Virtual Earth 101
I read somewhere that nearly 80% of all data has some location-related aspect to it. Common business questions in data include: Where do we ship these orders? Where are flood plains located and what rainfall amount are problematic for them? Where are vendors and/or customers located? What delivery route should we use? Can we track using GPS? Where are voting districts located? Where are the best hospitals located? Where are the sales regions that produce the most revenue? And so on. It is highly likely that a significant portion of the data you work with has a location-related aspect to it. Visually presenting this information could lead to better management decisions or possibly uncovering trends that were not evident before. A good application can present this information using a location-oriented approach. That is where Microsoft Virtual Earth fits in.
In this article, I want to start you on your way developing applications with Virtual Earth and get you thinking outside the box in regards to how you display information to visitors to your websites or to your corporate management. For example, consider a postal code sales report sorted descending by sales percentage. Maybe you could improve upon that report by presenting the data as a pie chart to help management see how specific postal codes compare to each other. Taking that idea even further, you could overlay that same information on a map and see that the top three postal codes are all on one side of a particular highway. Maybe that’s important, maybe it’s not, but that fact would go unnoticed on a report or a pie chart. Geographically visualizing data takes the analysis to an entirely new visualization level.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up and start with an answer to the question, what is Virtual Earth?
What Is Virtual Earth?
Virtual Earth is a group of services from Microsoft that provides a high-quality geospacial data and imagery platform for you to work with. Unfortunately that sounds like a Microsoft definition. What that really means is that Microsoft provides you, the developer, with a platform, API, and other tools to visualize your data on a map. That data could be something as simple as push-pin points indicating where retail stores are located, or maybe lines connecting points, or possibly polygons covering a geographic area, or a combination of all three.
Virtual Earth allows you to add content in several ways. You can add points, lines, and polygons via code or you can import data from other locations such as GeoRSS feeds, Keyhole Markup Language (KML), or GPS eXchange (GPX) files. In my examples, I’ll show you how to add content to a map using code and then I’ll move on to importing data from a GeoRSS feed.
The Virtual Earth platform consists of a number of features including imagery, buildings, geocoding, Yellow Pages and points of interest (POI), traffic, search & proximity, routing & directions, 3D models and more. These features are delivered by two separate but complimentary pieces: the Virtual Earth AJAX Map Control and new to version 6.2, the Virtual Earth Web Services 1.0.
You can learn much more about Virtual Earth, download the SDK, check out Virtual Earth team blogs, and so on at http://dev.live.com/virtualearth.
By: Jim Duffy
Jim Duffy is founder and president of TakeNote Technologies, an award-winning training, consulting, and software development company specializing in .NET software developer training and helping clients create business solutions with Microsoft enterprise technologies. Jim’s expertise is with .NET technologies, ASP.NET, SQL Server and Visual FoxPro-to-.NET conversions. He has a BS degree in Computer and Information Systems and over 25 years of programming and training experience. He is an energetic trainer, skilled developer, and has been published in leading developer-oriented publications.
Jim is a Microsoft Regional Director, a Microsoft MVP, an ASPInsider, and is an entertaining and popular speaker at regional user groups and international developer conferences.
You can find additional information about Jim, TakeNote Technologies, links to his blog, as well as a public training class schedule, on-site training information, consulting information, and software development services at www.takenote.com.
It is highly likely that a significant portion of the data you work with has a location-related aspect to it. Visually presenting this information could lead to better management decisions or possibly uncovering trends that were not evident before.
Virtual Earth Resources
These two sites provide the primary source for Virtual Earth information: http://maps.live.com and http://dev.live.com.