Seznam.cz launches Windy Maps

A new phone app has travel tips and info and can work offline

A new smartphone app aimed at hikers, cyclists, and other tourists has been launched by Czech internet firm Seznam.cz. The app, called Windy Maps, covers the whole world.

One of its main advantages is that it can function offline, as signals in the rural areas and parks are often very weak. Maps can be downloaded in advance, and are vectored so as to not take up a lot of space in the phone's storage. For the Czech Republic, the different regions can be downloaded separately to conserve space.

The detailed maps offer travelers information about their chosen location. Even with no internet, users can still find the closest bus stop, see when the next bus leaves, find a store or hotel or plan a biking trip in the nearby mountains. The app does not contain full bus schedules or routes, just the departure times in the different directions.

Other options to explore on the map include finding restaurants, ATMs, playgrounds, pharmacies, cinemas, theaters, and supermarkets.

For travel between two places, the app can plan a walking, biking or car route, and give an estimated time. You can choose between a mountain bike or a road bike, or for cars, you can opt for the fastest or shortest routes and also opt to avoid toll roads. Windy Maps can also help with live navigation on foot, by bike, or by car. Navigation works offline with downloaded maps.

While the app is available now, new functionality is still being added to it.

When online, you can share photos to the app so other people can see what the destination looks like. The photos sent are checked by Seznam.cz to make sure they are relevant.

Most of the functions have been designed to be easy to use with one hand, so, for example, people won't have to fumble with the phone outside in the winter.

Windy Maps is based on Open Street Map (OSM) data, and additional information sources such as Wikipedia, open data on public transport, and data from private companies.

In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Seznam.cz uses its own map data and information on restaurants, companies, public transport stops and other points of interest. Seznam.cz has run its own online map portal called Mapy.cz since 1998, and has been building its own database for the last nearly 20 years. Desktop maps by Seznam.cz are used by about 500,000 people every day and 3.5 million people every month, or nearly the half the online Czech population.

The online version of Mapy.cz has also added new functions recently such as highly detailed 3D views that can be rotated, and panoramic views of hiking trails. Some rival services offer street-level photographic views of roads, made by cars with a special camera array. Seznam.cz goes a step further and has a backpack with a camera array carried by hikers on trails. For example, paths inside of Prague Zoo are covered, as are several trails in the city's larger parks and forests, and some trails in forests and on mountains across the country.

Seznam.cz has also offered a mobile phone map app for Mapy.cz for nearly six years. It is the most popular app for maps in the Czech Republic, used by about 200,000 people every day with more than 1.2 million active users. Windy Maps offers many more functions than Mapy.cz.

The Windy Maps app is available for free for Android and iOS at Google Play Store and the AppStore in English for now, with other languages to follow soon.

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