The Thing about Bing - 29/07/2010

A Bird’s-eye View of Microsoft’s Web Mapping Service

Monique Verduyn, GIM International

Bing Maps users will soon be able to look skyward from Streetside and see the stars and constellations. That's just one of the ways in which the Bing Maps team is creating what may turn out to be the coolest mapping technology yet. In the meantime, thousands of organisations and developers around the world are delivering rich imagery through the maps APIs and other technology from Bing Maps, the web mapping service that's part of the Bing suite of search engines. We caught up with Chris Pendleton, the Bing Maps technical evangelist for Microsoft, to find out more about the technology.

What does your job entail?
As the Bing Maps technical evangelist, I educate users on using Bing Maps in both our consumer and platform experiences. Whether it's by writing posts on my Bing Maps blog, speaking at conferences or producing videos with industry experts, I find a way to grow the use of mapping in our everyday lives.

How did you get into this field?
After completing my undergraduate studies I took a web developer position with a small start-up called NetCreate Systems in San Diego. NetCreate built custom websites from the ground up and featured clients such as Intuit, and NetCreate also evolved a template-based website creation tool for enterprises, which attracted the likes of Ace Hardware, Herbalife and Shell Oil, to name a few. NetCreate was acquired by Vicinity Corporation, which focused on building store locators. Many of Vicinity's customers wanted the ability to control the franchise or the websites of brick-and-mortar locations, so the two technologies complemented each other. Post-acquisition, I was retained by Vicinity to run their Professional Services organisation where, as professional services manager, I oversaw customer application development. Soon afterwards, Microsoft acquired Vicinity.
I managed the acquisition, overseeing the migration of Vicinity customers to begin using MapPoint Web Services.

What is most exciting about Bing maps at the moment?
Bing Maps has so many exciting things happening, but if I have to pick one thing I would say the Bing Map Apps. The extensibility of allowing different services to be mashed into Bing Maps is a great way to provide agile developer capabilities to our consumer site, which is now effectively a platform.

Are there plans to integrate Bing Maps into geographic information systems (GIS)?
Absolutely. Bing Maps is already integrated into ESRI ArcGIS Server 9.3 as a native publishing platform. MapInfo recently announced its product integration of Bing Maps.
So, effectively, we're already in GIS.

Are there plans to integrate Bing Maps into land surveying?
We don't have anything planned; however, this is why we have our Bing Maps Platform. The Bing Maps Platform allows application developers to integrate all our rich maps, imagery and services like geocoding, routeing and search into their applications. So while we're not planning any formal integration with land surveying software, that doesn't mean one of our partners or customers isn't doing so.

Are there plans to integrate Bing Maps with remote sensing?
I would say the same here. We don't plan to integrate Bing Maps with any remote-sensing software, but it is certainly possible. I should note here that we have announced our Clear 30 plan with Digital Glove, which will be the largest, highest-resolution land capture of imagery ever taken on, providing 30-cm resolution imagery for all the contiguous 48 states in the US and all of Western Europe.

Are there any new partnerships on the cards?
We're always growing as a company, and partnerships are what make Microsoft work so well. Our most recent partnership was the Clear 30 partnership with Digital Globe.

What's the major advantage of Bing Maps compared to Google Earth?
Bing Maps and Google Earth are two totally different approaches to mapping. Bing Maps is a cloud-based consumer website that gives users robust functionality, such as finding locations, visualising data, interacting with other users via Collections and getting routeing and local search information. Bing Maps also includes APIs that allow developers to create rich, map-based applications. Google Earth is client software that is installed on the desktop. Google Earth does stream much of its data from the cloud; however, its primary purpose seems to be software and services.

What benefits does Bing Maps offer?
Bing Maps has a wide range of data layers that continues to grow. A couple of things set Bing Maps apart. Firstly, it has the highest resolution aerial photography on the market. Microsoft manufactures the UltraCam via our Vexcel subsidiary and uses it for most of our aerial photos. This is the same camera Digital Globe will use to collect for the Clear 30. Secondly, Bing Maps offers oblique photography (aka ‘bird's-eye'), photos captured from an angled lens that provides more context of the relevant area. Thirdly Bing Maps offers a hybrid oblique view which overlays street labels that have been re-projected to work with the oblique angled photos. Finally, Bing Maps offers a rich Silverlight experience for both consumers and developers. .NET developers use their existing knowledgebase of .NET programming skills and easily create map-based applications.

What's the business model that Bings Maps is built on?
Bing Maps has a two-pronged approach to revenue generation: the Bing Maps consumer site is based on an ad-revenue business model. So we're always apt to promote additional queries on our consumer site. The Bing Maps Platform generates revenue on a per-transaction, per-user, or unlimited transaction model.

How important are business-to-business partnerships and applications in making Bing Maps work?
The relationships we have today with our B2B customers are invaluable to us. The majority of Bing Maps use cases are generated by our enterprise customers. This is why we continue to innovate on the Bing Maps Platform, provide enterprise service-level agreements and 24/7 support. Additionally, on the Bing Maps consumer side, we look to our B2B customers to further promote their brands on Bing Maps in the form of highlighted listings (branded map icons) and the recently released Bing Map Apps, which mash-in data to Bing Maps (as opposed to creating mash-ups).

Does Bing Maps offer business opportunities for companies in the arena of imagery, remote sensing etc?
Bing Maps is always looking for best-of-breed data to be a part of Bing Maps. We're very interested in discussing opportunities with imagery providers about their offerings; however, we will continue to push forward with our DG relationship.

Describe the work you are doing with Eye on Earth
Eye on Earth is a Bing Maps Platform customer. They're integrating the Bing Maps Platform into their Eye on Earth website to better visualise water and air quality around Europe. The water and air quality data is being stored in Windows Azure and overlain on top of Bing Maps

What developments lie ahead for Bing Maps?
There are many things we have planned for Bing Maps. Specifically, mobile is a super exciting field for location, and the release of Windows Phone 7 Series with native support for Silverlight especially excites us, since Bing Maps gives an enhanced experience using Silverlight. Also, expect new ways to visualise information on the map. We have recently announced that Microsoft Research's Image Composite Editor (ICE) will natively publish to Photosynth. This means users can now create rich, high-resolution panoramas and publish them to Photosynth; and, since Photosynth feeds geo-located synths into Bing Maps natively, these ICE panoramas will appear on Bing Maps.

Last updated: 07/09/2020