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For the Enterprise: Extending an Organization's ESRI GIS Investment by Using MapPoint Web Service

 

IMPORTANT: MapPoint Web Service was retired on November 18, 2011. Please see Bing Maps for a list of current Bing Maps APIs.

Ian Clemens
IDV Solutions

May 2006

Applies to:
   Microsoft MapPoint Web Service

Summary: This article explores the strengths of a combined, complementary MapPoint Web Service and ESRI location platform for deploying enterprise-class solutions. Particularly, this article focuses on how MapPoint Web Service can enhance existing ESRI infrastructure, improve solution performance, and reduce costs of deploying an enterprise location solution.

Contents

Introduction
Enhanced ESRI Through MapPoint Web Service
Improved Performance Through MapPoint Web Service
Reduced Costs Through MapPoint Web Service
Rich Microsoft Partner Ecosystem
Future Plans
Summary of Advantages
About IDV Solutions
About Microsoft MapPoint Web Service

Introduction

As the launch and subsequent popularity of search-related Web mapping offerings such as Microsoft Virtual Earth have brought into prominence easy-to-use interactive mapping and the power of geospatial functionality in general, many organizations seek to further use the location element of their data. The subsequent surge of mapping mashups, hybrid mapping applications that combine multiple data sources, has further fueled this interest by showing that location technology applies across countless disciplines, business problems, and workflows — from digital dashboards, to map-based data visualization, to information portals, to name just a few. This need to further take advantage of location is most keenly felt within organizations that have already made a significant capital outlay in geographic information systems (GISs) and therefore are looking for further return on their investment.

Many of these enterprise organizations, especially government agencies, are standardized on Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI) software and technologies for their GIS infrastructures. ESRI offers a platform for creating, collecting, editing, and storing geographic information. ESRI software is well suited for traditional GIS workflows, from land parcel editing and street centerline creation in a desktop application to the maintenance and storage of coastline geography in a client/server model.

An opportunity exists to address the enterprise functionality gap when an organization wants to take the power of its GIS information beyond the desktop of the GIS specialist and outside the workgroup environment of the GIS professionals. The original intent of GIS technology was for use by well-trained professionals, ESRI notwithstanding — not for nonspecialists, executives, or information workers within an organization. However, greater enterprise opportunities exist for location information and for organizations that deploy location solutions outside a traditional GIS workflow (within an enterprise environment, for example, to hundreds or even thousands of potential users). More robust and powerful enterprise-class location technology is needed.

And today, such technology is available for enhancing existing ESRI infrastructure — Microsoft MapPoint Web Service. MapPoint Web Service provides sophisticated mapping and location functionality through an information technology (IT) Web service standard (SOAP) in a flexible pricing model, giving organizations a tool for deploying enterprise-class location solutions. MapPoint Web Service is hosted by Microsoft and made available through a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) Internet connection, available on demand. Because MapPoint Web Service is offered in an open service-oriented architecture (SOA), it can be easily combined in a complementary fashion with an existing GIS infrastructure such as ESRI. The two combined can provide an organization with a comprehensive location platform.

Figure 1 shows Map-Based Digital Dashboard, an enterprise location solution that IDV Solutions built on a combined MapPoint Web Service and ESRI platform.

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Figure 1. Example of a Map-Based Digital Dashboard (Click here for larger image.)

The focus of this article is to explore the strengths of a combined, complementary MapPoint Web Service and ESRI location platform for deploying enterprise-class solutions. Particularly, this article focuses on how MapPoint Web Service can enhance existing ESRI infrastructure, improve solution performance, and reduce costs of deploying an enterprise location solution.

Enhanced ESRI Through MapPoint Web Service

Organizations can significantly enhance an existing ESRI GIS infrastructure through MapPoint Web Service by:

  • Augmenting their own location data sets.
  • Adding premium location functionality.

In seeking an enterprise location solution, harnessing the MapPoint Web Service alongside ESRI enables an organization to focus on the business problem at hand as opposed to funneling resources into reinventing an enterprise GIS infrastructure. MapPoint Web Service contains an extensive data set combined with mapping, geocoding, reverse geocoding, proximity search, routing, and place and address find services. For example, MapPoint Web Service can provide, through its mapping service, the base map for other in-house data sets, such as office buildings and even Global Positioning System (GPS)–tracked trucks. Through geocoding and routing services, MapPoint Web Service can provide the ability to pinpoint a location and then optimally route there.

These MapPoint Web Service location services are built upon the three pillars of effective location data and functionality: content, coverage, and currency.

Content

MapPoint Web Service is a comprehensive source for location information content. Besides more than a dozen governmental sources of data, such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, MapPoint Web Service offers data from industry-leading data providers such as Tele Atlas, Navteq, Ordnance Survey, and Acxiom. (For a complete list of data providers, see MapPoint Web Service Credits elsewhere on this Web site). For virtually every pertinent data set for an enterprise application, from streets and political boundaries to points of interest and business listings, MapPoint Web Service offers high-quality, accurate data through one Web service API.

The MapPoint Web Service content library also includes more than 200,000 searchable points of interest, such as the Pentagon, Superdome, and Eiffel Tower, and an additional 16 million business listings.

For map content, MapPoint Web Service makes available more than 30 distinct map styles that support many solution scenarios.

By content type: Figure 2 shows the Climate map style, which displays the characteristic climate for areas on Earth defined by long-term weather patterns.

  • Climate
  • Earth by Night
  • Ecoregions
  • Languages
  • Political Boundaries
  • Parks
  • Physical Features
  • Population Density
  • Precipitation
  • Religions
  • Roads
  • Time Zones
  • Tectonic
  • Temperature
  • Terrain
  • Traffic

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Figure 2. Example of Climate map style

By use: Figure 3 shows the Small map style, which shows roads and political geographies optimized for low-resolution maps.

  • Locator (optimized for office locators)
  • Night (optimized for low-light viewing)
  • Phone (optimized for mobile devices)
  • Small (low resolution)
  • Line Drive (patented route maps)

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Figure 3. Example of Small map style

For integrating an organization's own content, MapPoint Web Service offers a variety of options out of the box. Examples include tools for uploading points of interest from a spreadsheet, polygon conversion tools (from ESRI Shape (.SHP) format), and batch geocoding. Numerous MapPoint business partners now offer additional tools for integrating ESRI data with MapPoint Web Service, such as IDV Solutions Location Feature Server (LFS), which is described later in this paper. Tools like these enable the GIS specialist to focus on his or her core mission: creating and managing geographic information.

Coverage

In line with the many data sets that power MapPoint Web Service, the service also offers comprehensive geographic coverage. Many of the map styles listed previously in this paper are available worldwide. Map detail is available all the way to street level for 38 countries. For more than 120 urban areas worldwide where street level is not available, MapPoint Web Service provides detailed inset maps. All maps are available localized in 13 languages. (For more information, see MapPoint Web Service Regional Coverage on the Microsoft MapPoint Web site.)

Figure 4 shows a MapPoint Web Service geocode of the Turin Palace Hotel, Via Sacchi 8, Turin, Italy, demonstrating extensive street-level coverage (note the helpful one-way-street indicators).

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Figure 4. Example of a geocode

Currency

Up-to-date data is essential for a successful deployment of a location solution. The MapPoint team collects, validates, and then aggregates the latest data for MapPoint Web Service every three to six months.

As an example of data currency, MapPoint Web Service offers up-to-the-minute traffic reports for 60 metropolitan regions in the United States. Figure 5 shows a traffic report for Detroit, Michigan.

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Figure 5. Example of a traffic report

Improved Performance Through MapPoint Web Service

Extensive data sets and functionality are an important part of MapPoint Web Service. However, also vital to enhancing an existing GIS infrastructure is the ability to build enterprise-class solutions that perform and scale better and faster than a GIS-only location solution (for example, one built solely on ESRI GIS technology). Some online Web mapping (also known as Web GIS) applications have ultimately failed because they were built on a GIS technology stack better suited for a small workgroup environment than for a large-scale deployment. And many times, this failure occurred in spite of significant investment in server data and software.

MapPoint Web Service is redundantly hosted in the same Microsoft data centers that host MSN.com, a Web destination that handles millions of hits per day, and one of the three most popular destinations on the entire Web. MapPoint Web Service was the first major Web service offering, launched in and running since 2001. It now serves large organizations such as Starbucks, Marriott, Best Buy, United States Postal Service, General Services Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration. For example, MapPoint Web Service can act as a resource locator solution by helping users find the nearest post office on USPS.gov, as shown in Figure 6.

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Figure 6. Example of MapPoint Web Service as a resource locator solution (Click here for larger image.)

MapPoint Web Service handles more than 31 million transactions each day and is backed with a service level agreement (SLA) that guarantees at least 99.9 percent availability and performance. This SLA is ensured through continuous monitoring and a battery of backup servers.

With this level of availability and performance behind MapPoint Web Service, organizations can deploy location solutions quicker, increasing return on investment through a faster time to market. By tapping into the APIs that MapPoint Web Service offers, organizations benefit from Microsoft's significant location investment.

Reduced Costs Through MapPoint Web Service

In addition to enhancing an organization's existing ESRI GIS infrastructure and increasing performance, MapPoint Web Service can decrease the costs of deploying a location solution for the enterprise by reducing costs associated with data, software, labor, and hardware and hosting. By using MapPoint Web Service, an organization can offload core aspects of the deployed location solution, and instead focus investment in infrastructure necessary for other requirements of the solution.

Reduced Data Costs

By offering a ready, hosted data set with premium content, coverage, and currency, MapPoint Web Service significantly reduces the cost of deploying a location solution. A considerable cost associated with any location solution deployment is location data licensing (for example, boundary files, street network files, and address lists), and the use of MapPoint Web Service can significantly reduce or eliminate these costs. Licensing data to place on an organization's own servers can very easily reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars for large-scale deployments, such as a resource locator deployed on a public Web site. And the costs only go up with each additional piece of location functionality required: A data set for mapping and geocoding is one price; adding routing (driving directions) functionality increases the costs.

For more sophisticated location solution offerings, such as an internal decision support system, the user base may be smaller, thereby reducing costs associated with the number of users, but the content and coverage requirements may be considerably higher. For example, application requirements for detailed global map coverage, live traffic data feeds, and a worldwide place find service can add high data licensing costs, yet are in one bundled service with MapPoint Web Service.

Reduced Software Costs

Even after the data has been acquired and the proper licensing is in place, deploying an enterprise-class location solution without using MapPoint Web Service often requires considerable capital for location software, whether it is a mapping server or geocoding engine. As with data, functional requirements for an application add to software costs. Industry-leading mapping, place find, and routing functionality, for example, though part of MapPoint Web Service, would need to be acquired separately without use of the Web service.

Reduced Labor Costs

Often underestimated in deploying a location solution are the diverse labor costs, and these costs are significant. Processing of purchased data for various location services, location software installation and setup, and hardware configuration and tuning, plus ongoing application maintenance, require the biggest and perhaps the most obvious labor costs.

Another labor cost that is often underestimated, and a task that is often ignored, is map cartography. Cartography is the art and science of creating effective maps. Without it — without effective presentation of the map — a location solution's usefulness is diminished. The MapPoint team has put forth considerable effort in creating outstanding cartography, from the detailed street maps to the excellent physical maps. Without MapPoint Web service, an organization would have to do all this cartographic work in house, taking valuable time and effort.

An example of the MapPoint team's outstanding cartography is the Night map style for low-light viewing conditions, as shown in Figure 7, which was introduced in MapPoint Web Service 4.0.

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Figure 7. Example of the Night map style

Reduced Hardware and Hosting Costs

Without MapPoint Web Service, an organization will have to spend more on setting up its own servers and a hosting environment for the various elements of its location solution. The list may include servers, storage area networks (SANs), racks and equipment, bandwidth, security, and more. With MapPoint Web Service, many of these costs can be offloaded to the Web service, and an organization can focus hardware and hosting resources on other business assets and functionality.

Rich Microsoft Partner Ecosystem

Numerous Microsoft partners build location solutions by using MapPoint Web Service and other technology from Microsoft Corporation. These solutions can be created by means of Microsoft .NET.

One such partner is IDV Solutions, which has developed Location Feature Server. LFS is a .NET-connected server product that orchestrates the integration of organizational data, including ESRI ArcSDE data, with MapPoint Web Service. The product displays organizational data as interactive features on the MapPoint Web Service map. LFS helps companies and governments fully maximize the value of their information by bringing the information into the context of location, where it can be disseminated, displayed, and analyzed with greater effectiveness.

Figure 8 shows an example of LFS: bank locations within a decision support system.

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Figure 8. Example of LFS in a decision support system (Click here for larger image.)

Future Plans

Microsoft continues to invest heavily in developing new location technologies. In addition to regularly releasing new versions of MapPoint Web Service, the MapPoint team is building a new location platform named Virtual Earth, now in its second beta release and available for public use on the Windows Live Local Web site. The Virtual Earth environment features imagery, oblique aerials (bird's eye view), tiled map sources, and unique user controls. Figure 9 shows oblique imagery of Alcatraz Island.

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Figure 9. Example of oblique imagery (Click here for larger image.)

Enterprise organizations can advantage of robust APIs from MapPoint Web Service and Virtual Earth. Doing so supports a wide variety of location solutions.

Summary of Advantages

A rich opportunity exists for organizations to take their existing ESRI GIS infrastructures to the enterprise-class level by using MapPoint Web Service. By combining ESRI and MapPoint Web Service in a complementary fashion and by taking advantage of service-oriented architectures, organizations that are deploying location solutions will:

  1. Enhance their existing ESRI infrastructures with MapPoint Web Service, through premium:
    • Location functionality (mapping, geocoding, routing, and place find).
    • Location data with content, coverage, and currency.
  2. Improve solution performance through the highly scalable location platform in MapPoint Web Service.
  3. Reduce solution deployment costs through the MapPoint Web Service hosted Web service.

By using MapPoint Web Service, organizations can keep their GIS personnel focused on geographic data creation and management, stay focused on the key business problems they're addressing through the solution, and, ultimately, deploy a location solution that offers a greater return on investment.

About IDV Solutions

IDV Solutions is a Microsoft Gold Certified and ESRI business partner that delivers location intelligence and visualization solutions to the United States Federal government and the Global 2000 companies. IDV Solutions is dedicated to improving enterprise return on data investment through information and visualization technologies.

IDV Solutions was formed to help organizations find hidden value by utilizing the location component of their data sets. IDV Solutions offers solutions that are built to improve the decision-making processes of clients. It does this by providing strategically deployed services and location technology.

About Microsoft MapPoint Web Service

Microsoft MapPoint Web Service is a hosted, programmable Web service that application developers can use to integrate high-quality maps, driving directions, distance calculations, proximity searches, and other location intelligence into applications, business processes, and Web sites. Discover more MapPoint Web resources at the MapPoint Developer Center.

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