In a world of GPS, it's no surprise that online mapping tools are growing in popularity to cater to those of us who have yet to invest in the trendy devices. Step aside MapQuest and Google Maps and make room for interactive, niche mapping directories that cater to your every whim and help you get there.
2Itch.com knows that not everyone functions on the typical nine-to-five schedule; but that doesn't mean they don't have errands to run or things to buy. Their mapping tool is simple to use; first, you select the category of business you're looking for from the list of the following: restaurant, grocery, bar and club, store, hospital and clinics, service, pharmacy, animal care, other, food and fuel, activity, drive thru, café and delis, or casino. When making your category selections, like me, you will need to look past the unsophisticated grammar; ignoring the fact that there are major inconsistencies in the use of plurals. But hey, we're talking about mapping, so the grammar police can put a lid on it.
Once categories have been selected, 2Itch requires that you enter an address, city, zip code in the dictated field or click on the map. Results that appear in the left scrollbar seem dominated by Walmart Super Centers and Walgreens locations, but once you find the 24-hour place you're looking for, you simply click on its name to display full address and contact information on the map and receive comprehensive driving directions.
Eatbite.com puts an interesting spin on online mapping tools, allowing users to search for eating establishments based on their food cravings. While in concept, this is a great idea; I mean who wouldn't want to know what local restaurant serves Chinese fried chicken, it could use some work in its execution. The website isn't anything spectacular to look at, and I could put that aside if only its functionality met expectations.
Eatbite.com is admittedly easy to use, all you need to do is select the distance you're willing to travel to satisfy your food craving, enter the name of a city or zip code, select the amount you're willing to dish out (which is loosely categorized based on one, two or three dollar signs, signifying just how much the meal will drain your bank account) and the name of the food you're looking for. As you type, categories appear for you to select from. For example, when I typed in Sushi, searching for restaurants in NYC, the following options appeared: fresh sushi, sushi sashimi combo, sushi bar and sushi. The problem I have with this, is for many food options, the selections are too compartmentalized which limits the search results displayed and requires a great deal of effort. I was also a little disappointed, that after clicking though each of the sushi options, they all displayed results for the very same restaurant.
I think that part of Eatbite's short comings are a result of the fact that it is a user driven site, requiring opinion based categorization and tagging when contributors post pictures and contact information for the restaurants. The site works better if you simply click on the general category items that appear at the bottom of the page, which allow you to browse restaurants by city landmark or type of fare served, which defeats the purpose of the unique idea. I also can't help but be disappointed that while the address and location is displayed for every restaurant, there is no option to get directions from the site.
Citysense, a nightlife mapping and GPS tool on the other hand, is pretty impressive. Available primarily through web access from a mobile phone, Citysense not only shows you where to find local nightlife, the application also delivers live data about the activity happening at each of the hot spots. No one likes to show up at a club only to find out that it's empty, so before you even begin to make plans, you can use their services to determine whether or not it's even a good night to go out. Citysense will tell you how busy the city of your choice is, when compared to the average night, based on percentage data. You can also find out just how busy each club in the area is at any given time, that way you can either avoid the crowds or meet them by choosing a nightlife activity based on the numbers present. Citysense will also show you what's happening at the top clubs, as rated by Google, so you can pick and choose based on events taking place, and also uses a GPS enhanced tool that allows you to click "Locate Me" so that the top 5 places close to where you are can be displayed.
Citysense is currently undergoing a trial period since its first release. It's the first business of this type using the technology already available to analyze retail trends to enhance the nightlife experience. It's looking for feedback based on its current services, and plans to expand the functionality so that it offers more personalized features. Citysense plans to look at the places each of its users like to go, so that recommendations can be made based on their interests and nightlife habits. Naturally this service is a little more for the technically inclined; since it requires cell phone usage, but it's definitely a cutting edge tool available in the mapping industry.
Want to learn more about current trends in GPS and mapping technologies? Read about the iGolf GPS System, or simple GPS homing devices that make sure you don't lose your car in busy parking lots.