Apps that give users a good reason to keep coming back tend to operate with up-to-the-minute data to do everything from guiding a drone to tracking a global health pandemic’s path. That data is increasingly location-based, be it maps, demographics, routing, or geocoding. A developer might only need one or two of these location services to give users what they want, and that’s where pay-as-you-go location services have entered the market.

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As location data is increasingly necessary for in-demand apps, developers at some of the most innovative businesses are already using PaaS to take advantage of location data.

Here are 6 new ways:

1. Basemaps

Cartographers and engineers have created and curated a vast library of ready-made maps with rich, authoritative data. Developers can integrate this data into applications with just a couple lines of code. Maps made with a neutral background and rich foreground emphasize human geography like streets as well as topography and blended elevation data. Developers can also customize maps with colors, patterns, and labels.

2. Volumes of Data

Developers can integrate demographic and statistical data such as income, spending, market segmentation, and psychographic data into their apps. A GeoEnrichment service helps analyze user-defined study areas and sites around the world for additional location-based context. This includes data describing people, places, and businesses.

For adding map layers made from global data, developers are connecting their apps to the rich data collections that include thousands of options such as imagery, demographics, political boundaries, deep learning, models, and indicators of the planet.

Real-time live feeds such as traffic, current weather, and information about recent events such as flooding, wildfires, and other natural calamities are also available, as are high-resolution images which include historical imagery, to visualize change over time and perform analysis.

3. Data Visualization

Apps that include 2D and 3D data-driven maps help users discover unique patterns and relationships. Developers can build apps that include models of buildings, landscapes, cities, or the entire globe. They can also apply smart mapping to both 2D and 3D data with just a few lines of code to cut down development time.

4. Geocoding and Search

Often an app needs to be able to search a location by name or by multiple addresses. Location services can accurately display the results on a map, including getting textual descriptions such as the nearest address, intersection, or place-name for coordinates.

5. Routing and Directions

Developers call on location services to build apps that can find routes and generate turn-by-turn directions. More advanced apps must be able to perform intelligent network analysis while applying real-world constraints such as traffic, U-turns, road barriers, incidents, and maximum permitted vehicle height.

In addition to building in point-to-point routing, a developer can make an app that routes multiple vehicles, determining which stops should be serviced by each route and in what sequence the stops should be visited. The app would also be used to map service areas to determine which locations can be reached within a given time and distance.

This type of location service can also help a company find the best places to do business, identify the closest facilities to minimize travel costs and create an origin-destination cost matrix to determine the least costly paths.

6. Spatial Analytics

Spatial analytics tools support people who need to see patterns, trends, and other relationships in their data. They provide a highly interactive experience for the user and help scale massive amounts of data for the app developer. This includes big data, real-time analytics, advanced spatial tools, machine learning, and deep learning capabilities.

Businesses Developing a Location Edge

Two startups have recently showcased the value of location services and the flexibility they offer to developers who want to take advantage of location-based data.

Drone pilots, for one, face a fragmented set of strict rules about the locations they can fly because of federal and local air restrictions inside the United States. Developers at startup Airspace Link set out to make flying a more seamless process for its users. With routing and direction data to accurately pinpoint a pilot’s location, flight path, and related limits, the Airspace Link app helps drone operators send a final flight plan to the US Federal Aviation Administration for authorization.

Developers at Geospark Analytics haven’t needed to trace individual travel paths but are trying to help users observe events in real-time and assess risks. Customers have come to rely on the company to make decisions based on what is happening globally. Early in the pandemic, it tracked a developing health crisis in China based on what were reported to be pneumonia cases. The app harvests a trove of publicly available data from social media, news outlets, weather, and economic sources, adding geotags along the way, as its machine learning models help make sense of it all. The company’s use of spatial analytics services allows its users — many in government, defense, intelligence, and Fortune 100 companies — to visualize the risks in the app.

Both Airspace Link and Geospark Analytics built their apps using PaaS, which allows them, and all developers, to integrate only what they need using their APIs of choice.

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