Microsoft has released a preview version of its Bing Maps V8 (version 8) control, a major update to the company's mapping platform for Web and mobile applications.
First announced during last week's Build developer conference in San Francisco, the new Web control and its interactive software development kit (SDK) offer new tools for developers looking to incorporate map data into their business intelligence (BI) and analytics applications. During a Build session last Friday, Ricky Brundritt, a senior program manager in Microsoft's Bing Maps Customer Advisory group, revealed that "about 70 percent of all the apps out there that are using Bing Maps today are using it for some sort of business intelligence," including asset tracking apps.
Heatmaps are now natively supported, and new clustering support enables apps to display overlapping pushpin as a group. As a user zooms in, the pushpins automatically ungroup. A new spatial math module includes several operations for calculating distances, areas and performing Boolean operations on shapes.
Developers can now easily import and export GeoJSON data using Bing Maps V8. GeoJSON is a widely used open format used to represent geographical data. The Web control also supports Bing's Streetside images, which provide 360-degree street-level views.
Also new is a Spatial Data Services module that simplifies the process of overlaying information from Bing Spatial Data Services onto a map. Bing Spatial Data Services offers batch geocoding of up to 200,000 addresses in a single request, spatial data hosting and access to Microsoft's own mapping data.
Loading modules under Bing Maps V8 takes fewer keystrokes than previous versions. Brundritt announced that the updated control allows developers to pass an array of modules instead of loading modules individually, resulting in significant reduction in the amount of code required to exploit its mapping capabilities. During his demonstration, Brundritt was able to load two modules at the same time with a 32 percent savings in characters compared with V7 (98 characters versus 144 characters).
Microsoft has also added three Windows Insider-like branches to Bing Maps: Experimental, Release and Frozen. Experimental grants developers access to new features that have yet to undergo extensive testing. The Release branch is the main version of the software that includes features that have passed testing. Targeting mission-critical apps, the Frozen branch is updated less frequently than Release code and is presumably bug-free.