Visualising data on a map

, posted: 28-Dec-2010 18:34

Mapping data geospatially was the title I was going with originally - what I've gone with is the layman's way of describing this post.

It was at a training day for the Auckland SQL group (a group of SQL Server geeks) earlier this year that I realised how few developers knew what geospatial mapping was, meaning the decision makers in their businesses hadn't seen or didn't know about the vast benefits it can bring.  If you work with any data that involves addresses, you need to start mapping that data geospatially.

If you were given a list of addresses to visit, most people who pull out a map book to work out the best route; unless you were completely familiar with the addresses already, this is the easiest way to figure out a route.  Likewise, if you were trying to figure out the most central point to meet, a map would be very helpful.

Mapping data geospatially is taking addresses, converting them to their latitude/longitude, and then using them to achieve your outcome, whether it is putting them on a map, or calculating the distance between them (to name two very basic applications).

In June (yes I'm quick, I know), I posted a topic about the best places to eat, with the idea that this would give me data to help illustrate this post.  I took all the posts, geocoded the addresses (translated them into co-ordinates), and saved them to a database.  A screenshot of the list is below:

As a raw list, if you are looking for a place to eat, it's quite hard to determine anything.  If all these points are put on a map it becomes much easier (view live map):

Mapping provided by Geosmart (subsidiary of the AA), who also do maps for Navman and Tomtom GPS navigation units.

This is only a very basic application, to take this every further I could:

  • Allow you to enter an address and then show you the nearest food places and the distances to them (with driving directions).
  • List the food places based on the geographical location (rather than the random order they are currently in)
  • Give each different food place a different icon depending on it's type (so a coffee cup for cafes, a beer for pubs etc)
  • Figure out the most optimum way to visit a group of food places using Geosmart's clever routing engine (Route2GO optimisation).

Geospatially mapping makes visualising your geographical data much easier, and some of the savings that can be made, especially for delivery based industries (by using route optimisation) can be quite significant.

If you have any food places you want to add, please visit here and add your own.  Once I've checked it (and to prevent spam) it'll appear on the live list here.

My thanks to Geekzone users Antzzz, BurningBeard, coffeebaron, Ezzie, garvani, gehenna, jofizz, Lias, michaelmurfy, muppet, nickd, NonprayingMantis, oxnsox, rscole86, sarg, snonoz, timbosan, tomgeeknz, vinnieg, and xpd for their submissions.

Blatant self promotion: if you want to implement this or see what else is possible, contact 3Bit as we are certified Geosmart developers.

Other related posts:
eWay response codes as a file
Fixing strange characters printing on Epson receipt printers
Extending Xero through their API

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I'm Nate Dunn, and I work for 3Bit, own Tuihana Cafe, and am a moderator here at Geekzone.

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