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Visualizing Location Data

Geolocation technology is at an exciting point in its relatively short history as its services are popping up for consumers and enterprises alike.In the last decade, we have seen great advances in geolocation and digital mapping with the rise of Google Maps, Google Earth, Mapbox and many other services. It is one of those innovations that is making its mark on the enterprise and making companies rethink field service. It is beginning to play a pivotal role in the current Field Service Mobility Systems as it enables real time monitoring and unified perspective of field operations.
GPS navigation devices and mobile applications have become ubiquitous, we find them in cars, on tablets and smartphones. Geolocation is natively supported by browsers with the help of Geolocation APIs, allowing applications to detect and track the device's (field worker or even assets) location. field resource tracking
The GPS chip inside a smartphone uses satellite data to get accurate position which is then mapped by applications such as Google Maps, Mapbox and Nokia Here Maps with the help of Geolocation APIs. Smartphones sometimes use network location providers to zero in on the device location which determines user location using cell tower and Wi-Fi signals, providing location information in a way that works indoors and outdoors, responds faster, and uses less battery power.

Location data can be obtained in 2 ways, Geocoding (sometimes called forward geocoding) is the process of enriching a description of a location,most typically a postal address or place name, with geographic coordinates from spatial reference data. Geocoding facilitates spatial analysis using Geographic Information Systems and Enterprise Location Intelligence systems. Reverse geocoding is the process of enriching geographic coordinates with a description of the location,most typically a postal address or place name.

VISUALIZING LOCATION DATA

Visualizing the location data and presenting relevant information is imperative. Maps are the most common visualization product used. The market has developed many map-based services and a range of maps related services and products. The APIs furnished by the service providers ease the integration of different kind of maps in applications. Geo Locations can be visualized in these maps.

Enterprise users have evolved to become advance users of geolocation data. Visualizing the data is important to run an efficient scheduling or dispatching process. Complexities such as multiple users, complicated assignments and split tasks call for a robust system that can provide information at a glance. The front-runner in Map services Google Maps, is a natural choice for most developers. But there are several low cost and open source products that are available like Mapbox (uses OpenStreet maps), Nokia Here maps, MapQuest, providing powerful API for seamless integration.

FEATURE COMPARISON - Service Providers

During the course of development, we did an extensive study on some of the map service providers. Here is a summary of how their features compare : 

Features
Google Maps
MapQuest
OpenStreetMaps
(Mapbox)
Nokia Here
Types of Map
Map, Satellite, Terrain, Street
Map, Satellite
Map, Terrain, Satellite (exclusive to editing)
Map, Satellite, Terrain, 3D with plugin, 3D without plugin for compatible browsers, Night Mode
Directions
Yes
Yes - with OsmAnd
Yes
GPS Integration
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Mobile-Specific Application
Yes
Yes
Yes - OsmAnd for Android
Yes, for Nokia mobile phones and iOS
API Available
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes - developer.here.com
Shareable Maps
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Directions
Yes
Yes
Yes, third-party [9]
Yes – by car, foot, public transport
Public Transport Integration
Yes
Yes
Yes, third-party [10]
Yes in more than 420 cities worldwide[11]
Walking Directions
Yes (beta)
Yes
Yes, third-party [9]
Yes
Bicycle Directions
Yes (beta)
Yes
Yes
No
Multiple Destinations
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Map Types
6: Map, Satellite, Hybrid, Street, Traffic, 3D
3: Road, Satellite, Traffic
3: Standard Map, Transport Map, Cycle Map
7: Map View, Satellite, Terrain, 3D, Traffic, Public Transportation, Heat Map, Map Creator, Explore Places, Community [7]
Map Zoom
19 (more levels available through parameter)
17
19
18
Officially Supported Web Browsers
IE7+, Firefox 2.0.0.8+, Safari 3+, Mozilla 1.7+, Opera 8.02+, Google Chrome 1+
IE6+, Firefox 2+, Safari 3+
IE7+, Mozilla Firefox 3.5+, Google Chrome 4+, Safari 4+
IE7+, Mozilla Firefox 3.5+, Google Chrome 4+, Safari 4+

INTEGRATION 

Each of these providers expose their API’s to get location data, accepts GET requests to support both HTTP & HTTPS, Access to web services requires an API Key. These API Key is used to associate requests to API resources with user account. Generally, these services return data in either JSON or XML for parsing and/or processing by the application.

By integrating geolocation services with a unified application delivery service, it is possible to share the data on the Unified Application and Data Delivery platform. It is important to minimize the cost of retrieving geolocation data and distributing it to a broad number of devices and applications.

Geolocation solutions provides real time location information that has a powerful potential for business engagement. Delivery of work orders on the fly, optimize scheduling and routing based on location, and enable other features that have a direct impact on the bottom line. With geolocation, the age-old sector of field service suddenly becomes an industry on the cutting edge.

-Sushma R
-Sreelakshmi GC
(Sushma and Sreelakshmi are part of the engineering team in Vitamap. Sushma is a location technology expert working with Location data and service providers to bring new insights to customers. Sreelakshmi is the product expert who works closely with Location technology to ensure customer value is created through product integrations)

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