MapQuest Developer Blog

  • MapQuest University: What is a Geofence?

    The mapping industry is full of buzzwords. Each month, MapQuest University will help explore these terms and how you can improve your user experience through better understanding. The buzzword for this month is "geofence." What is a geofence? How can you use a geofence? We sat down with Arthur May, Product Manager on our Location Intelligence team, and asked him to give us the rundown on geofencing.

    What is a geofence?

    Quite simply, it’s a virtually-defined area and a device’s movement relative to that area. Geofences are typically situated around a defined point. For example, let’s say you set up a 700-foot geofence around your house. Geofencing allows you to track when a person or device is approaching within 700' of your house, or when a person or device is leaving that defined space. In addition to tracking and alerting, geofencing can also tell you the time associated with these actions; it takes two minutes to get 700’ away from your house.

    Geofence-blog-image

    What can you do with it?

    You’re probably thinking “That’s all well and good, but what can I do with it,” right? We’re glad you asked. The application possibilities for a geofence are nigh limitless. Maybe you own a small business, Pete’s World of Fish. As a small business owner, you’re probably in a constant state of luring in new customers. Geofencing allows you to alert a user, from an app, within a defined block-radius of your location. Go ahead, invite them in, offer a coupon, and make new friends and customers. Maybe you work on a large construction site and need some digital help herding all of the cats, making sure everyone on the job is where they’re supposed to be. Set up a geofence around the site and receive a ping when workers enter and leave the geofence so that you know, for certain, when your ducks are in a row. Or maybe you want a device that you can put in your suitcase, thus creating a geofence around the suitcase. Receive peace of mind that your luggage is following you to and from your destination. Or know, in advance, if your luggage hasn’t left your origin spot, and know when to start panicking. (This is one of those fears, ya know?)

    What is MapQuest Working On?

    Right now, MapQuest is exploring ways in which we can empower businesses to leverage geofences to provide a balance between client-side and server-side relations. That’s fancy talk for saying that we want businesses -- of any size -- to make better decisions and improve their user relationship, all through the power of geofencing. The other morning, Arthur stumbled upon a fantastic use case. While jogging at 6 a.m., he approached a drug store chain, and he received an alert suggesting he visit the store and use his rewards card. Of course, the drug store isn’t open at 6am, so that’s a pretty silly alert, isn’t it? What if, instead, the drug store chain could set a geofence that not only included a proximity alert -- alerting customers who are within two or three blocks of the store -- but also included open/close hours? That way, you wouldn’t get an alert at 6 a.m., but you might get one at 9 a.m., on the same trail, thus actively encouraging you to visit the store. Isn’t that a better business-owner and customer relationship? That is the power of geofencing, and MapQuest’s Location Intelligence team.
  • 2 September Hackathons = 1 Awesome Recap Video

    In September, our calendar looked eerily similar to a Tetris board. We sponsored two national hackathons and had outstanding turnouts at both. Those hackathons included:

    • TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon, in San Francisco on September 10-11
    • Verizon Hack Day, in Irving, TX, on September 10
    Now that our schedules are slightly settling down, here's a quick rundown of what happened throughout the weekend:

    At both Hackathon events, more than 100 developers hacked our APIs and SDKs, with 31 team submissions at TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. We provided free on-site tutorials and guidance from our top developers, provided 500 cups of coffee, gave away 300 water bottles and raffled off 3 snazzy Timbuk2 backpacks.

    We, also, produced this quick and awesome TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon recap video. Take a gander now:

    MapQuest Logo on Desktop with Play Button
    Be sure to also check out the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon final projects here. And, for more information on MapQuest's APIs and SDKs, head on over to our documentation.

  • Long URL Web Service Decommission - January 10, 2017

    On Tuesday, January 10, 2017, MapQuest will retire our Long URL Web Service. As browsers have matured to allow longer GET requests and applications can POST larger amounts of data, there is far less demand for our Long URL Web Service. Therefore, the service will not be replaced after January 10, 2017.

    If you have any questions regarding the retirement of Long URL Web Service, please reach out to our technical support team via our forums.
  • Five Things Users Should Know About Search Ahead

    No one at MapQuest is more passionate about our APIs than our fantastic Product Managers. They know their products inside and out, backward and forward; in fact, you might call them a little evangelical. Each month, we sit down with one of our PMs to discuss what they wish our users knew about our APIs. This month, we sat down with Senior Product Manager, Jonathan Harahush, and asked him what he wishes users knew about our Search Ahead API.

    Autocomplete and Type Ahead

    For those of you wondering “What is Search Ahead, anyway,” it is, quite simply, our version of type-ahead, autocomplete searching. As users enter their query, Search Ahead utilizes our powerful, predictive backend search prowess to return relevant suggestions.

    Modern response

    The API was designed to adhere to the latest API design standards. It also embraces GeoJSON as the standard for expressing location data, which integrates well with other geospatial libraries, like Leaflet. We provide just enough information about each suggestion in a lightweight manner, so it’s easy to get up and running.

    The right amount of data

    Search Ahead returns data in a variety of collections -- think of them as "buckets" of data -- which represent certain categories (e.g. addresses, admin areas, airports, etc.). You can choose whether or not you want to use all of the collections, or just some. For example, maybe your application is used to find airports. Choose just the airport collection to ensure your users’ queries return Denver International Airport, instead of Denver, CO or Denver Garage Door Experts.

    Location, location, location

    Sometimes you need a little location relevancy bias in your Search Ahead search results, and sometimes you don’t. Search Ahead lets you choose whether or not to submit a user’s location, thus returning location-relevant data. The choice is yours.

    Customization for days

    The Search Ahead API returns responses in a complete or piecemeal format, providing endless customization options for display within your application. Do you want to bold the street address? Italicize the city? Display the result as two or three lines? The preassembled string response, or individual pieces enable you to customize as much or little as you want.

    All that’s missing is you

    For more information, check out our Search Ahead API documentation.
  • MapQuest's Top Hidden Gem APIs

    We at MapQuest consider our APIs to be the cornerstone of any solid, location-based application, and we pride ourselves on helping you deliver the best experience for your users. Whether you’re routing trucks, delivering food, managing sales territories, or providing directions, we have you covered. But how well do you know our APIs? You might know we have a great Search API, but did you know we let you search within a radius? Or, did you know we’ll host custom data for your search needs? Super cool, right? Below, we have a few hidden gems that can enable to make your application even better.

    Data Manager

    DMv2-GUIOur Data Manager API allows you to store custom datasets in a spatially-aware database, hosted by MapQuest. This RESTful web service allows you to upload custom points, lines and polygons which can be maintained through simple GET and POST requests. The best part is that your data remains your data; private, secure and entirely yours. When combined with our Search API, you can search in both MapQuest data and your own data.

    Search By Drive Time

    Our Search API is a pretty versatile API. Did you know that, in addition to searching by radius, you can search by drive-time? A radius search might show that a hospital is five miles away, but a search by drive-time will show you if that’s more than a 20-minute drive.

    Optimized Route

    We created this feature because sometimes the shortest route isn’t the optimal route, and finding the best route between 20 locations can be an exercise in frustration. Our Optimized Route function re-orders multiple stops between an origin and a destination to ensure maximum efficiency. Get your users to their destination, whether it’s three or thirteen, faster.

    Quality Codes

    QualityCodeToolNobody wants your confidence in our Geocoding API to be higher than we do, which is why we have quality codes. Our quality codes are some of the most granular in the business, giving you a detailed breakdown of an address or lat/lng pair, at a glance. Quality codes enable you to formulate better plans and decisions, based upon your own criteria.
  • New Feature Release: Overages

    On August 25th, 2016 MapQuest released a new feature - the ability to add additional transactions to monthly self-service plans. It's exactly like overtime minutes for your mobile phone plan. If you opt into the Overages plan (the default choice for new customers) your transactions never stop, even when you reach 100% of your monthly transactions total. Instead, you will be billed in 10% usage blocks until you reach 150% of your quota. When you reach 150% (for most plans) you will automatically be upgraded to the next higher plan. This is helpful when you launch new services of your own that are rapidly growing. It's also helpful for customers who occasionally go over the monthly transactions limit during a particularly busy time. It's your choice to opt in, and you can stop overages at any time. Many customers have asked for this feature and we are excited to announce it is now shipping.

    Here's how it works:

    When you sign up for overages, you will receive email alerts when you are approaching your monthly limit, when you reach your monthly limit, and when you go into overages. Overages are billed in 10% blocks as they accrue. For each 10% block of usage, you receive an email and an invoice. When you reach 150% of your monthly quota you will automatically be upgraded to the next plan to prevent runaway overages charges. When you are upgraded to the next plan your start date and monthly quota target will be reset. Customers exceeding 150% on the two highest plans (Business Enhanced and Business Enhanced Plus) will be referred to a MapQuest salesperson. This infographic shows the process:

    overage-chart
  • Get hacking on MapQuest APIs

    In the next few weeks, summer will be winding down and your calendars will start looking more and more like a Tetris board. We, here at MapQuest, are no exception. So before the madness ascends, we thought we’d take a second to fill you in about some of our upcoming adventures. We think they’re pretty cool.

    Come September, MapQuest will be packing our bags and heading to Irving, Texas, and San Francisco to sponsor two national hackathon events, as well as guest speak at a worldwide API & digital innovation event:

    • Verizon’s Hack Day in Irving, Texas, on September 10, 2016

    • TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon in San Francisco on September 10-11, 2016

    At both hackathon events, MapQuest will be offering API workshops, free on-site help from MapQuest’s top developers, loads of free MapQuest swag and premium prize giveaways, such as $5,000 to a top hacker team at TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon.

    For more information on Verizon’s Hack Day event, visit the event page here. For details on TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon, click here. And, if you’re interested in learning about, signing up or integrating MapQuest’s APIs, head on over to our documentation page.

     
  • Premium POI data now available with Search Ahead API

    Earlier this summer, we were thrilled to tell you about our new Search Ahead API, as part of our product suite. This predictive search feature autocompletes addresses as users type, offering suggestions based on the input. We promised it would get better, and today, we’re pleased to announce the addition of POI data.

    Most users’ top priority, when using a mapping application, is to get from point A to point B. Sometimes that destination is an address, other times, it’s a point of interest. Bad search queries are a thing of the past, no matter the search, with our autocomplete feature. Search Ahead’s Premium POI data ensures that your users search for Cafe Du Monde, and not Cafe DuMont. It’s not just limited to specific locations, either. We’ve also included categories and franchises, meaning if users start typing “pizza,” both Pizza as a category, and Pizza Hut franchises will be suggested. All our POI data is provided by our numerous data providers, meaning you can count on the extensive, accurate data you’ve come to know and trust, as part of MapQuest’s product suite. As part of our lightweight Search Ahead API, all data is expressed in geoJSON, making it easy to integrate into any mapping application. Premium POI data is available to our Enterprise clients, as part of our already amazing Search Ahead API. Talk to your Account Manager today, to see how you can utilize this feature so that your users get an accurate search query, every time, whether it’s an address, an adminarea, or a hard-to-spell restaurant. Looking to become a MapQuest for Business customer? Contact our team at sales@mapquest.com.
  • Bug fixes and status code updates for MapQuest’s Directions API V1 and V2

    On Thursday, September 1, MapQuest will release an update to our Directions API V1 and V2 and your application may be impacted.

    The release for MapQuest Directions API V1 and V2 includes bug fixes to our alternate route response, eliminate a duplicate route bug and remove the ability for closed roads to be returned in real-time routes.

    Additionally, we’ll be updating the status codes for our Directions API V1 and V2. Please reference the new status codes and descriptions below, and visit our documentation page for additional details on our Directions API.

     Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 11.27.20 AM Thanks for your patience. As always, feel free to reach out to Support via email or through the forum with any questions.
  • What you need to know about our geocoder and quality codes

    Chances are you’ve heard a few things about our geocode quality codes. You’ve probably heard that they are some of the most granular in the mapping business, but you might be wondering what that means.

    How can a quality code, granular or not,  help your business?

    First, what is a quality code?

    A quality code, simply speaking, is an indicator for the degree of accuracy in a geocode result. Many mapping applications will tell you, on a grade-letter scale, how confident they are in a geocode result. We take it a step further and analyze every piece of the query, from the street name to the zip code, so that you can ensure your drivers or deliveries know exactly where they are going.

    Let’s look at an address for an example: 1060 W. Addison St., Chicago, IL 60613. This returns a quality code of L1AAA from our geocoder, which is one of the best possible geocode results, but let’s break down why.

     Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 10.58.56 AM.png

    L1: This means that the geocoder is certain where this street address, or “Location” is located. The letters each correspond to a segment of the address. An ‘A’ is an exact match, a ‘B’ is a good match, a ‘C’ is an approximate match, and an ‘X’ indicates this information was not provided. Looking at this address, you can infer that the geocoder knows exactly where this location is, and that the street address, city and zipcode provided are exact matches. If this was a delivery address, you could dispatch your driver knowing exactly where they are going!

    Assuming that, on occasion, people make mistakes when they enter an address, let’s see what happens if we tweak this address just slightly and request 1060 W. Addison Ave., Chicago, IL 60613. The geocoder now returns an L1BAA. This tells you that the geocoder is still quite certain where this location is, but that the street address wasn’t an exact match. However, a ‘B’ is still a good result, and capable of receiving a delivery.

    When making a determination as to whether or not you would dispatch a driver to a location, both of these addresses are good examples. But, you may be wondering, could quality codes tell your business when you might not want to drive to an address? Absolutely! Let’s look at 2345 Martin, Dallas, TX. The geocoder returns an L1CAX. Let’s break that down:

    When searching for this address, the Geocoder did find a result for 2345 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, so it returned an L1 because it knows where this location is, however, for the street address it returns a ‘C’ because it’s taking a best guess that the user meant Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The city and state gets an ‘A’ code, but the user did not provide a zip code, so the geocoder returns an ‘X.’

    As a business, you might decide there is too much margin of error with this quality code, and you don’t want to waste valuable time having your driver hunt for this questionable address. Which saves both time and money, and gets you to your next delivery faster. We have more than a dozen quality code indicators, and you can read even more about them in our developer documentation.