The benefits of vector tiles for Big Data

There is an ever-increasing need for companies to create a wide variety of web and mobile-based mapping applications – from simple store locators to complex visualisation applications.

Today, we are going to discuss how vector tiles can help address the challenge of mapping Big Data over the web and on mobile devices.

Weapons of mass consumption

In today’s society we have a massive appetite for information, and we want to be able to consume it on-the-go via our laptops, smartphones and tablets.

Mapping is no different. Maps are becoming more detailed, and the need to visualise complex data sets on these maps is becoming critical to businesses who want to gain location-based insights.

Houston, we have a problem

But map data consumption poses no problem now, right? The internet is a lot faster these days and my smartphone is basically a super computer in my pocket.

Not so fast…

The current solutions both have limitations that have not been addressed. Let’s look at these:

Vector data: The size of the data required to process complex maps is just too large to be consumed over the internet in a timely manner. The data complexity has moved beyond the capability of the solution.

Raster tiles: These were originally introduced to address the size and rendering issues with vector data. Maps are created by joining dozens of individually requested image files (tiles) together to form a map.

It is currently the most popular way to display and navigate maps and has been the go-to solution for many years; however, as these are static images they don’t provide features that today’s consumers demand.

This is about to change with the advent of vector tiles.

The new horizon

Vector tiles are like the offspring of the perfect marriage of vector data and raster tiles – providing an ideal solution for delivering styled maps over the web.

Vector tiles are packets of geographic data, sent as bite-sized chunks. Unlike raster tiled web maps, the server returns vector data rather than an image file.

There are several benefits of this hybrid approach:

  • Data transfer is significantly reduced
  • Styling – such as colours and fonts – can be applied at the browser
  • Cool effects like rotation and movement are also availableAs we discussed, the current solutions for visualising complex data sets on web and mobile apps are far from ideal as they don’t address the features and consumption needs of today’s users.

So are vector tiles the solution to creating complex visualisations for the web and mobile? Yep. Big Data – no longer a big problem!

Data visualisation using HERE data and mapping tools

As the saying goes – a picture says a thousand words

Because of the way the human brain works, it’s much easier for people to understand data represented in a chart or on a graph rather than hidden away in spreadsheets or reports. Data visualisation is key to making data analytics approachable and conveying analysis results effectively.

In its raw form, data can be essentially meaningless. Without the ability to compare and contrast, highlight trends and predict outcomes, the value of data remains trapped. By taking raw datasets and representing them in a visual format, analysts can unlock a wealth of insights and gain a greater understanding of any situation.

Combining the latest visualisation technologies with the huge amounts of data available from companies like HERE – a leader in mapping, navigation and location experiences – allows you to present your data on striking, interactive maps that are not only informative, but also highly engaging.

HERE collect data from a variety of internet connected devices – enabling the analysis of variables such as traffic flow, road closures and breakdowns. Your organisation can source this data from HERE, eliminating the need to go to the expense and effort of collecting it yourself.

Having a reliable and respected third party undertaking data collection on your behalf frees your organisation to simply choose the most relevant information and concentrate on delivering your operational objectives.

And importantly for stakeholder peace of mind, HERE does not collect or store any personal information, ensuring there are no privacy breaches to an individual.

One interesting example that demonstrates the capability of data visualisation tools is an initiative between HERE and a smart mapping platform called LivingCities.

This visualisation displays traffic density fluctuations, key locations and other city-specific visual data captured by HERE. Almost immediately, you are able to identify trends and patterns, which can then be analysed to better plan and manage traffic conditions at peak periods.

This basic example highlights what can be produced when you combine the power of visualisation tools and data collected by HERE.

The possibilities are endless for your organisation – all you need to do is start viewing your data in a new way.

The best bits from Ozri 2015

This year’s Australian Esri User Conference – Ozri 2015 was another huge success. We are proud to be part of such an outstanding event which brings together mapping and spatial professionals from all over the country. We hope you enjoyed the 3-day action-packed program as much as we did.

Committed to powering your next big idea with premium content we took advantage of the conference to launch exciting new applications and deliver helpful demonstrations.

But if you’ve missed out on Ozri 2015 – don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Find a summary of the best bits below.

MapData Services @ Ozri 2015Hot off the press

One of the new MDS Profiles showcased at the conference was the Australian hospital dataset.

Australian hospitals vary widely in the types of specialties and services they offer – some are public, some are private, some have emergency departments and some are open 24 hours.

This new database consolidates a wealth of information including opening hours, specialties – such as maternity and rehabilitation – and latitude and longitude coordinates.

This powerful dataset can provide real value to any number of organisations – from planning to real estate to community profiling.

MapData Services @ Ozri 2015

Enhanced geo-demographic data

Announced at Ozri, we will soon be releasing the latest updated geo-demographic MDS Profiles – including Spend, Daytime Population, People and Household Net Worth datasets.

But that’s not all. We are also working on releasing a new MDS Profile – Segmented Daytime Population.

This dataset shows a profile of a population in a specific area during the day, categorising and counting all of the people within each profile group. This means you are able to pinpoint clusters of each profile type, including wealth hotspots – a great advantage when targeting your marketing efforts.

MapData Services @ Ozri 2015Some more innovative solutions…

A number of our latest products created a stir at Ozri’s ArcLab, including…

  • HERE Location Platform – Global map of real-time location and traffic information platform
  • Earthmine – Digital 3D maps and imagery
  • CitySourced – Location based crowd sourcing technology
  • Visitor Analytics – Insights into the trends and patterns within the physical spaces around us. Make decisions to positively impact your business goals.

At MapData Services, we do more with maps and data than anyone thought possible. We are a leading provider of authoritative data and intelligent mapping solutions – you can trust us to deliver premium content to power your next big idea.

How are you powering your next big idea?

Place/Suggest in Action

After previously talking about our place/suggest service and what it can do, we received requests to actually see something in action. What better way to understand! So we’ve put this demo together for you.

What does place/suggest do?

What we have is a demo where you start typing your location and based on the information provided you are given suggestions to choose from. Simple really. What you can do with these suggestions, however, can range from zooming to the address as this demo does, to much more complicated actions – believe me.


So you see there are options to search by address, suburb/postcode or fast food. Choose one of these buttons and start typing in the input box (it’s okay, go and find your address… I’ll wait)

Once you select one of the options the map will zoom to that location and place a marker on the point.

What about your data?

Do you want to be able to search across something other than addresses or suburbs/postcodes? Do you have your own data to use? If you have data with a text field to search we can search and suggest it.

Suggesting addresses is an easy and quick way for users to find locations. This search can always be customised by using your own data.



Easy Map Visualisation

There are some really cool and easy visualisations you can do with different online mapping platforms now available.

ArcGIS Online Smart Mapping

ArcGIS Online has recently included new functionality to easily create an interesting visualisation from your data. The new Smart Mapping option helps you to figure out the best way to display your data, taking into consideration what your data ranges are and the type of data that is in your table.

We have had a look at some spending data on Sunscreen. We wanted to see if there was a difference within an area on sunscreen spend, but weren’t sure how to easily show this. The data set used here is MDS Profiles – Spend.


The above image shows what happens when you initially load the layer onto the map. You can see the default colours and style.

However, it is now really easy to change this style to better show the story you are telling. By simply clicking a couple of buttons you can change the map to look like this:


You can even easily change from colours to symbol sizes so that you can easily see the base map information for reference.


The introduction of smart mapping in ArcGIS Online makes it really easy for anyone to style data. You no longer have to be a professional cartographer to make maps look good!Click below to learn more about Smart mapping:

Scott F

Making Map Movies

There are some really cool and easy visualisations you can do with different online mapping platforms currently available.

In previous posts we have linked to visualisations using the CartoDB Torque function to create some interesting maps. CartoDB Torque uses a time and date column in your table to animate your data.

This time we have used the torque function to visualise some local data for an area in Tweed Heads.

The moving dots on the map represent where people are travelling from. To create this we have taken: the MDS Profiles – Journey to Work data, which gives the location at an SA1 level of where people live and work; along with RoadNET Comprehensive for the routing component. We are then using a routable network to figure out the most likely route for a person to take.

The movement is not real-time, but exaggerated to show the areas people are travelling from to go to work in one area of Tweed Heads.

One you have the visualisation created, you can use screen capture software to easily turn your animation into a movie like the one above. Do you have temporal datasets that you can show off in the same manner?

Scott F

Building your Foundation Map tool kit

At MapData Services we’re constantly trying to expand the number of APIs and tools through which you can access our Foundation Map. Today I’m going to talk about using the Esri ArcGIS API for JavaScript to display the MDS Foundation Map.

The best place to start is to jump right into the MapData Services API documentation where you will find useful information on functionality, security and example code. We will be using the “Tile” API endpoint, I have included a screenshot to demonstrate how to navigate to this page.

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Indoor navigation, a new frontier…

Here at MapData Services we like to push the boundaries of spatial technology. An exciting area at the moment is indoor navigation and mapping. We’ve got a long history of developing online locators and trip planners for all sorts of different companies, now we’re starting to look at taking that experience one step further – not just guiding people to the door – but also inside the building.

Indoor Navigation

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