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Bogdan Sandu
Bogdan Sandu

Posted on • Originally published at


Maps APIs To Use In Your Projects

You’d be surprised how many sites use maps APIs to generate the maps that you see when visiting their sites. It’s always easier to use a maps API.

Digital maps and automated mapping tools are constantly growing in popularity, and this trend doesn’t seem to go down any time soon.

With Google Maps API holding the leadership on this list, companies are competing harshly to become the best-of-breed, leading product in the industry.

This doesn’t come as a surprise, as maps are very informative, useful, interesting, and engaging, and there is no one who’d disapprove of them.

Map fans lately have no troubles enjoying both static and interactive maps on almost any app or website. The reason is that map data is now open to use by third-party developers and aficionados, and made flexible enough to blend in different data sets and to display a wide range of species and specie lists wherever in the world they are needed.

The Map of Life, for instance, is both useful and fun, and so is the Zombie Apocalypse Survival Map which actually locates hospitals, grocery stores, warehouses, and similar ‘danger zones’. Basically, the point is to make information maps accessible to all users in real-time, and from the comfort of their favorite websites and applications.

Let’s give a look to several popular maps APIs

Google Maps
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The leader of interactive mapping is without doubt Google Maps, which also makes its API data publicly available for interested developers who create interesting products, like MapSVG, for example. Therefore, it is not surprising that most websites and apps nowadays with a simple JavaScript have these apps embedded on their interface.

Google Maps APIs work perfectly on desktop and mobile devices, providing point-to-point localization in more than 50 languages. You will also be offered with some advanced services and mechanisms, such as intranet mapping, and secure HTTP connections for Premier customers.

Amazon Maps API
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Amazon Maps APIs are developers best alternative for the creation of Fire phone and Fire tablet applications. The current version of these APIs (2.0) enables support for interactive and 3D maps, enriched with top-quality landmarks, location data, satellite tiles, highlighted areas, and best-of-breed vector mapping. In order to apply for these APIs, submit a direct request to the vendor, or download the Amazon Mobile SDK to ensure that the languages are compatible.

Bing Maps
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Microsoft Bing Maps is another extremely popular and powerful mapping tool, still working its way to get a share of Google Maps users. Microsoft is doing a great job following trends and adding innovations, which is why it recently introduced the Streetside city addition with high-resolution aerial images on all Bing maps. Another new feature you should keep n the loop is 3-D city previews.

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Carto was designed for open-source mapping, visualization, and analysis of different maps. Its powerful engine gives developers the possibility to launch geospatial maps and applications for wide web usage. Despite of being on the market for only 5 years, Carto already has a large list of prominent users, among which NASA, National Geographic, Twitter, and The Guardian UK.

Another distinctive advantage of this engine is flexible pricing, as plans go all the way from free and basic to premium and enterprise-friendly.

Carto comes equipped with a rich JavaScript library, and gives developers great API sets to include its engaging geospatial visualizations on their sites and apps. Inside, you will also find a no-brainer drag-and-drop editor to choose the way in which you will use and visualize data. Public information and documentation is available on their website.

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Leaflet is a suite of modern vector layers and maps which you can add to any web service. The very same suite is used to monitor map events alike zoom and pan, and fetches these features automatically for each event. It is best used for large and interactive data sets that you don’t want to load at once. The service offers PostGIS APIs for developers to access its features with REST calls.

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Mapbox offers a variety of open-source and free aping features. Its APIs are best suited for creative developers looking to combine multiple databases and file formats. Premade, Android and iOS-compatible maps will be available to embed on any website and to share with wider audiences.

Naver Maps
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Naver Maps is a Korean mapping service that offers JavaScript APIs. At the moment, these APIs are in their beta stage of development, which means that geocoding is still not available. Another drawback is that assistance materials are all distributed in Korean, but some of them, as class references, for instance, are fairly easy to understand.

Scribble Maps
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Scribble Maps is a creative platform used for sharing and drawing maps. All maps created with it can be shared with external users, and all functionality can be easily embedded on developers’ websites and applications. The platform uses interesting API methods and techniques, as for instance retrieving map images, sharing and displaying apps, and more.

Yahoo! Maps
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Despite of Yahoo being a leading search engine for years, its BOSS PlaceFinder flagship API service was launched only in July 2010. These APIs make it possible for programmers to access its geocoding web services and attach them to their applications, as well as to build ‘location-aware’ apps with their names and addresses neatly translated to geographic coordinates.

PlaceFinder is also one of the best alternatives to transform these coordinates back into place names and addresses.

As expected, BOSS PlaceFinder provides users with adequate and well-organized documentation, and makes it incredibly easy to launch its API services. The price will depend on the number of queries you wish to provide on daily basis, keeping in mind that Yahoo will also supply you with some ads to monetize your content.

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Yandex is Russia’s leading search engine. In a Google-reminiscent manner, this search engine supplies developers with an array of internet products and services, including the possibility to use its functions on their websites, apps, and blogs.

Given that it serves a large market, Yandex offers one of the largest Direct API suites for developers to access its contextual advertising service, and run it on their apps for direct interactions. If you own an advertising agency, for instance, this will make even more sense, as Yandex lets you organize and run large-scale and complex campaigns. For the purpose, it employs a SOAP protocol, and returns responses in JSON format.

US County Boundary
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The US County Boundary APIs, as suggested by the name, are used to display the boundaries between all US counties. The RESTful APIs are built using NodeJS language, and work with requests and responses formatted as JSON. The service is offered by an independent developer, and can therefore only be used for non-commercial and non-proprietary purposes.

Carto Data
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CartoData’s APIs pair isoline and geocoding services deriving from CARTO Editor. They rely on a PostgreSQL database, and make it possible to geocode data arranged in complete datasets, rows, and manually inputted lists. With authenticated requests, you can also use these APIs to perform programmatic analyses of trade areas (computing isochrones and isodistances).

CartoData’s APIs are built using CARTO SQL APIs, and will thereof provide enough SQL documentation to make debugging errors easier for developers. The tool is an open-source one, and provides unlimited access to scalable maps and dynamic geospatial databases for your websites and application. Its interface is intuitive and predictive, and drafts some of the best location insights worldwide.

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TomTom is another popular set of online map APIs, and a powerful portal for digital navigation that consists of different web map tile services (WMTS and WMS). For each set of APIs there will be separate training & documentation, as TomTom enables you to transform even high-volume location data into high resolution images, and make it accessible for thousands of users at the same time.

The Online Maps Tiles use grid to divide your maps into separate tiles, and zoom those at even 19 levels to make each feature clearly visible. The reason why TomTom is so powerful is that it was designed primarily for GIS software clients (Quantum GIS an ArcGIS, for instance), which needed an end-to-end WMS API platform that will interact with their entire web mapping service.

The operational infrastructure of these APIs evolved significantly throughout the years, and is now equipped with GetCapabilities functions to retrieve service metadata and create maps within defined set boundaries. WMTS APIs, on the other hand, will work better for conveying metadata map resources.

Want to see more maps APIs?

Read on.

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Spatial is a REST API suite developers use to access and embed Spatial functions on their new and existent applications. A great example of how Spatial APIs work is embedding ready-to-use maps with points of interests, and retrieving listing points and events on each map. Spatial is also integrated with social networks, and makes it possible to enrich your profiles with beautiful maps.

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AirMap consists of tools used to create GIS and a variety of drone management application. Using its APIs, you will have access to notice requirements, advisory information, airspace interaction rules, and much more. Responses are generated in JSON format, for developers who possess the right API key.

An interesting fact is that AirMap sources individual data, and won’t require drone developers and manufacturers to come up with such form their airspace databases. The product belongs to a popular Californian airspace technology company.

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ViaMichelin’s Web Services & Maps also make their API public and available to developers who use JavaScript. They offer a static library using 4 mapping styles: the native ViaMichelin, hybrid, satellite, and Methods that let users control their layers, polygons, markers, and other elements.

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Mapme API is a RESTful-moderated map builder. At the moment, this service is mounted on Google Maps API, in order to ease the creation, configuration, and distribution of map content. Its custom made apps will include multiple tags, layers, crowdsourcing moderations, privacy settings, activity feeds, mobile compatibility, and many other advanced features.

Detailed documentation and hands-on support for HTTP/HTTPS will also be provided, with responses arriving in JSON formats.

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Mapzen’s Search APIs are devoted to developers who’d like to see this service embedded on their applications. The service will later on become available to visitors and end users, with a free API key that can be obtained by simply contacting the vendor. This makes Mapzen a highly-preferred open-source mapping tool, especially because its search engine operates worldwide, and turns all names and addresses in actual geographic locations (and vice versa).

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Pointpin APIs are applied by developers to embed Pointpin services on their sites and applications, and to enable some IP geolocation info for their end users. In order to use these APIs you need a special key, as Pointpin functions as a hosted IP geolocation.

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