Online applications for AS/400 can help expand your knowledge and make your job easier. Consider the ability to...
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incorporate maps into your Web applications. How many times have you thought about using an onsite map to drive traffic to your company's location(s)? What if you could personalize the experience to indicate users' locations and show them how to navigate to you? That way you could increase your presence with geocoding and mapping tools and offer personalization to your customers.
MapQuest, Google and Yahoo's APIs offer services that can bring out your lazy programming skills. They have features like the one that puts pins in your map to highlight specific locations and uses a different colored pin to represent your company and the customer's current location – adding a "you are here" component, so to speak.
Both online API choices offer geocoding, which is the ability to turn an address into a specific map location. This is very important, since asking your customers for their latitude and longitude could prove difficult.
Let's outline this application so you can get a better idea of what it has to offer. For example, you have a customer who's looking for your closest location to him. First, you have to geocode all addresses that are going to be displayed on the map (as described earlier). Second, you need to calculate the distance between your address and the customer's address, either by writing your own routine or using the built-in tools.
Note that this form of calculation uses a straight line between the two points. If you need additional instruction, the formulas and tools are very well documented on the Web. Remember, this isn't the exact mileage. In areas with many one-way roads, customers could be located within a few hundred yards but may still need to travel farther than that to get to you. Use "about" when describing distance to customers -- as in, "The store is about five miles from your location."
Once this is laid out (and your customer service personnel have been prepped), you can also sort the output for the customer by those calculated miles. Once that's complete, as a finale, you can have your representative or customers (over the Web!) click the location (the pin on the map) and see directions appear in the same window or in a new one.
Online geocoding applications contain a wealth of other features, such as the ability to show satellite imagery, which can give customers a different view of the area they are trying to navigate. In my company's case, our central call center is using geocoding to accurately describe areas that the representatives may not be familiar with. You can limit the satellite display within your application using the setup tools.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrew Borts is webmaster at United Auto Insurance Group in North Miami, Fla. He is a frequent speaker at Common and is past president of The Southern National Users Group, an iSeries-AS/400 user group based in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
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