mapping.

For anyone that’s interested you can now see where all the Earthware fun happens:
View Larger Map

If you are interested in how you can use Google Maps and Google Street View to display your information then contact Earthware on 0845 642 9880.

Google takes Street View Mapping off-road

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Google has announced the launch of the Google Tricycle. As the Google Street cars whiz through the larger roads of cities and towns around the world capturing 360 degree images of the area, there are some places they just can’t reach. This is where the Google Tricycle will come in handy: it can fit down those smaller streets around the towns and can even take Street View off-road!

Google launched their Street View imagery in the UK in March 2009 amid a storm of controversy. However, they were not the first. Earthware introduced the first customised Street Level View four months earlier in November 2008 for commercial property listings website, Novaloca.com.

One critisim of the Google Street View offering was it’s lack of coverage of minor roads. The Google trike will aim to solve this. It is currently being tested in Genoa and is expected to hit the UK shores this summer. In partnership with Visit Britain, the public will be able to vote for three landmarks they would like to see captured.  Justin Reid of Visit Britain said, “the new trike will enable us to showcase even more of Britain’s wonderful destinations and we look forward to receiving some great ideas from the public”.

The images taken by the trike will be stitched together to form a 360 tour of the location and be embedded in the existing Google Maps.

However, the Google trike is not the only technology available to develop this sort of imagery. With Microsoft’s Photosynth technology you can turn your digital images of a route, location or object into a 3 dimensional, navigatable image. Alternatively, Seety, the company behind the Street Level View imagery Earthware embedded in NovaLoca.com are offering their services for bespoke work. So if you can’t wait for the Google trike to make it to your favourite location there are a number of other options open to you.

If you could like to hear more about how Google Maps or Microsoft Virtual Earth can help your business then contact Earthware.

Using Interactive Visual Media: Part 1 – 3d Virtual Tour Videos

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

The great thing about maps and I expect a reason why they are fast becoming the ‘must have’ thing in a website, is that they present information in a visually stimulating format and allow the user to interact with that information. Take Street Level View’s for an example whether you love it or loathe it, it allows you to interact with a location – you choose where to go and what to look at.

Over the next few days I will be introducing you to some other multimedia concepts that we have been working on, that can be used independently or with mapping, to give another way to display information in a visual and interactive format.

We kick off today with…

3d Virtual Tour Videos

Virtual tours are a great way to communicate a route, whether that’s a bike race, a 10km run or a travel itinerary. Using Google Earth imagery we display locations in three dimensional visual representations, giving an indication of inclines and distances, as well as picturesque views. Add information such as existing photos, videos and locality information to this by embedding it into the imagery and the user is able to really understand a location either as they navigate around on their own, or watching the animations as a video.

There are a number of ways you can use the finished product. For example:

· Embed it into a webpage as a live Google Earth animation. The user can now browse the route without needing to have Google Earth installed and open.

· Send it to customers/contacts in an email

· Add it to DVD marketing materials

· Display it on a screen such as in TV advertising or a one off broadcast or at a trade show or exhibition

For more information about 3d virtual tours, please contact Earthware

Tomorrow… Advanced interactive mapping.

lastminute Google Earth experiments

Friday, July 4th, 2008

We came across some of the interesting stuff that lastminute have been doing using Google Earth.  lastminute have an experimental arm it seems called lastminute labs who are big fans of Google Earth and have been doing some stuff with Google Earth pretty much since it came on the market.

Some good examples include:

Flight sales through lastminute in the last minute – shows the start and end points and a line between them.  Using only the last 60 secs of purchase keeps the map nice and clean.

LastMinute products – this places the products that lastminute offer in their location in the world with interactive icons that allow you to access more information before being passed on to the part of lastminute that allows you to book.

We like companies that are innovating using mapping and congratulate the lastminute labs team!