Digital Maps: what you need to know

Nowadays, digital maps are more common in use. We use them to find out the time and distance required to travel from one point to another. Now, these maps are available on smartphones thru’ internet. However, its use is so easy; you never realize how they work behind the scenes. We will explain them here in more detail.

Bing Digital Maps
Bing Digital Maps

First of all, digital maps are nothing but the digital image of the real-world along with topography. It’s an electronic map where you can see all geological features, including human-made features like roads, through a Graphical User Interface.

Furthermore, digital maps need a vast amount of data that is collected over time. Then a software compiles that data and converts it into a virtual image. It’s fascinating to see the entire journey from a printed map to your phone’s digital map.

The Journey

Paper maps were widespread before the internet era. Rather it was the only way to see geological features of a certain area. They provide a basic landscape. The problem with paper maps is, it’s not a real-time map. So, you don’t see roadblocks or live traffic and so on. Thus, it lacks specific details of the area. Similarly, if you can get a map of a specific area but you cannot zoom.

Besides, you can’t update physical maps unless you buy the newest version. At the same time, digital maps keep on updating thru’ an update from company servers or thru’ synchronization.

Furthermore, with the advent of mobile computing, it is effortless to find a map of any area via smartphone. So, now maps are available in your pocket all the time. The journey from physical maps to digital maps is fascinating. The easy availability of maps makes life a lot easier. Today’s electronic maps work in conjunction with the Internet and GPS. You can find exactly where you are. This is not possible with physical maps.

Besides, today’s digital maps are more modern. You can find places of interest right on the map. You can find ATM, Hotels, Famous landmarks, and almost everything from the physical world. The electronic maps also provide different views such as satellite view, virtual view, and hybrid view.

The modern maps are more user friendly than their physical counterparts. Besides, you can also create a three-dimensional map using the software.

The data

The digital maps need lots of data. It needs various systems, such as remote sensing and GIS. It also needs vast satellite imagery. You can say that it needs an abundance of satellite imagery collected over time. It also needs large street-level data.

Furthermore, it is not over when the collection of data is complete. It would be best if you kept on updating that data. This is because our physical world changes every day. So, we need to update that data frequently to make it relevant to the physical world. Then and then only these maps make sense. Digital maps should accurately show changing road conditions, and this is only possible by collecting and updating the data frequently.

How does digital maps work?

We will take the example of the mobile phone to explain its working. When you switch on the GPS of your phone, the GPS sensor activates and finds the minimum of four terrestrial GPS satellites. Then it finds the exact coordinates by communicating with the satellite.

Furthermore, the GPS sensor then transmits these coordinates to the digital mapping program. The digital mapping program takes these as a starting point. The user then selects an endpoint on digital maps.

The digital mapping program then shows visual information about the best possible route by utilizing sensors’ information. The digital mapping program also needs the Internet to fetch the latest map data and to show real-time traffic data.

Furthermore, the digital mapping software then moves the visual map as the user moves forward along the route. It needs GPS and a working internet connection for the same. Sometimes, the user takes the wrong way. Then the digital mapping program takes the current coordinates and reroutes the user destination. All this process happen in seconds.

Application of digital maps

Electronic maps have immense potential. Large scientific projects use digital maps. The geological survey, mining industry, land survey, architecture, and even agriculture use electronic maps with varied purposes. Electronic maps are now a core part of our lives.

Open Street Maps
Open Street Maps

Furthermore, different computer programs and smartphone applications provide digital maps for its users for better navigation. They also provide street-level data as well as three-dimensional imagery to see the world virtually.

The different military application uses digital maps to find out enemy movements and for making the next move. Different GPS navigation systems utilize electronic maps to show the exact location of the user.

The upcoming potential use of electronic maps is in augmented reality, where you will see a combination of the virtual and physical world in a very different form. Thus, the application of electronic maps is endless, and these applications keep on evolving for sure.

In conclusion, digital maps change the way how we see and use the map. It is definitely more accessible, reliable, and user-friendly than traditional paper maps.

Image Courtesy: Google, Bing, Open Street Map

See what you can do with digital maps

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