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Earthware feature in this month’s Bing Maps newsletter

Friday, April 8th, 2011

We were delighted that this month we featured in the Bing Maps newsletter for a blog article we wrote regarding relative performance of mapping APIs (see below).

If you want to read our full blog article please click here.

Cool

If you can’t see the contents of this email, click here.

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DEVELOPER NEWS

Bing Maps Android SDK now available on Codeplex
InKnowledge has launched an open-source Bing™ Maps SDK for Android. Built using the latest Bing Maps AJAX Control 7.0, the Bing Maps Android SDK has all JavaScript wrapped with native Java calls. As a result, Android developers can use this control without having to know the JavaScript code.

BingMaps03_VerticalPhoneBingMaps03_HorizontalPhone

Events

MIX11
April 12-14, 2011
Las Vegas, NV

Where 2.0
April 19-21,2011
Santa Clara, CA

Spatial Business Intelligence Workshop with Bing Maps for Enterprise
May 9

Cologne

May 10
Munich

This new SDK now gives Android developers a choice in terms of map controls and provides greater flexibility as a result of having direct access to the code base. Read more here. Get the SDK.

Earthware updates performance tests to include AJAX 7.0
Microsoft partner Earthware recently tested the performance of AJAX Control 7.0 against the version 6.3 “core” control and version 6.3. The results
found that version 7.0 performed up to three times faster than version 6.3.

When it comes to web page load times, it’s hard to have too much performance. In addition, with the growth of mobile applications that use slower connections, tools like the AJAX Control 7.0 can help solve real-world problems.

For the tests, Earthware examined two key performance criteria: speed of download and speed of displaying information. For the first test, Earthware compared the time required to download those files needed to display a basic map. Download time is primarily affected by the size of the file downloaded to the client’s browser. Therefore, the smaller the file size, the quicker the map displays.

BingMaps03_Graph1

The second test compared the time required for each version to load and display different numbers of pushpins on a map. Because the results are greatly affected by the browser, Earthware tested three major released browsers.* These tests again show the speed of version 7.0, especially under heavier loads. For example, here are the results when using Windows® Internet Explorer® 8:

BingMaps03_Graph2

*Please note that when this analysis was done Internet Explorer 9 had not been fully released. Internet Explorer 9 has now been released and the AJAX 7.0 performance is excellent. We encourage you to download Internet Explorer 9 and try it for yourself.

For more detail on these results, see the Bing Community Blog or go directly to Earthware’s blog posts.

Real-time transit routing now available for more mobile users in more cities
Bing is the first search engine to offer real-time transit information. With this feature, now available on m.bing.com and through our iPhone app, commuters can access up-to-the-minute transit data.

We’ve just added coverage for Chicago and Los Angeles, to go with our existing coverage in Seattle, Boston, and San Francisco. To see a video on real-time transit in action, and to study all the features and screenshots, check out the Bing Mobile launch announcement.

Simplify pushpin groupings with client side clustering
A map can become quickly cluttered with hundreds, if not thousands, of location pushpins. This can become a problem if a user zooms out, making the map unreadable. Client side clustering
allows for “clustering on the fly” in JavaScript, rather than going back to the server to request more data. This option is significantly faster than server side clustering. It also cuts down on server requests, making the application more scalable.

BingMaps03_Clustering

Learn more about using client side clustering with the redesigned Bing Maps AJAX Control 7.0. The updated algorithms, both of which use grid-based clustering, have been optimized for performance and reuse. In fact, once a modular plug-in is created, it can be used again and again. Learn how to implement the modular plug-ins here.

Data hosting now available with Bing Maps
For maps customers building a locator and in need of data hosting, the Bing Maps developer portal now allows you to load locations, geocode, and publish for use with the Bing Maps API. Log on at the Bing Maps portal
to get started.

Recorded webcast showcases what’s new with Bing Maps
Bing Maps developers from Microsoft partners Earthware, OnTerra, and Infusion recently discussed the latest AJAX 7.0 development tips and tricks. During this fast-paced, 40-minute overview, Microsoft MVP (Most Valued Professional) panelists described how to evaluate and improve the performance of Bing-powered apps, how to work with large sets of pushpins, and also introduced a new tool for working with Microsoft® SQL Server® databases. The webcast aired on March 1, and is now available as a recording here
.

BING MAPS APPS

Japan’s road to recovery illustrated by three new Map Apps
Three new Map Apps have gone live since the tragic events in Japan.

Bing Maps technology specialist Johannes Kebeck put together the “Road Status Japan” Map App that shows which roads in the area have been verified as being open to traffic, using data provided by Honda Motor Company. Go to bing.com/maps, click on “explore map apps,” sort by newest, and click on the Road Status Japan tile.

BingMaps03_Japan

The Bing Maps team has published the “2011 Japan Earthquake” Map App that allows you to easily see aerial images of what the area looked like before the earthquake, and with one click compare it to imagery taken after the tragic events.

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Lastly, Chris Pietschmann created the “Earthquakes in Last 7 Days” Map App that shows the location and strength of the week’s earthquakes around the globe. The app collects data from the USGS feed of magnitude 2.5+ earthquakes during the past seven days.

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PARTNER SHOWCASE

Zimbio uses high-resolution Bing Maps to geotag where celebrities have visited
Zimbio
is an interactive magazine publisher with a focus on entertainment, style, current events, and a bevy of other pop culture topics. The Zimbio team has done an amazing job integrating its high-quality content (more than 4 million photos) with version 7 of the Bing Maps AJAX API.

BingMaps03_Zimbio

Zimbio’s latest feature, Celebrity Places, combines the accuracy and richness of Bing Maps with Zimbio’s high-resolution photography. Zimbio has a catalog of more than 10,000 geotagged celebrity photos in more than 1,000 cities. Fans can follow favorite celebrities as they travel from hot spot to hot spot. (To protect celebrity privacy, new photos are held for roughly 24 hours.) Zimbio readers can also follow the latest news and photos from other pop-culture events, like the San Diego Comic Convention or next World of Warcraft convention.

The visually interesting juxtaposition of Zimbio’s photography with Bing Maps Bird’s eye view was one the reasons Zimbio chose Bing Maps; another important reason was the load and display speed of AJAX Control 7.0.

BingMaps03_Zimbio2

CUSTOMER NEWS

Update to Bing venue maps: coverage of top malls
Bing Maps introduced mall directory maps in December, making it easier for shoppers to navigate shopping malls and retail stores. The mapping tool provides time-saving information on where to park and how best to plan a shopping excursion. We’ve
increased coverage and usability
. We now offer visitors the chance to access mall maps of nine of the ten largest malls (in square feet) in the United States. As of now we have completed 143 malls in more than 20 states and the list is growing all the time!

We’ve also made locating mall maps an easier venture. Now, when searching on Bing Maps for a mall or any business within that mall, visitors will immediately see either the clickable footprint of the mall or the fully detailed mall map. For most of our mall maps, visitors can locate parking, ATMs, entrances, as well as many other mall services.

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Until Next Month

On behalf of everyone on the Bing Maps team, thank you for being a valued subscriber. We invite you to explore everything that’s new with Bing Maps this month. Learn more and start building your own map experiences today! For regular updates and information visit www.microsoft.com/maps, the Bing Maps Blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Puffersphere “Roving Eye” videos seen over half a million times

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

The two videos that we posted showing the “Roving Eye” that we developed using a Kinect and a PufferSphere have now been seen over 500,000 times on YouTube in less than three weeks.

If you haven’t seen them yet, then here are the two videos.

Giant eyeball following one of the team around the room

 

and:

Warning–not for the timid!

 

We are now playing with lots of other ways that we could bring products and services to life using the PufferSphere.  If you have any great ideas please email them to us at info@earthware.co.uk.

For more information, please:

view all our videos on our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/earthware

see our blog post telling the story about how we did it at http://www.thetechnologystudio.co.uk/blog/index.php/2011/03/a-boys-own-guide-to-building-a-giant-creepy-eyeball-that-follows-you-round-the-room/

or contact us info@earthware.co.uk.

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.

Quake sequence leading up to Japan tsunami

Friday, March 18th, 2011

We always say that displaying data on a map is one of the best ways to bring information to life, especially when the information has a geographical element. One obvious place where this is true is when looking at the pattern of earthquakes. Bing Maps Silverlight Earthquake MapThe US Geological Survey publishes a list of recent earthquakes. However, a list doesn’t show the patterns or relationships in the same way that displaying this data on a map will.

Which is why, given recent events in Christchurch and Japan in particular, we have done just this – embedded USGS’s earthquake data in a Bing Map using Silverlight technology to create a mapped sequence of earthquakes between 7th and 11th March 2011 as recorded by USGS).

In the sequence you can clearly see the build up of earthquakesJapan in the northern part of the Ring of Fire along the Aeultian Islands starting from the 7th of March 2011.

As well as watching the sequence of events from 7th to the 14th of March 2011, you can experience the last seven days earthquakes or just the last one:

Last seven days of earthquakes in mapped sequence

Last day of earthquakes in mapped sequence

For a more detailed view of the locations experiencing major earthquakes during this period watch our video of the sequence.

Earthware presents to Multimap migration clients interested in Bing Maps

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Yesterday, we were delighted to be invited to present at a workshop event held at Microsoft’s Victoria offices in London to an audience of approximately 60 people who were interested in exploring how Bing Maps can help them drive their business results.

The audience was a good mix of technical and non technical people representing many industries and specialisms with many of them looking at how to manage a migration from the Multimap APIs and MapPoint Web Services to services and APIs offered by Bing Maps.

We really hoped that the day would both demonstrate some of the “art of the possible” in mapping but also allow plenty of time for individual companies to ask specific questions and explore the challenges specific to their own situation.

The speakers included:

Steve Frost (Microsott) – Chair

Idit Gazit-Berger (Microsoft) – Introducing Bing Maps

Johannes Kebeck (Microsoft) – Integrating Bing Maps

Rod Plummer (Shoothill) – Getting the best out of Bing Maps

Neil Osmond & Brian Norman (Earthware) & Miranda Munn (NovaLoca)

- The Art of the Possible in Bing Maps

Mark Finch (Grey Matter) – Licensing

Philip Bull (Microsoft) – Bing Maps and Windows Azure

Alex Montgomery and Hayley Bass (Microsoft) – Bing Maps and Microsoft Dynamics CRM

In our session we were delighted to be joined by Miranda Munn, Founder and MD of NovaLoca (one of our most successful clients) who demonstrated how we had helped her use mapping to drive her business at multiple stages of its growth.  We were also delighted to be able to demo the new NovaLoca Windows Phone 7 app that we have developed that is due for release very soon.

In case you would be interested, we wanted to share the slides and the links (most images are links) on our blog.  Please see below for the slides:

Presentation on 8th March 2011 on Multimap & Bing Maps

OFFICIAL Microsoft Bing Maps community event in the UK 27th October

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

We have been working behind the scenes with Bing’s PR agency 3-Monkeys, on an official Microsoft Bing Maps community event for the UK and you can now sign up to attend next Wednesday 27th October. Here’s the intro:

“Bing invites you to an informal panel discussion and Q&A to hear the latest from Bing Maps UK and how it has been working with leading digital partners to deliver improved map services for consumers and develop innovative mapping solutions for many high profile clients. This is your chance to hear from our expert panel of mapping specialists, who will discuss the latest in mapping technologies and be on hand to answer your questions. “

For full details of who is talking, other than Brian Norman our resident Bing Maps MVP, please see the event site where you can sign up:

http://bingmapsuk.eventbrite.com

GoLearnTo continues to show how to place technology at the heart of the online experience

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Now in our fourth year of partnership with GoLearnTo.com we are delighted that the website we have been involved in developing continues to go from strength to strength. In the last month GoLearnTo has added no less than four awards and nominations to their impressive array of successes including…

GoLearnTo.com

Tongue Twister

The International Association of Language Centres has voted GoLearnTo.com agency of the month recognising them as a leading language travel agency. The IALC recognize the quality and teaching standards of GoLearnTo.com’s range of courses where you can learn Spanish in Spain or learn French in France and over 14 more languages worldwide.

Best holiday experience provider…

GoLearnTo.com have been nominated for a British Travel award in the category ‘Best Holiday Experience Provider’. It’s a great honour to be nominated for the 2nd year running proving there’s no stopping the public’s appetite for learning new skills on holiday.

Best new agency…

Language schools from over 30 countries worldwide have voted for GoLearnTo.com in the best new agency category for Language Travel Magazine’s star awards. GoLearnTo.com has been specially recognized as a ‘star’ agency for their work to make language learning more fun and a holiday activity by combining languages with a unique range of fun activities such as cookery holidays in Italy, yoga holidays or even surfing, dancing, horse riding and much more.

And the website of the year goes to…

GoLearnTo hope to be in with a chance of winning the Good Web Guide’s Website of the Year Award after being nominated this year.

This proves once again how an aesthetically pleasing, functionally rich and easy to use website designed and developed by The Technology Studio with maps by Earthware can do for you.

We are also really excited to be working on a potentially groundbreaking project with GoLearnTo using Microsoft Silverlight and Bing Maps to offer a rich multimedia experience all within a map – watch this space!

Earthware’s TheWorldCupMap has grown and now includes CountryBehindTheCup map

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Regular readers of our blog will have heard about Earthware’s TheWorldCupMap which we launched at the beginning of the 2010 World Cup football tournament. This week has seen our newest addition to the map, CountryBehindTheCup, being launched.

CountryBehindTheCupContinuing our partnership with Skyworks, the company behind the high definition video footage of the football stadiums shown in TheWorldCupMap, the CountryBehindTheCup map features Skyworks’ HD video documentary originally made for TV which gives a factual tour of South Africa the country, rather than South Africa the country hosting the World Cup.

The video footage has been combined with Bing Maps Silverlight technology in the same way as TheWorldCupMap did to create an aerial journey across South Africa giving an example of the ‘art of the possible’ of how any geographical data (text, images and video) can be combined with online mapping to create an interactive and visually engaging experience to the user.

This technology has great potential to change the way people research holidays online – imagine using a travel map which contains similar video, plus images and text, to investigate the location where you are planning to spend your next break. Suddenly your research has become a whole lot easier.

For further information about displaying your data on a web based map or to see how travel maps could help your agency differentiate themselves please contact Earthware on 0845 642 9880 or email info@earthware.co.uk

Google Maps launch property listings – is this the beginning of the end of the property portals?

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Having your property listed on a online map has become an essential part of the property marketing process so its little surprise really that Google have joined the party launching their latest addition to Google Maps in the UK – property listings. Any property portal, estate agent or even individual seller/landlord can list their property as for sale or for rent to be displayed on the property maps when a search matches the properties specification.

Listing properties on the map is free (Google have funded the new functionality through advertising placed around the maps) and it is this fact has caused a lot of unrest with the UK’s major property portals such as RightMove, who provide a similar property listings maps but which agents have to pay to advertise on. However, other portals including Zoopla, Zoomf, and Property Pal have chosen to jump on board with this latest free online marketing tool and have formed partnerships with Google to list their properties on the maps. Many other independent estate agents have also taken advantage of the functionality with Google now saying that within 24 hours of the maps being live they have hundreds of thousands of properties listed.

Google's Property Listings Map

Home buyers and renters can use the maps search functionality, which can be turned on or off by selecting ‘properties’ found under the ‘more’ button at the top of the maps, to find properties to suit their needs. Users can search by city/locality by moving the map and zooming in, or by price range, type of property (detached, semi detached or townhouse/unit), number of bedrooms and number of bathrooms using the tick boxes to the left of the map.

The ideal scenario for any buyer or renter is to only need to look in one place in order to see all (or at least the vast majority of) available properties. It is exactly this position that the portals are fighting to become, with RightMove winning that fight in the residential property market. Google’s move into the property market will only make maintaining their positions as the top property portal list more difficult – something they are understandably nervous about. As for the user – maybe it’s a good thing. It might just force all the portals to improve the service they offer in order to differentiate themselves and retain custom.

If you are interested in using property mapping in your website to market available properties we can help. Contact us on 0845 642 9880 or email info@earthware.co.uk

TheWorldCupMap, Earthware’s Avimap demo, is being promoted up by the BBC

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

It seems that we are not the only people who think that TheWorldCupMap, Earthware’s tour of TheWorldCupMap on the BBC Sport website the World Cup stadiums, is pretty cool. The guys at BBC sport also agree and have added it to their dedicated World Cup page alongside their own venue guide and Fifa’s offering too. It’s great to have our work recognised in this way and to see this amazing new technology being used so well.

TheWorldCupMap shows what the ‘art of the possible’ of online mapping is. It is the world’s first release of Aerial Video Integrated Mapping (Avimap) technology which combines the Bing Maps Silverlight mapping API, the latest Internet Information Services (IIS) smooth streaming technology and Windows Azure cloud hosting to give a movie-like experience of a location.

If you would like more information about how you could use the latest web mapping technology to display your business information in a compelling way please contact Earthware on 0845 642 9880 or email info@earthware.co.uk.