From GIS to Geospatial Intelligence

Technology advances in cycles. Moreover, the periods of evolution interleaved with revolutionary changes. And it seems that we are standing on the edge of the next revolutionary transition from experts-oriented GiS to Geospatial Intelligence solutions available for the much wider audience. The solutions which are easy to understand to a non-expert, easy to use, and affordable to small companies and individuals.

Geospatial intelligence brings more and more value to business intelligence products. As a result, the answer to the key question “where” start to play an extremely significant role by making business decisions.

Location Intelligence for business intelligence
Location Intelligence for business intelligence

Role of Geospatial Intelligence in our life

Imagine a holiday planning website where you can filter hotels by reachability. For example, visualize only hotels reachable within 10 minutes of walking from the beach or ski lift. Great, isn’t it?

Another case could be a property listing website. The website where you can choose a property with desired amenities nearby and optimize your commute time to the office or university. The website could help you, in addition, to find the best price-value ratio or investment potential based on your needs!

There are a lot of examples of geospatial intelligence appliance for business cases as well. For instance, an event planning service which takes an account of the living places of participants. Or office relocation website which suggests the best locations based on employees commute time and rental prices.

Good transport connection
Good transport connection

The increasing popularity of Geospatial solutions

Broad adoption of Geospatial intelligence can have an effect comparable to the transition from printed maps to digital maps. However, nowadays we can’t imagine our routine without smartphones and car navigation systems which guide us to the destination in an optimal way.

It is hard to believe, but just 15 to 20 years ago printed maps were the most common way to plan a route. Technologies like GPS, digital maps and computer-based routing were existing and moreover well-developed. But they were accessible only to experts, big organizations, and governments.

Geoapify mission to make geospatial intelligence affordable for everyone

At Geoapify, we see our mission in democratizing geospatial intelligence and underlying technologies. We intend to make it accessible, usable, and valuable for everyone who has unanswered “where” questions.

Our APIs provide everything you need to create a spatial solution from zero. Solution builder Mapifator helps to make custom maps with geospatial analytics technologies layers with graphical interface.

Administrative boundaries vs postcode boundaries

Maps are often used to visualize statistics. Demographical or socioeconomic data give a great overview of a location and allows to make conclusions about a territory. Often the data is shown are colored regions on the map which represent administrative boundaries or postcode boundaries.

What is the difference between the two types of boundaries?

OK, you have some data and would like to visualize it on a map inside regions. Firstly, you need to decide if you want to show it with administrative boundaries or postcode boundaries. Moreover, you think about how to combine/split up into bigger/smaller regions.

At the moment there are 2 common ways to break down a territory into regions:

  • by postcode or ZIP code boundaries;
  • by administrative boundaries.

For both cases, you need to keep in mind that a number of hierarchy levels may be different from country to country. Mixing the two options is also a bad idea, while then regions may intersect for some locations.

Postcode boundaries to visualize the data

So, you decided to visualize the data by postcode or ZIP code boundaries. This may be the simplest way to split the data by regions. But there are a few details you need to consider.

Firstly, you need to understand that postcodes are not translated into polygons in some standard way. Originally it’s service routes, which are represented as points or street sides. However, there approximated polygons for the post- or ZIP codes boundaries in most GIS data systems, but they may contain holes for some territories.

Secondly, don’t forget that in most cases postcode should go together with the country name. It could happen that locations in different counties have the same postcode. For example, the postcode 1204 could belong to Geneva, Switzerland or Dhaka, Bangladesh.

2 locations have the same postcode
Postcode 1204 is the same for Geneva, Switzerland and Dhaka, Bangladesh

Usually, postcode boundaries have 3-4 levels starting from a country level.

Administrative boundaries to visualize the data

This way to divide territories is more natural from the GIS point of view. The planet is already divided into administrative regions. It’s possible to combine the data by countries and event by continents.

The administrative division has 3-4 levels from county level depending on the size of the territory.

Drawing boundaries on a map and performance

It often happens that GIS data has big volumes. It may badly impact browser performance when you keep too many polygons data in memory. Following a simple strategy may decrease the risk and make data visualization fast:

  • Keep in memory only regions which are visible for a viewport and release memory for non-visible ones
  • To avoid having too many small polygons on the map, replace children polygons by a bigger parent polygon when the user zooms out
Lower to higher level of administrative boundaries
Lower to higher level of administrative boundaries
  • Use the level of details you need. Do not try to visualize the most detailed polygons

Where to get administrative or postcode boundaries polygons?

There are many ways to get the polygons data:

  • the data is open and available to download for some countries
  • GIS databases (e.g., OpenStreetMap data) contain boundaries polygons and you can query the data from there
  • use API and get update data when you need it

Geoapify offers APIs for administrative boundaries. Register and try it for free.

Travel time map or isochrone to make the right location decisions

Which areas can I reach from a city center within 30 min by public transport? Where can I drive from my home within 1 hour? Or in other words, how far can I go from a location within a certain amount of time? This is the questions a travel time map or isochrone answer.

An isochrone is a line (or multiple lines) on a map, which bounds all possible locations reachable from a location within a given time. For example, it could all the places you can get from your working place within 30 min.

Transportation Modes for travel time maps

You can build an isochrone for different transportation modes and different speed levels. For example, driving, bicycle, walking or public transport. An algorithm checks all possible roads and trails and checks public transport schedules to calculate an isochrone for you. As a result, you get a highlighted area on the map which visualizes all areas accessible from a location by chosen transportation.

The form of travel time maps for different modes could look completely different. For example, 45 minutes isochrones for Paris below have various size and form.

Paris 45 min isochrone
Paris: 45 min isochrones for transit, bicycle and foot transportation modes

Make a location decision with isochrones

Firstly, a travel time map visualizes how good is the connectivity of a place. In other words, it shows on the map if the place is easy to reach from different locations. Bigger the area of isochrone, the better connection it has. This might be useful when choosing a place for a new retail show or office.

Secondly, unions or intersections of isochrones could show hidden and often underrated spots on the map. So with an intersection, you can see areas reachable from multiple locations. This could be used when looking for a place with a good connection to multiple points of interest.

And unions show coverage for a location network. This could help to find a place for a new uncovered location to extend the retail network, for example.

Operations on travel time maps
Madrid: 30 min isochrones as well as its intersection and union

Isoline API from Geoapify

Geoapify offers Isoline API to build travel time maps and provide operations on them. We support drive, bicycle, walking modes as well as transit mode for public transport. You can perform geometry operations like intersection or union on pair or multiple isochrones.

Register and try the Isolines API now for free!