For the person too proud to ask for directions when lost, online mapping services or global-positioning systems serve as a 24-hour safety net.

Online mapping, or direction, services can provide everything from a high-resolution aerial view of a specific location, to locating the best gasoline prices in an area unknown to the driver.

Cherokee County 911 Coordinator Marty Kimble said area residents will find accurate online mapping directions for all of Cherokee County on the service provider known as Bing maps, which is provided by the Microsoft network.

“The best website would probably be Bing maps because they use our data,” he said. “Their satellite imagery has what they call a bird’s-eye view, and that bird’s-eye view is actually pictometry imagery. Now pictometry does flyovers, not satellite imagery, and it’s taken with some high-resolution cameras from the north, south, east, and west so that you’re not only getting an overhead, but it’s a five-directional [image].”

Pictometry is an aerial image that also shows the fronts and sides of buildings and locations on the ground. The images are gathered by low-flying airplanes using high-resolution cameras that will produce picture images depicting up to 12 oblique perspectives per shot from a 40-45 degree angle, as well as overhead view of every location flown.

Kimble said a Cherokee County consortium shares in the cost of gathering the pictometry images used in mapping the area.

“They fly every other year,” he said. “I know the [county tax] assessors use it a lot. Instead of driving out to the location and have a large number of personnel and vehicles to drive up to it, they use it to look at it and see if somebody’s built a new structure to adjust property taxes. Pictometry flew the county, they told me this, and sold that to Bing maps. The city of Tahlequah is the point of contact. The Cherokee Nation has it, I think. We use it. There’s like six [entities involved], but we all pay a share to get those images of Cherokee County.”

According to an online tourism and travel review on the use of Bing maps, the service offers an easy-to-read layout and color scheme, including use of landmarks as navigational tips. The one negative noted was streetside views are not yet available for many locations.

“We like the bird’s-eye view because you can see the side of the house,” said Kimble. “You can see what color the building is. As far as we are concerned, we like that feature best.”

Other features Bing maps offers include travel directions for driving, walking or transit situations, while providing current traffic reports. Users of the site also have access to topographically-shaded street maps for many cities worldwide. These maps include certain points of interest built-in, such as metro-transit stations, stadiums, hospitals, and other facilities. Another well-known and long-standing online-travel direction service provider is MapQuest, which has been on the World Wide Web since 1996.

MapQuest is described as the standard-bearer of online driving directions, which can be received by a simple process of entering a starting and ending address. The service is provided by America Online Inc., and offers some street-level details and/or driving directions for a variety of countries.

As far as global-positioning units, or GPS units, go, Kimble said the county 911 service does not use a GPS unit for determining routes for police, fire or medical emergency personnel. Maps used are produced by a section-line grid system.

“The regional point of addressing begins in the very northwest corner of Cherokee County,” he said.

Though GPS units are not used, Kimble said a project is under way to develop something similar.

“Currently we’re installing some new servers and new dispatch machines,” he said. “We expect them to add this pictometry program. It’s a large amount of data, so we’ve added a second hard drive into those machines. Our dispatchers will use that pictometry as satellite imagery. Currently, if a call comes in, automatically it will show on our auto-cad map. If we click on the call, it’ll pull up and show it on the map. We’re going to have it tied to pictometry so it will automatically produce an aerial picture of [the call area].”

According to online reviews on GPS systems, Garmin products are given an overall four-star rating for dimensions of the unit, navigational features, ease of use and tech support. The most popular Garmin model is the Nuvi 3790LMT. The TomTom Go 2535 TMWTE was given a three-and-a-half star rating, while the Magellan Roadmate 3055-MU received a three-star rating.

Manufacturers offer slightly different features. Variations customers use to determine which unit best meets their budget include screen size, provision of live-traffic alerts, maps, bluetooth capability, text-to-speech directions and other unique features.

Magellan offers a one-touch interface for single-tap access to favorite locations or stored searches.

TomTom’s IQRoutes is a routing feature that uses historical traffic information in combination with community-based map updates. Garmin’s newest Nuvi 3790 unit has an ultra-slim case with a multi-touch, high-resolution glass screen that provides 3D building and terrain views.

According to the Daily Press online poll regarding travel-direction sources, 29 percent, or 56 voters, use Google maps; while 23 percent, or 45 voters, use MapQuest. Seventeen percent, 33 voters, reported using a road map or atlas, while 14 percent, 27 voters, indicated using a smartphone app or other online services for directions. Thirteen percent, 24 voters, reported use of a GPS unit, and four percent, 7 voters, said none of the above.

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