These days Bing Maps is highly focused on the enterprise, mirroring Microsoft’s turn toward cloud-based solutions with the ascension of CEO Satya Nadella. The company has stopped trying to match features with Google Maps in competition for consumer attention and has focused increasingly on developers and enterprises.
In that context, Microsoft has now released three location APIs: Bing Maps Location Recognition, Bing Maps Local Search API and Bing Maps Local Insights API. They were originally rolled out individually in December.
What the APIs can deliver. Location Recognition will translate a lat-long coordinate into more accessible information such as points of interest, business identities, landmarks and “natural entities” (e.g., beaches) as appropriate to the coordinates. Bing says you can ask questions such as, “What are the businesses and points of interest near a real estate property that I am interested in buying?”
Bing’s Local Search API enables an application to provide local search results that are identical to those available on Bing. The company is making its full local dataset available to developers.
Answering more complex queries. The Local Insights API enables answers to more complex questions that involve relationships between places. Microsoft says in a blog post, “Bing Maps Local Insights API can help get insights into businesses and entities within a given area reached by driving, walking or public transit within a given time or distance.” For example:
- Profile neighborhoods (e.g., Restaurants, schools within walking distances etc.) to help house hunters identify the perfect neighborhood for a new home.
- Display a list of businesses such as gas stations nearby that could be helpful when planning for a new business location.
The APIs only support U.S. data and use cases for now but Microsoft says it has “plans to make them more broadly available in the near future.”
Why you should care. In addition to Bing, Google, Apple, HERE and OpenStreetMap each offer developer APIs with different capabilities and data. Google is the dominant player but it’s worth investigating alternatives. Maps and the location data supporting them are the foundation of mobile search and only gaining in importance to marketers and developers as the digital and physical worlds become more connected.