When a company is ready for some brutally useful custom mapping magic, it doesn't even want to snibble over the Terms of Service for the masses—oh, and someone's got a small hammer ready to drop on the piggy bank, it's possible to build some powerful business and commercial location logic into the company's web site or intranet, and potentially put the company on the map in a whole new way.
The bargain end of Microsoft's MapPoint product line, MapPoint 2004, is a $299 software box ($700 for the Fleet Edition) for business mapping and data visualization. MapPoint 2004 calculates optimized routes; provides detailed driving directions; analyzes trends; evaluates performance by geography; offers demographic information; supports data from Access, Excel, and other common databases; adds maps to reports and presentations; and saves maps as linked web pages or to a Pocket PC.
What some companies don't guess is that the $299 package also lets developers extend their applications with the MapPoint ActiveX Control, and extend the MapPoint application itself with the COM application programming interfaces. The software also supports GPS.
On the high end, the Microsoft MapPoint Web Service (MWS) annual platform access fee starts at $8,000, which includes 500,000 transactions. One thing this serious money buys is an XML-based web service, which should make integrating location-based services, such as proximity searches, a clean and standard procedure. MWS can help put a store locator on a company's web site—showing the closest retail location for the customer with a map and driving directions, key points of interest along the way, ATM machines, gas stations, etc. A company can build an application that allows potential customers to search by location attributes—for example, a store that stays open late—and then give driving directions.
MWS includes a module called Mobile Location Service (MLS) which acts as a proxy between the application and the web service, working off the mobile operators' networks on the phone, where no GPS is required. Using MLS, companies can track employees rather than vehicles, cutting costs. A case study of a social service agency reports plans to connect social workers to MLS with location-aware mobile phones, so it can immediately identify who is closest to a child in an emergency. In the fleet industry, GPS may be used, and data stored about trouble spots along routes, which may aid in route improvements.
MapPoint 2004 and MapPoint Web Services are oddly complementary, and there are some surprising holes if you read the two lists of features and try to imagine eating just one. The good news is how much you could get with just MapPoint 2004. Check out Microsoft's feature comparison.
MapQuest's customizable business solutions, the Advantage line, begins at $5,000 plus transaction fees for the starter "standard mapping solution." Somewhere along the line, it's possible to build in mapping, optimized routing, proximity searches, a store locator, driving directions, asset tracking, and searches—customers can even plot multiple store locations on a single map with custom icons.
MapQuest has three main components:
- Site Advantage is an XML-based web service that lets customers integrate maps, driving directions, and proximity searches into their sites.
- Advantage API is a development environment that lets you choose the programming language, while MapQuest hosts the mapping and routing engines and geographic/location data.
- Advantage Enterprise brings the geographic server, bundled data, and complete set of MapQuest APIs behind your corporate firewall for complete control and security in your own environment.
You can fan out to more information on the different Advantage products from the overview page.