Guest post: ViewRanger – Building a worldwide community of outdoor enthusiasts
This is a guest post from ViewRanger, who have just added our routing system to their products. They write about ViewRanger and their use of our routing API.
ViewRanger is the mobile app that will turn your smartphone into a complete Outdoors GPS.
It’s become the choice of walkers, cyclists, mountain bikers, and for many other activities, because of its comprehensive range of features including waypoint navigation, friend tracking, sports GPS, its web based route planning, and extensive choice of maps (including Ordnance Survey) and downloadable route guides (such as from Nick Cotton Rides, Cycle NI, and Cumbria Tourism). ViewRanger is also used and trusted by more than half of the mountain rescue teams in England, Wales, and Ireland.
ViewRanger has always been passionate about outdoors recreation, it’s what gets us up in the morning and it was the catalyst to start our business – when we delivered our first app back in the summer of 2006 running on early Nokia Symbian smartphones.
Today our ViewRanger Outdoors GPS app can be downloaded on Apple iPhone & iPad, on Android smartphones and tablets, on Symbian smartphones, and on the BlackBerry Playbook; and we have built a community of outdoor enthusiasts in around 150 countries around the world. Alongside our mobile app is a social network website, My.ViewRanger.com, where users can discover, create, and share their outdoor experiences – all synced with the app on their smartphone and tablet.
The My.ViewRanger site is also a trail publishing platform that makes it easy for organizations and individuals to freely create and publish leisure route guides. All trail guides are branded, and can include rich information including photos, web links, even location-triggered audio or video clips. Free to use “widgets” make it quick and easy to embed interactive route maps websites, blog posts, and Facebook sites. (Any publishers or local tourism organizations wishing to publish route guides, with navigable route, text and photos, through the ViewRanger platform should contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
Key to the My.ViewRanger website is the ability to plot routes from scratch, dropping key waypoints along a path. Our users are often using a mix of on-road and off-road trails – so we needed to go further than a basic “snap to road” capability.
Our approach has been to build a hybrid framework that allows the My.ViewRanger site to select the best-of-breed journey planner for that particular planning action, based on information about the user. So, for cyclists in the UK we can leverage the excellent work done by the CycleStreets team, whilst for backpackers in the US we leverage a planner that uses intelligence about the terrain to deliver off-road route calculation in the mountains. Available right now within the free route planner on the My.ViewRanger website, we will be adding the Route Generation tool into our apps too.
CycleStreets is the best cycling trip planner in the UK – so it was natural that we should choose to integrate this into our platform. Doing so was very straightforward. The CycleStreets API is very developer friendly and is well documented. At this stage, we have deliberately kept the options constrained for the user – our aim is that the ViewRanger Route Generation tool should be intelligent about what parameters to pass to the CycleStreets journey planner, personalizing these for each user.
We were up and running with the CycleStreets API quickly, and the routing results are impressive and, of course, show a real knowledge of the issues that concern a cyclist when planning a trip. Feedback from our UK users has been very positive – with some commenting that we have “built magic” into the My.ViewRanger site.
The CycleStreets API lets us interactively generate and regenerate the route each time that a user plots, or moves, a waypoint. This allows a user to manipulate the route to meet their needs, which is important as our users are typically planning leisure trails rather than wanting to find the most efficient route to commute by bicycle to their workplace.
Once a route has been planned, then it can be synced wirelessly to the user’s ViewRanger mobile app, or text and photos can be added and the guided route can be published and shared with the whole ViewRanger community.
ViewRanger has been a #1 ranked app on iTunes and other appstores in many countries around the world. Partnering with talented organizations such as CycleStreets helps us to keep delivering the best outdoors gps experience available and helping outdoor enthusiasts discover, plan, navigate and share their trips.
The ViewRanger GPS app is available to download for free on Android, Symbian, and BlackBerry Playbook, and is available to download for £1.99 on Apple. Access to the My.ViewRanger website is free.