The final frontier (part 3 of the Dynamic Tiling saga)

Previously I spoke about the Dynamic Tile Service and how it creates tile images in real-time; its ability to easily create custom styles and colours for maps; and, its ability to tile point and polygon data sets.

In this post I will be talking about how the Dynamic Tile Service can further solve Big Data problems by allowing users to view thousands of interactive features such as pop-ups showing point detail instantly when the browser loads using the UTFGrid JSON web service.

As we have previously stated, viewing Big Data on a map brings a unique set of challenges to web based applications as browsers cannot process massive data sets all at once, instantly. This leaves users waiting for information to load and is probably contributing to the bounce rate of many web-based map applications.

Traditional issues with Big Data and web browsers

Traditional issues with Big DataThe UTFGrid specification aims to solve this problem by breaking up large data sets into super compressed chunks of JSON data that accompany map image tiles as they are downloaded.

This speeds up processing time as web browsers are much better at processing lots of little chunks of data than one massive one. Sort of like cutting up your food before eating it rather than shoving it all in your mouth and trying to chew.

UTFGrid solution transmitting feature data in chunks

UTFGrid Solution transmitting feature data in chunks

How UTFGrid works under the hood

UTFGrid is a super compressed JSON data format used to pack thousands of interactive features such as descriptive pop-ups and details of your point and polygon data sets, into a service response that accompanies a 256px/256px map tile. The UTFGrid specification is open source and can be found on GitHub.

Under the hood UTFGrids actually look a little like ASCII art version of the corresponding map tile.

Under the hood

The UTFGrid specification is an attempt to solve the problem of older browsers struggling to process large amounts of vector data. UTFGrid’s solution to this problem is to rasterize polygons and points into JSON as a grid of text characters.

Each feature is referenced by a distinct character in the grid and associated to JSON metadata, such as pop-up details, by its character code. As a result, UTFGrids are a great way of delivering a large number of super-fast map pop-up and detail pages to browsers – both old and new.

Pop-ups diagram

We are excited about the Dynamic Tile Service’s ability to solve problems with styling, Big Data, and performance.

That’s everything so far on this service, but expect to hear more about it in future posts as well as a potential demo of the technology in action soon.

Over and out – let me know your feedback on Dynamic Tiling.

Matt B