MapQuest Developer Blog

  • Release of Icon Service V2!

    We're happy to announce the release of a new version of our icon service! This new version (V2) introduces crisp, flat and fast loading icons that look great on our Leaflet and static maps. Full documentation can be found at: http://developer.mapquest.com/documentation/icons-api/v2/

    When I first started working for MapQuest last year, we had a team prototype hack day to see what types of icons we could generate for usage in our internal maps and for the greater developer community to enjoy. We found that starting off with vector images and type, we could generate icons on the fly at any size and color that were clean and had crisp edges. This had the added benefit of working seamlessly with retina maps. This hack evolved into a platform API, and I'm happy to introduce it!

    For maps, the most popular icon is the marker, and the simplest way to retrieve one is to hit:

    https://assets.mapquestapi.com/icon/v2/marker.png

    Wanna change the size? It's easy, just use one of our pre-baked sizes: sm, md, lg. Want to supersize it for retina? Just throw @2x at the end of the size and get an icon at twice the resolution:

    https://assets.mapquestapi.com/icon/v2/marker-lg@2x.png

    Black markers not your thing? You can customize to colors of the marker with hex values to dial in that color that your brand needs (go Broncos!):

    https://assets.mapquestapi.com/icon/v2/marker-002244-FB4F14-lg.png

    That's great, but what if you want Peyton Manning's number on there? Just add it to the dash ("-") delimited values in the url:

    https://assets.mapquestapi.com/icon/v2/marker-002244-FB4F14-18-lg.png

    Markers are nice, but why should we limit ourselves to just one shape? We threw in circles, flags, vias, construction, incident and external icons into the mix to cover all of the use cases:

    Circles behave a lot like markers:

    https://assets.mapquestapi.com/icon/v2/circle-002244-FB4F14-18-lg.png

    A via is like a circle, but much smaller. Because this little icon is so....little, we don't put text in the middle:

    https://assets.mapquestapi.com/icon/v2/via-002244-FB4F14-lg.png

    While vias don't say much, flags can fit up to 5 characters:

    https://assets.mapquestapi.com/icon/v2/flag-002244-FB4F14-Go%20B!-lg.png

    When you want to show incidents and construction on your map, we have plenty of options:

    You can also pull in external icons through the service. We cache this image so you get speedy results on subsequent calls. Let's first look at the external icon api:

    http://assets.mapquestapi.com/icon/v2/external/https://developer.mapquest.com/sites/all/themes/mqradix/assets/favicon/apple-icon-60x60.png

    We make it extremely easy. Insert your URL (doesn't have to be encoded) at the end of the base endpoint to get the feature:

    http://assets.mapquestapi.com/icon/v2/external/{EXTERNAL_URL_HERE}

    Now that you know about our icons, you can really grok the service by replacing the .png extension with .json:

    https://assets.mapquestapi.com/icon/v2/flag-red-help!-lg.json

    This returns information about the icon in JSON:

    {

    "iconUrl": "https://assets.mapquestapi.com/icon/v2/flag-red-help!-lg.png",

    "iconRetinaUrl": "https://assets.mapquestapi.com/icon/v2/flag-red-help!-lg@2x.png",

    "iconSize": [80, 40],

    "iconAnchor": [0, 40],

    "popupAnchor": [0, -40],

    }

    This information becomes powerful when you combine it with MapQuest's Leaflet plugin to place the icon on a Leaflet map:

    var map = L.map('map-custom-icon', {layers: MQ.mapLayer()}).setView([51.505, -0.09], 13);

    var icon = 'https://assets.mapquestapi.com/icon/v2/flag-red-help!-lg.json';

    $.getJSON(icon, function(json){

    var LeafIcon = L.icon(json);

    L.marker([51.509, -0.08], {icon: LeafIcon}).bindPopup("I'm a custom icon using " + icon).addTo(map);

    });

    That's how I felt when I went pub crawling in London and got lost. I hope you're not lost or confused when working with this API. If you do get lost, check out our online documentation at https://developer.mapquest.com/documentation/icons-api/v2/ or jump on our forums at https://developer.mapquest.com/forum and ask a question.

    In our next icon service blog post, I'll discuss how to simplify the creation of icons with the Online Icon Builder. Until then:

  • What to do when you're looking for support

    Hi, my name is Brian Coakley and I'm the leader of the developer tools support team. I've been here for over 10 years, meaning I've worked with several people to overcome their challenges. So, what do our customers frequently ask about?

    Can you help me figure this one out? Well, we sure can. We often get pulled in to help people fix data issues. Does the route to your house take you to the middle of the city? Do your search results show up in Toledo, OH instead of Toledo, WA? Most hiccups are caused by the inability to find a location. Geocoding is the science, religion and art of associating a address with it's latitude and longitude. If this process fails, everything that comes after it does too - the route, the search, the map. So let us know what address is causing a problem and we can fix it. Depending on the situation, we can typically fix this type of hurdle in a matter of a few hours.

    How can I get x functionality to work in my application? We help people learn how to use our various mapping offerings. Do you want to add a search to find your business? Are you looking to send someone a route from their house to your party? Do you need a satellite map to see what's around that new house you're dreaming of buying? Those are pretty easy. Are you looking to pinpoint the manager for a sales territory to help solve an issue of a complaining customer of yours? We teach people how to use Data Manager and our Search APIs to help turn around unhappy customers.

    What's coming next? While this blog is full of information about new products, the support team knows what's coming out next week, next month and next year. Let us know what you're trying to do and we'll help make it happen with today's tools or tomorrow's shiny new releases. If we don't have it yet, we're the ones who can take it to the teams who develop new features. If you have a good idea, let us know.

    You have a question - we've got answers. Call, email or post in the forum. We're all over those. If you tweet or StackOverflow we'll get to those too. But don't sit there and wonder what's wrong or how to do something. Let us know how we can help and we'll keep you rolling along. It's what we do.

  • Traffic API Updates: Traffic Flow Overlays, Incident Updates and More

    We're happy to announce additional improvements to our Traffic API, which will require no additional backend work for you! Updating four elements, we're making your lives easier and providing a better user experience for you and your users. It's a win-win scenario!

    Keep scrolling to read about our new and improved Traffic API enhancements:

    Traffic Flow

    • 7x more granular traffic flow overlays:
      We now offer a more granular traffic flow overlay for traffic congestion, accidents and construction, helping your drivers plan more efficiently and arrive safely.

    • Quicker incident updates:
      With near real-time information about incidents, road closures, construction and resulting delays, receive accurate start, end times and much more.
    • Higher traffic coverage on road links:
      Give your users more options with 60% more road links, enhancing your overall design and application.
    • Improved error handling for incidents and flow requests:
      Receive more detailed and intuitive information regarding request validity, bounding box limitations, missing parameters and response messages in order to continue successfully developing your applications.

    To see these updates in action, visit the Traffic API documentation page and try it out now.

  • Create customized and crisp maps with the new Static Map API

    We recently launched an updated version of our Static Map API, including enhancements like you've never seen before. If you aren't familiar, our Static Map API allows you to create a map image that can be placed in your applications, websites, email campaigns, or print media.

    Enhancements to Static Map API, v5, include:‚Äč

    • Retina Maps:
      Maps can now be made at 2x scale, allowing you to create super crisp maps on high DPI displays.
    • Map Styles:
      In addition to our standard, hybrid, and satellite tiles, choose from two new map styles – light and dark.
    • Locations:
      Locations are now simpler and more customizable. In addition, our entire icon set has been modernized to help you take your maps to the next level. Get your locations out there.
    • Simplified Routing:
      Routing has never been easier! Just give us a start and end location, and we will show you driving directions. The route ribbon and markers are also customizable to bring your branding to the forefront. So go get tripping!
    • Arc Routing:
      Roads aren't the only way to route between two points. Highlight trips that planes take using a geodesic arc route, instead of a driving route.
    • Banners:
      Add information and context to your maps with customizable banners. Go on, add that flare!
    • Shapes:
      Add polygons, polylines, and circles to your map, as we now allow single line addresses in addition to latitude and longitude points to help speed up the process.

    These are just a taste of what you can do with the new Static Map API. Be sure to check out our handy resources to help you get started or find inspiration including: our getting started guide, Static Map examples, and documentation.

  • Sponsoring HackCU III: The Largest Hackathon in the Rocky Mountain Region

    MapQuest loves hackathons. Whether we're sponsoring, mentoring or helping students utilize our APIs and SDKs, we love to be involved. We particularly love getting involved at a local level, helping mentor the up-and-coming tech generation, who may be sitting at a desk next to us one day!

    On April 22-23, 2017, we sponsored HackCU III, the largest hackathon in the Rocky Mountain region. More than 400 students, from all over the country, descended upon University of Colorado–Boulder to express their creativity, ingenuity and determination to create anything their hearts desired.

    MapQuest opened up our APIs, SDKs, and our new spatial intelligence platform, MapQuest.io. We also handed out a ton of great swag and sponsored a grand prize for the top team who utilized our products in the most innovative way – Ultimate Ears bluetooth & waterproof speakers for all.

    Out of six teams using MapQuest, we could only choose one winner. That team was ...

    OBD Buddy

    Expanding navigation application capabilities, OBD Buddy paired on board diagnostics data from a vehicle with MapQuest's Directions and Search APIs. The end result provided drivers and riders with contextual information and suggestions based on their location and car data.

    For example, a user is on a road trip and realizes that they are running low on fuel. Because the application knows their destination, and how much fuel they have left, OBD Buddy quickly warns them and suggests the nearest gas stations. From there, the user has the opportunity to add the nearest station as a way point, and be redirected for a refuel.

    Congratulations to all the teams who participated in HackCU III. Read more about OBD Buddy's project here and be sure to sign up for a free developer account to access our location-based APIs and SDKs.

  • New Video: Verizon Telematics Partners with MapQuest for Business

    Do you ever wonder how MapQuest for Business powers other companies and their cutting edge solutions? Verizon Telematics' business units including OEM, Hum and fleet leverage several of our APIs and SDKs. Watch the video below to learn how we beat out other suppliers to become Verizon Telematics' preferred geospatial provider.

  • Parking woes. What are we doing about them?

    Remember that time when you...

    • Missed the opening act at that concert because you couldn't find parking nearby in time?
    • Couldn't enter the mall parking garage because you didn't know the entrance didn't have enough clearance for your roof mounted bike?
    • Had to walk down 50 stairs with your baby in one hand and your stroller in the other after parking on the top floor of a garage that had no elevators?
    • Had to pay a parking ticket because you couldn't find a garage that had free parking to leave you car at overnight after a night out with friends?
    • Reached the parking lot only to see the 'Lot Full' sign?
    • Wished your electric car could charge while you parked it downtown?
    • Couldn't find a covered parking garage and your brand new car got hail damage?
    • Didn't have cash, and wish you knew which parking lots accepted credit cards also before entering?

    When it comes to parking related problems, you're not alone. We've all been there before.

    We at MapQuest believe in solving real-life problems. As a Product Manager here, I believe in human-centric product designs, and my team's design philosophy is to clearly understand user problems and solve them using real-life scenarios with contextual information. We are applying the same philosophy in solving many of the parking problems that drivers and businesses face worldwide.

    Our upcoming Parking API will not only allow you and your users to help eliminate surprises and stress that comes along with parking your car, but the API will accomplish so much more. We are about to open up a whole new world of app design possibilities! Combined with our existing Directions and Traffic APIs, the new Parking API will allow you to create unique end-to-end driving experiences for your users.

    We would love to hear your ideas and thoughts. Share with us what parking problems you'd like to see solved, and we will strive to make it happen!

  • Big data is a lot like my junk drawer

    This morning, I took a look through the junk drawer in my kitchen, and it wasn't pretty. I found quite a few useful things, including my car keys, a $5 bill and a Starbucks gift card. But I also found things that were of no use to me whatsoever: keys to a car I haven't owned in 5 years, 100 loose toothpicks and a pack of gum that appears to be from around the turn of the century.

    As I was cleaning up the loose toothpicks one...at...a...time, a thought occurred to me: "big data" is a lot like the junk drawer. Having a lot of data (or stuff in the drawer) isn't what's valuable; being able to organize the data in a way that helps you get things done is where the real value is.

    Our team of Data Engineers and Data Scientists at MapQuest are working hard on two main themes that will help turn your junk drawer into valuable data that helps you make better decisions and solve real world problems.

    The first theme is adding context to the data. The location data we gather has information about latitude, longitude, altitude, speed, bearing, and much, much more. All of this information is useful, but we can make this information even more valuable by adding context. Knowing that the GPS trace was observed at 40.4870679,-106.8361813 is interesting, but few of us think in terms of latitude and longitude. When we add context to the latitude and longitude, we know that the location is Bob's Conoco Station on Lincoln Avenue in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. We know Bob's Conoco Station is in an area that has a high concentration of businesses, and restaurants in particular. We also know the income and age statistics for the people who live in the area. This context is significantly more interesting to many of our customers than a simple lat/long.

    The second theme is something I like to call "better than real". Whenever you collect large amounts of data, whether it's location-based or not, you're going to see some degree of inaccuracy. MapQuest data gets its location information from GPS, a constellation of satellites that orbit the earth. While GPS is typically very accurate, there are a few challenging areas, including urban canyons, underpasses and tunnels, that often produce inaccurate location data. The inaccurate readings we see in these scenarios are real, in the sense that the numbers don't lie. But users don't always want to see what the GPS says happened, they want to see what actually happened.

    For example, we often see GPS traces that "drift", so they appear away from the road network. If the person is going 75 mph but the lat/long puts them in a corn field, do we have a daredevil farmer on our hands? That's certainly possible, and it's also possible we've found a newly constructed road. But more likely we've found a trace that has drifted and needs to be snapped to the interstate that's 10 meters away. There's a lot more going on behind the scenes so we make intelligent assumptions, but by making these assumptions, we make the data more useful because it is a better representation of what actually happened.

    And this is just the beginning! We'll continue to build off of these capabilities throughout 2017 in order to make your data better and to help you make more informed decisions, so stay tuned!

  • Helping Creators Utilize Location Services at SXSW

    Solving problems, creating new tools and pushing the boundaries of existing technology is MapQuest's bread and butter. I mean, we are the grandfather of mapping after all. So, when we saw that SXSW was hosting a hackathon with this very mission, we had to join.

    On March 14-15, MapQuest for Business ascended upon Austin, TX, to sponsor the SXSW Hackathon and helped teams utilize location-based services within Music, Film and VR/AR, as well as eat our weight in tacos and BBQ ... literally.

    When thinking about how MapQuest's geospatial APIs and SDKs could play a part, we were on the edge of our seats. We were also thrilled to hand out t-shirts, stickers, water bottles, mentorship and STM Goods Laptop Backpacks for each team member of our winning team.

    Of 23 teams, four teams incorporated MapQuest APIs into their final projects. Two that stood out the most included:

    Tuneback-
    A music application that takes users on a curated multi-track journey to discover the lineage of a song. Tuneback incorporated our Static Map API to visually enhance a song's lineage with recording locations for each track in the playlist.

    CreditWriter, MapQuest Winner-
    Credit Writer provides artists an application to socially listen to their crowd, reverse geocode venues and submit setlists so artists can get paid. Using our Geocoding API (specifically reverse geocoding), CreditWriter produced street addresses of venues by looking at the geolocation of tweet on Twitter.

    SXSW Hackathon

    Congratulations to all the teams participating in the SXSW hackathon, answering questions, such as: "How can musicians, filmmakers, or VR/AR designers use tech to create, perform, and display in new ways?" You exceeded our expectations by far.

    Keep on hacking! And, if you haven't, sign up for a developer account for all your location needs.

  • Verizon ThingSpace developers now have direct free access to MapQuest Developer APIs, SDKs on ThingSpace Develop

    When MapQuest became part of Verizon's Product Innovation and New Business organization in January 2017 we had two major goals:

    1. Become the Location Center of Excellence for all new Verizon solutions

    2. Expand the Verizon partner developer ecosystem to include MapQuest APIs, SDKs and location intelligence offerings

    Today we're happy to announce the integration of the Verizon ThingSpace and MapQuest Developer ecosystems.

    If you're a Verizon ThingSpace developer (and have credentials for the free ThingSpace developer portal) you now have access to MapQuest APIs and SDKs with a single click. Simply navigate to ThingSpace/APIs from the Develop tab and you will discover a link to all MapQuest APIs and SDKs. Our geospatial tools can be used to create maps, find addresses with geocoding, create routes, check traffic or accurately find points of interest. Our mobile SDKs for both Android and iOS can be used with other ThingSpace tools to build out new applications for IoT, mobile or desktop location based solutions.

    Check out our top notch documentation, play with code samples and get to "hello world" in just a minute or two after clicking on the MapQuest tab. If you're new to location technologies, this is a good place to start. It's fast, free and you can't break anything.

    ThingSpace users get 15,000 free MapQuest transactions per month as part of this program. This is plenty for testing, building out proofs of concepts or learning how to incorporate location intelligence into your application. If you need higher transaction counts, direct technical support or some optional services, you can sign up for a direct MapQuest account at developer.mapquest.com for a paid account. Our customers include startups, fortune 100 companies, small businesses and everything in between. We also strive to be active at local and national hackathons, so look out for us if you plan to get your hack on.

    As the Location Center of Excellence for all things Verizon, MapQuest is building embedded location-based technology for many new Verizon offerings that will be launching in the next few weeks. Following the Verizon launches you'll see many of our new tools and systems also appear in the MapQuest Developer portal as we turn those APIs and SDKs into commercially available solutions. Visit our business portal for more details on what we are working on next. Or contact me directly for questions or comments.