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Digital Job Site

Digital Job Site

Smart Phone Apps for Builders: (Microsoft | Bing) Maps

comments (0) March 1st, 2011 in Blogs

iTunes note: Bing Maps is part of Microsoft’s larger smart phone application, which they describe as a ‘decision engine.’  The iTunes description is lengthy and not relative to this review.

I use Google Maps, which is highly integrated into the iPhone, but it has some shortcomings.  The bird’s eye function can show five faces of a house (all four sides and the roof), which could be extremely useful for some trades.  Every once in a while my staff and I would quote custom storm windows for historic homes, which we did on a unitary basis (fixed dollar: unit), and with this Bing, I can count windows without putting a truck on the road. 

For the most part, Bing Maps duplicates what Google Maps does. It shows:

1. Location as I move, consistently down to a yard or so.
2. Traffic
3. How long it will take between points (miles and time)
4. An ‘aerial’ satellite option showing roofs and lot lines

How is it different?
5.1. You can enter a location verbally, and receive fairly high accuracy.  When I have tried it, it was correct about 4 out of 5 times, which was nice.
6.2. It does not show mass transit and walking options
7.3. It does not show streetview
1.4. It does not offer a rotatable screen to face N (default), or to face the way you’re headed, the latter being useful for some drivers.

I may be a Google | iPhone junkie, but I found Microsoft’s product vastly inferior to Google’s Maps.  It’s a bit clunky, you have to hop through a few extra hoops to use it, and through no fault of Microsoft, it is not integrated with the iPhone.  Presumably it is more useful on Windows 7 phones.

Still, the Bird’s eye view feature is brilliant, and somewhat revolutionary. Last year ICFI and Autodesk did a report on a Rapid Energy Modeling (REM) tool that allowed auditors to conduct energy modeling on buildings remotely, using nothing more than the internet’s GIS and satellite imaging.  While this approach sounds crazy, they exhibited remarkable accuracy and dramatically lowered costs.  These are the requisite inputs for mass energy modeling of our 100m or so structures.   Bird’s eye view could be a useful tool in conducting this type of work.  Sometimes Insulators or mechanical trades can tell a lot more about a house by looking at a 3d model than talking to the building’s owner via phone. Bing is a great tool because of the Bird’s eye view feature, and therefore, worth a download.

PROS: Free angled views of houses. 
CONS: Clunky and otherwise inferior alternative to Google’s Maps.
SCORE 50/100

posted in: Blogs, business, smart phone
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