Amazon is previewing its new cloud-based location service

Mapping API lets developers use mobile device location

Amazon is previewing a geolocation service that allows developers to build location awareness and mapping capabilities into their cloud-based applications.

The Amazon Location Service operates on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and allows software developers to add maps, points of interest, geocoding, geofences, and tracking to their software.

Unlike Google, which has spent years mapping the world itself, Amazon uses map data from ESRI and HERE Technologies. It exposes data from these services via a single API.

Alongside maps, the location service allows developers to find addresses at a geolocation or turn an address into a set of geolocation coordinates. It also offers trackers to receive location updates from devices, and developers can create geofenced areas that interact with that tracking service to generate alerts. It’s also possible to reference a device's location history when querying the API.

Developers can create a map via the Amazon dashboard and use one of the company's available software development kits to include maps in their applications. Jeff Barr, chief evangelist for AWS, demonstrated setting up the service in a blog post.

Amazon touts the service for various applications, ranging from geomarketing to asset tracking and delivery. For example, a coffee shop could alert the staff when a customer who ordered on a mobile app is nearby.

Food delivery services could use geofencing to let restaurants know when a driver is approaching, reducing delivery times and ensuring food stays fresh, the company added. Amazon will release a routing API during the preview period to support delivery and other transportation use cases, said Barr.

Amazon will offer a free three-month trial, allowing developers to query the service up to predefined thresholds. After that, it will charge based on use. Customers can pay based on the number of requests made or by the asset if they're using it for asset tracking and management.

This isn't Amazon's initial foray into mapping services. The company announced a Maps API in 2012 as an alternative to Google's maps API for Android developers working on Kindle Fire apps. That service, which used Nokia's mapping data, is still available.

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