What’s new with MapPoint 2004, anyway?

By Steve Lombardi

The basemap, demographic, and point-of-interest data in the product is all new.As our customers know, a mapping tool is only as good as the data that ships with it.MapPoint 2004 for Europe and North America includes the latest data available from our data suppliers.We've also added consumer profile data, ideal for market analysis where understanding buying patterns and consumer behavior is needed.For instance, with just a few lines of code you can include a shaded map in your application indicating where households have cable TV versus satellite television, which is highly valuable for someone in the Cable industry planning a marketing campaign focused on winning new business.MapPoint 2004 also has support for more GPS (Global Positioning System) devices, as well as real-time GPS positioning.The enhanced GPS support, combined with some existing features such as multipoint driving directions optimization, 'do not drive' zones, drive time polygons, and yellow page listings make MapPoint a great tool in the fleet management industry.

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What can developers do with MapPoint 2004?
There are two ways a developer can leverage MapPoint 2004 in their applications.First off, it is very easy to use Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) to quickly customize the UI.This is a great way to go if the MapPoint 'out of the box' User Interface is close to what you need, and you are simply looking to create some custom dialogs or automate some tasks such as data import.Second, the included MapPoint ActiveX control allows you to build mapping into standalone applications.Using the ActiveX control, we've seen some developers and ISV's build some really killer vertical applications for industries such as Crime Analysis, Advertising, Insurance and Home Delivery just to name a few.Whatever approach you take, you have programmatic access to all of MapPoint's rich functionality.For instance, it's very straightforward to write a custom application that reads sales data from a SQL database or local datasource such as an Excel spreadsheet, and have MapPoint generate a thematic map showing territories where sales are strong.Imagine an executive dashboard that showed underperforming markets in real time or a dispatch system that optimized a fleet of driver's daily routes.And remember, if MapPoint 2004 doesn't meet the requirements of your development project, the MapPoint Web Service may fit the bill.

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What is the MapPoint Web Service? How does it differ from MapPoint 2004?
The MapPoint Web Service is a hosted XML Web Service that exposes its functionality via a SOAP API.It's loaded with features including interactive mapping, driving directions, geocoding, reverse-geocoding, and much more. Basically, all of the functionality and geographic data needed in most Location-Based applications can be found here, without the expense and complexity of building this infrastructure yourself.Developers simply add the MapPoint WSDL to their Visual Studio .NET project and begin coding! Geographic applications that took weeks or months are now handled in days. The MapPoint Web Service is of course the perfect tool for any web-based application such as a store locator, but what a lot of developers forget is that it's also ideal for any other device or platform thanks to the fact it is an XML Web Service - From a Visual Basic application for Windows to a C# application running on the .NET Compact Framework for Pocket PC's, MapPoint's Single API has you covered.Integrating the element of location in existing applications, regardless of their architecture, is now brain-dead easy.

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What about performance and scalability?
We back the service with an aggressive SLA (Service Level Agreement) that guarantees our uptime and performance.The Service has been live for general consumption for nearly 2 years, and is currently handling over 15 million transactions every day! Some of our largest customers throw a billion requests per year at the service.As more and more customers come on board, the MapPoint operations team builds out the cluster as needed to support the traffic.This saves our customers the huge expenses associated with traditional GIS solutions.The great thing about this model is that the same service that supports these mega web properties can be used by developers of applications with much more modest needs - and since you pay for just the transactions you use, it remains totally cost effective.

Tell us a bit about MapPoint Location Server.
Glad you asked.We anticipate shipping Microsoft Location Server (MLS) in early 2004.In all of my years working with Location Technologies, this is the first product that I've seen with the potential to really change our lives - how we socialize, work and interact with each other.I know that's a bold statement, but it's really indicative of the level of excitement coursing through our group these days! The initial release is focused on enterprise customers who want to track mobile assets to solve business problems - Where are my delivery trucks? Who is in the best position to pick up a certain passenger? Where are my friends so we can get together for a drink? Some non-business problems as well I suppose!

To illustrate, here is a simple web application that I built - http://www.whatididwaswrong.com/whereissteve.It displays an interactive map centered wherever my mobile phone happens to be.Seems sci-fi like, but the guts are just 5 lines of Visual Basic!

MLS has a 'plugin' architecture that allows it to interface with any source of real-time location information.Today we're focused on Plugins for mobile phone networks, but think of all of the sources of real time location around you - Wi-Fi Hotspots, your Outlook calendar, GPS, etc... It is possible for MLS to interface with all of these and more.

What do you have planned for the future of MapPoint Technologies?
Our team is really focused on delivering the same mapping and location-based technologies experience on any device or platform, wherever and whenever it's needed.Perhaps more importantly, we're committed to making it easy for 3rd party developers to use our tools to do the same thing! To that end, you're going to see more slick end-user applications that leverage the MapPoint Web Service across different devices.

Published Thursday, November 13th, 2003

Written by Steve Lombardi

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