makes room for Virtual Earth

Canada’s largest publisher of telephone directories has chosen Microsoft’s Virtual Earth to bring some additional mapping capabilities to its listings. on Tuesday said it had gone live with the software, which will allow users of the site to see 3D, satellite and aerial images of locations in order to figure out driving directions or other information. Yellow Pages Group, based in Montreal, turned to Toronto-based Microsoft partner Infusion Technologies to handle the deployment.

Jean-Pascal Lion, vice-president of marketing at Yellow Pages Group, said the directory publisher had been using static maps through Maptoit for several years but was looking for more advanced technology to enhance its listings.

“We decided it was about time to upgrade to a more advanced system so that you don’t have to refresh (the pages), you could zoom in and zoom out,” he said.

Google Earth is probably better known as a mapping and data visualization tool, but Lion said Microsoft’s pricing and the availability of Infusion made Virtual Earth a better choice for

“Technically both are pretty similar. Both have the same accuracy,” he admitted. “I needed an integrator that would help me to use these maps in various environments.”

Yellow Pages Group also includes Trader Corp., for example, which may make use of the Virtual Earth software for the real estate market.

Microsoft Canada’s vice-president of development and platform Mark Relph said the application programming interfaces for Virtual Earth allow developers like Infusion to cross-reference maps with the data from Yellow Pages Group. That means the maps can be updated in real time, rather than a customer like Yellow Pages having to send information back to Microsoft.

“Those maps are a service in the cloud,” Relph said. “Data assembly happens as the maps are rendered.” Yellow Pages Group started on the project in late September and launched the mapping service quietly just before the holiday season, Lion said.

The biggest hurdle, he said, was typically Canadian. “We needed to have it both in French and English. There was French integration – that was a challenge,” he said. Infusion provided some of the translation assistance, and Lion said there was internal support from his team.

Yellow Pages Group has been collecting geospatial information such as longitude and latitude for its listings from the beginning. Lion said. That means any maps associated with a listing will evolve without any changes on the customer’s part, said Relph. “The geocoding remains constant,” he said.

Besides Yellow Pages Group, Microsoft on Tuesday announced a customer win for Virtual Earth with the Weather Network and MeteoMedia, which will be using it to showcase highway road conditions. Relph said while these are obvious candidates for the service, Microsoft is also in talks with financial institutions that are considering Virtual Earth as a way to locate ATMs and bus companies, among other verticals.

While the basic Virtual Earth service is free, Relph said companies like Yellow Pages Group sign a contract with the software firm that includes a more traditional service level agreement to guarantee the performance of the technology.

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