Friday, October 7, 2016

Filtering mapped data by location

When visualising location related statistics on thematic maps – be it the median age of residents, their incomes or expenditure, house price values, or any other statistical information - one of the biggest challenges is how to limit what is displayed on that map to only a specific region of interest, such as a sales territory or similar user-defined geographic area. The updated Thematic Mapper functionality will make such a task a breeze.

This blog post is just another teaser for the upcoming release of the Thematic Mapper app and its purpose is to show off some of the advanced and truly unique in-map analytics functionality that will soon be delivered into the hands of MapDeck users.
Take this very common scenario which demonstrates Thematic Mapper’s distinctive capability: a user/researcher has statistical data covering a whole country but what is needed is only a summary report that profiles a specific geographic region. This area could be an individual sales or franchise territory, an economic region, local government area, or even a single postcode or suburb.

Filtering data on online maps in real-time by location of interest is not an easy task because of the limitations of current online map publishing technologies which require data and map styles to be pre-configured in advance by a publisher. This process cannot be left to individual users.

So, the traditional approach is to cut data into specified geographic areas as the first step in the publishing process and then to use only each subset of data for analysis and for display on the maps.

This is a very time consuming and inefficient process, especially if you have to analyse and publish a few dozens or more area profiles. Not to mention that the process has to be repeated for each user that requires a different set of custom areas (such as sales or franchise territories that each business defines differently). This is the reason why to date  the access to customised spatial information has been so difficult and expensive. 

What the user really needs is the ability to easily “hide” the boundaries outside of the area of interest (that is, mask those with irrelevant data) and to limit the statistical calculations to only a selected subset of data.

Thematic Mapper does this all effortlessly and on-the-fly. Like in the following example, where postal areas have been clipped to a custom geographic region, defined as “Greater Sydney”, and then joined with postal area data from the ABS’ Basic Community Profile 2011 and from the Household Expenditure Survey 2009.

In-map analytics with MapDeck's Thematic Mapper

The resulting map highlights where the largest sub-markets within the Greater Sydney region are and what the total estimated size of that entire regional market is, in dollar terms per annum.

This is yet another example of the power of Thematic Mapper, a truly personalised in-map analytics solution. Sign up to for a free test run of Thematic Mapper when it is released.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Bringing the power of in-map analytics to all

The upcoming release of MapDeck’s Thematic Mapper app will make it very easy for anybody to visualise and analyse information on maps. 

We've included below just a teaser to highlight Thematic Mapper’s unique capabilities and to demonstrate the power of a new, totally personalised approach to online mapping.

Like, for example, on-the-fly polygon colouring – in this case, 70,440 residential mesh blocks in NSW by Statistical Area Level 2 region, to highlight actual distribution of housing within each boundary:

ABS Mesh Blocks 2016 coloured by SA2 areas

Or area profiling – in this case, colouring mesh blocks according to land use category and calculating total area of each category:

ABS Mesh Blocks 2016 coloured by land use category

Imagine the possibilities...

Friday, September 23, 2016

ABS releases Postal Areas 2016

Australian Bureau of Statistics has just released a new version of Postal Area boundaries as part of the 2016 update of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS).

As the ABS explains, a postcode is a four digit number used by Australia Post to assist with mail delivery. Australia Post does not currently define geographic boundaries for postcodes. However, a number of organisations, including MapDeck, have created geographic boundaries that aim to define the geographic extent of the mail delivery area for each postcode.

Defining postcodes with a geographic boundary is an imprecise process, and this is demonstrated by the fact that there are variations in the boundaries released by different organisations. Additionally, postcodes cover most, but not all, of Australia; for example, western Tasmania is not covered by a postcode.

ABS Postal Areas 2016 coverage

Postal Areas (abbreviated as POAs) are an ABS approximation of Australia Post postcodes and are created to enable the release of ABS data on areas that, as closely as possible, approximate postcodes. This enables the comparison of ABS data with other data collected using postcodes as the geographic reference.

Postal Areas are approximated using one or more Mesh Blocks (MBs) from the 2016 edition of  the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS). This is a different approach than in 2011 where Postal Areas were built from much coarser Statistical Area Level 1 (SA1) boundaries and had a less accurate representation of actual postcodes.

In developing Postal Areas, each Mesh Block is allocated to a single Australia Post postcode. Postal Areas derived in this way only approximate postcode boundaries. Mesh Block allocations are based on the distribution of the estimated population within each Mesh Block, not on the total polygon area. These allocations have been determined using the best available information on postcode boundaries.

For the 2016 ASGS 2,670 Postal Areas have been defined. The codes used for the 2016 Postal Areas may not match those used in 2011 in some instances. Changes to codes occur where Australia Post abolished postcodes or changed codes between editions of the ASGS.

Map comparing POA 2011 (red) with POA 2016 (blue) boundaries

Some Australia Post postcodes are not included in the Postal Area classification. This occurs when no Mesh Block can be allocated to a particular postcode. There are two situations when this occurs where:
  • a Mesh Block covers more than one whole postcode, the Mesh Block can be allocated to only one postcode
  • more than one Mesh Block partially covers a postcode, but all the Mesh Blocks are allocated to other postcodes, based on the share of population with which they also share area.

Postal Areas exclude Australia Post postcodes that are not street delivery areas. These include post office boxes, mail-back competitions, large volume receivers and specialist delivery postcodes. These postcodes are only valid for postal addresses and are not a valid location for population data.

It should be noted that there are instances where postcodes cross state or territory boundaries.

Unlike MapDeck’s Postcodes 2016 dataset that references only officially gazetted localities, ABS’ Postal Areas are defined to cover the whole of geographic Australia without gaps.

Similarly to all versions of Australian postcode boundaries available on MapDeck, Postal Areas, Australia 2016 are free for use by all subscribers.

Related Posts:
Australian Postcodes Map 2016
Australian postcode boundaries 2016
Explaining holes in Postcodes 2016 coverage

Monday, September 19, 2016

In-map Analytics

Maps are not just pretty pictures - they are data and information visualisation tools that bring out hidden or not so obvious facts about locations of interest.

This one shows where 450,000 jobs are physically located in the City of Melbourne.

City of Melbourne - Employment Distribution 2015

Such information is just trivia for most people but it is an invaluable insight for a business trying to reach this market. Think in terms of finding the best location for a billboard advertisement, strategic parking of company trucks for maximum brand exposure to the largest possible audience, or identifying the best location for opening up a new cafe, etc. 

The ability to mix and filter non-spatial data in real time has been a basic feature of business intelligence software and data visualisation dashboards for many years now. However, the same functionality is very difficult to implement in mapping applications due to the complexities involved in real time merging of spatial data and the information that can be attributed to it.

Traditional online mapping software simply does not allow individual users to select their own data, and create and style maps dynamically to their liking in real time. So there is always a data publisher or administrator involved who decides what can be mapped and how. Needless to say, this uses up valuable time and adds additional costs to the process.

But the age of personalised online mapping, where users select the data then filter it and style however they want, is just around the corner! The upcoming upgrade to MapDeck’s Thematic Mapper app will put into your hands a very powerful, personalised, in-map analytical tool.

City of Melbourne - buildings constructed before 1950.

In the example above, the building footprints (spatial features) and the attribute information (such as the year of construction, building height, number of floors, total area, number of occupants, etc.) come from a different source. Yet, both can be merged easily using standard Thematic Mapper functionality and filtered to show only a required subset of information. And the resulting map can be styled to user liking. No data publishers or administrators are involved in this process.

More announcements are coming soon, stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In Focus: 2016 Australian Statistical Boundaries

The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) defines the boundaries, and respective relationships, of regions in Australia which the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and many other organisations use to collect, analyse and publish geographically classified statistics. 

To name a few examples, such statistics include Census-derived demographic and dwelling data, future population projections, labour force data and building approval rates.  

ASGS Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas, July 2016 has just been released by the ABS. It deals with the ASGS core structures, such as Mesh Blocks and Statistical Area Levels 1 to 4, and the Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (GCCSA).

The 2016 ASGS boundaries will be used for the publication of the 2016 Census of Population and Housing data and progressively introduced into other ABS data collections.

This is the second edition of the ASGS and it updates the 2011 edition for growth and change in Australia's population, economy and infrastructure. It also incorporates the Territory of Norfolk Island for the first time. Volumes 2 to 5 of statistical geography will be released progressively over 2016 through to 2018.

All boundaries from Volume 1 of 2016 ASGS have been published on MapDeck and complement the previously released 2011 data.

2016 Mesh Blocks on Statistical Area Level 2 boundaries

Correspondence files, describing the relationship between the 2011 and 2016 versions of the boundary data, will be added shortly to coincide with the upcoming upgrade of the Thematic Mapper app. These reference files can be used to recalculate 2011 Census statistics to present them on 2016 version of boundaries. Stay tuned for the updates.

Monday, July 18, 2016

In Focus: DigitalGlobe Recent Imagery Basemap

Curated, high-resolution images for nearly anywhere on Earth, captured by DigitalGlobe's constellation of satellites and published as a single map layer.

DigitalGlobe Recent Imagery Basemap is a compilation of the best satellite images from the DigitalGlobe Image Library. Individual scenes are colour-balanced so the mosaic gives the impression of a single, continuous depiction of the Earth's surface.

Mosaic of DigitalGlobe satellite images

The resolution of the images in this collection is between 30 cm to 60 cm per pixel. That is, the images capture significant surface area details.

The acquisition dates of the individual pictures vary throughout the world. For example, there are wide parcels of landmass captured in 2015 - mainly in the US and Europe, but the majority of the images date back to 2012-2014 or earlier (see DigitalGlobe’s web site for detailed information on vintage and resolution).

MapDeck users have instant and free access to DigitalGlobe Recent Imagery Basemap, as well as the Hybrid Layer, Street Overlays, Terrain map and Streets map.

Please note that personal versions of Digital Globe’s web services can also be set up on MapDeck using the Map Layers Manager app . Therefore, MapDeck users are not restricted to only publicly available satellite images but can utilise other image layers bought directly from Digital Globe.

DigitalGlobe Recent Imagery Basemap at close zoom

DigitalGlobe Recent Imagery is best for:
  • as an all-purpose image overlay;
  • as an image backdrop for transparent point-and-line layers, like streets or topographic overlays;
  • for a plethora of on-the-ground situation awareness applications (like, for example, property condition assessment, access or parcel boundaries inspections, determination of existence of structures, pools or solar panels on rooftops, vegetation distribution assessment, etc.) but the date of acquisition of the images in a particular location should be taken into account.

DigitalGlobe Recent Imagery Basemap is a perfect alternative to Google or Bing image and hybrid layers, and it can be personalised with a whole range of free data available on the MapDeck's platform.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

In Focus: OpenStreetMap Standard base map

Content, composition and timeliness of information make OpenStreetMap (OSM) the ultimate benchmark for all the online maps.

There is a whole range of base maps available for import into MapDeck apps. These maps can be used as the backdrop image for presentation of other spatially reference information. Selecting the right base map for this purpose may pose a challenge to the user due to the variety of options available so, in this series of “In Focus” posts, we are introducing the most popular alternatives to make your job easier.

OpenStreetMap Standard map is one of these alternatives. It contains information contributed by members of the public as well as official government data. The level of detail depicted on the map tends to be very high. The map covers the entire world and is continuously updated. 

OpenStreetMap Standard at medium zoom
Although data quality varies worldwide, it is fair to say that OSM surpasses content and timeliness of any other map. The cartographic presentation of the information is also very refined. This feature-rich base map is a default option on MapDeck.

OpenStreetMap Standard at close zoom

OSM Standard map is best for:
  • as a background for point or line data (e.g. routes) but it is generally too busy and too colourful for thematic content (e.g. choropleth maps);
  • showing small area details.

OSM is a precious public resource that underpins the operations of millions of organisations and businesses of all sizes, facilitating billions of dollars in economic activity throughout the world. We are writing about this map only in superlatives but the value of OpenStreetMap deserves to be fully acknowledged.