With the higher costs and more complex charging structure for Google Maps that was recently introduced, some developers are casting a wider net and looking at different map providers for their geo needs. If you’re looking to switch, how many of the Google Maps features can you get from Bing Maps APIs? Nearly all of them, along with some advanced geospatial features Google Maps doesn’t have too.
Like Google Maps, Bing Maps can serve both static maps and map tiles that load on demand in your application or website; that includes road maps – presented in custom styles if you want – with traffic flow and metadata for major geographies, aerial or satellite images and both ‘birds eye’ oblique images that look like what you’d see from a plane window (useful for looking behind a building to spot the delivery entrance) and Streetside images (looking at the fronts of houses and businesses as if you were walking or driving down the street) for some areas. You can show pushpins, heatmaps and shapes and even do spatial maths calculations. Because Bing Maps partners with many different map providers around the world, the quality of geographic coverage ranges from detailed road information that’s been verified and frequently updated with high resolution imagery and geocoding that centres addresses inside property boundaries, to more basic information for some less populous geographies where only major roads may be shown and geocoding can return a larger area.
Bing Maps and Google Maps APIs have a similar range of geocoding features: looking up the location of an address as well as finding the addresses at a specific geographical location with reverse geocoding. Both of those are available through the Bing Maps REST APIs, the v8 web control and the REST-based Bing Spatial Data Services – which adds a batch geocoding option and custom POI hosting and search that Google Maps APIs don’t offer. For more advanced searches, the Bing Maps REST APIs and the web control support ‘type ahead’ autosuggest, completing possible location names and addresses so users don’t have to type out long addresses on mobile devices. POI search supports finding by name and by business category. Polygons and administrative boundary data can be used to filter searches. Bing Maps APIs can return elevation information and details of traffic incidents.
Like Google Maps, Bing Maps has APIs for routing that cover driving, walking and public transport worldwide, including landmark hints (telling users ‘if you see this landmark, you’ve gone too far’), directions that take current traffic into account and multiple waypoint routing (which includes up to 25 discrete directions to waypoints that the user wants to stop at, and up to 10 intermediate waypoints between any 2 stops that they use to define their preferred route). Routes can snap to roads automatically (handy for measuring exact mileage).
Bing Maps doesn’t have the routing and directions for bicycles that the Google Maps APIs have and it doesn’t offer turn-by-turn real-time navigation, but it does have truck-specific directions and routing with its Truck Routing API – covering height and weight limits, avoiding steep slopes, tight bends and areas where crosswinds would affect high-sided vehicles and locations like tunnels, bridges and roads through watersheds that prohibit flammable, explosive or chemical cargo. That covers 59 countries around the world, not just the US and is available through both the REST APIs and the v8 web control.
For driving, walking and public transit, Bing Maps has a Distance Matrix REST API similar to the Google Maps offerings that can create fleet delivery schedules and ‘travelling salesperson’ routes with histograms of travel times based on traffic predictions, optimising vehicle capacity and split deliveries. They can also cluster data based on travel times as well as distance (showing all the houses in a ten-minute walk from the train station, or ranking office locations by how long staff would have to commute to get there).
Bing Maps also has a unique Isochrone API that uses those calculations to create a travel-time polygon (supports with or without traffic prediction), which makes it easy to see the distance you can travel in a certain time by driving, walking or using public transport, rather than simply showing a distance radius that doesn’t reflect road speeds and conditions. That’s ideal for understanding how long deliveries or a daily commute will take at different times of the day, as well as asset tracking and geofence placement (it’s more useful to know that a truck driver is 15 minutes from the warehouse than just that they’re five miles away but there’s a severe traffic jam, and if you’re tracking a stolen vehicle or a lost device, it’s helpful to know how far away it could be after an hour).
For developers who want to put several of these APIs together into a vehicle logistics system, with vehicle tracking, geofencing, trip detection, mobile apps built in Apache Cordova and even a chatbot that can tell users where specific vehicles are, Microsoft has an open source application on GitHub to use as a quick start, showing what the platform can deliver.
API Features table
The Grey Matter mapping team is renowned for providing licensing and technical advice for location solution applications. Contact them to discuss your use case: firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1364 655133.
Read our related blog post: How Bing Maps compares to the new Google Maps pricing