One of the most valuable features of a mobile device is the ability to pinpoint its geographic location. Many of the most widely used mobile applications, from Google to Facebook, use real-time location data to help users find something or provide them with relevant information.
We’ve all used location-based services instead of paper maps to get from point A to point B or find the nearest gas station, ATM, pharmacy, restaurant, etc. Friends and family use location-based services to find each other. Unlike early GPS devices that had to be plugged into computers periodically to keep maps current, mobile applications are automatically updated.
As technology has become more accurate and reliable, location-based services have become more popular. In fact, 90 percent of smartphone users rely on location-based services for directions, recommendations and other information, according to Pew Research Center. Although younger generations are the heaviest users, adoption is high across the board as more than four in five adults age 50-plus are using location-based services.
Of course, it didn’t take long for businesses get in on the act. Organizations across industry are using location-based services to enhance marketing, improve customer service, optimize operations and increase accountability.
Fleet operators have much to gain from location-based services, which can be used to optimize routes, track driver behavior and more. Location-based services also enhance Internet of Things (IoT) applications by adding geospatial context to IoT data.
Brick-and-mortar retailers use location-based services to help customers find the nearest store or a product within the store. Employees can track items on the sales floor or in the warehouse. Location-based services can even be used to prevent fraud by tracking the location of credit card transactions.
Uber and other transportation services can show customers exactly how far away their vehicle is prior to arrival. Auto insurance and roadside assistance companies use location-based services to track the driver’s exact location.
Microsoft Azure Maps enables developers to build location-aware solutions using Azure infrastructure and services. APIs provide a variety of geospatial services, including mapping, search, routing, traffic and time zones. The Azure Maps service is updated automatically based upon real-time conditions, making it possible to integrate dynamic routing, tracking and traffic flow data into applications.
Previously called Azure Location-Based Services, the solution became available for public preview in November 2017 and generally available in May. At Build 2018, Microsoft announced several enhancements to the solution’s search capabilities, including geometry search, nearby search, and search along a specific route. Microsoft added a new API for generating and embedding static map images.
Currently in preview are batch services and advanced geospatial analytics that will make it possible to deploy location-based solutions at enterprise scale. Microsoft is also adding an IP-to-Location feature that will enable developers to capture data on the geographic distribution of customers and to deliver customized content and services based upon user location.
Azure Maps is a Platform-as-the-Service technology in the Azure IoT product portfolio. Microsoft has developed 5-Minute Quickstarts and Step-by-Step Tutorials to help developers get up and running quickly.
Location-based services can play a critical role in the success of your organization, whether you’re looking to increase sales, manage assets, improve efficiency, or accomplish all of the above. Let us show you how Microsoft Azure Maps can be strategically integrated into your business operations.
Written and composed by Principal, Steve Soper