Magdalena Jackiewicz
Editorial Expert

14 use cases of geospatial data visualization

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Today, businesses can easily add context of time and location to traditional data and visualize them on maps. What’s great about it is the fact that data visualization helps businesses uncover patterns that were previously buried in spreadsheets. 

Geospatial data mapping yields maps with custom visualizations that make complex relationships or phenomena easier to understand. It highlights the physical connection between specific data points. Some can be used to demonstrate historical shifts, or, be used to make future predictions. 

In this article, I’m reviewing several excellent examples that illustrate how to visualize geospatial data in ways that can help businesses and organizations get more clarity on pressing issues and solve problems.  

1. Fraud detection and prevention systems

Fraud is a problem that affects different industries and fraudulent activities become increasingly sophisticated. This includes location-based services. Geospatial data visualization can help companies detect and prevent fraud. An excellent example of such data visualization usage was developed by Uber to discover driver fraud. 

A common scam involved using GPS spoofing apps. In the scheme, drivers would use two phones: one with a driver app and another with a passenger app with fake credit card details assigned to it. The scammer would accept a new ride from the fake account and pretend they would execute it through GPS spoofing apps installed on both phones.

The company has over 600 different red flags as warnings against scams. To better examine the issues, Uber used data visualization combined with machine learning to analyze riding patterns. They discovered that some of the rides were taking place at impossible altitudes, proving these were scams. 

2. Real-time road restriction display

The potential of geospatial data visualization in the transportation industry is vast. Custom map data layering can greatly enhance fleet performance and overall business efficiency. For one of our biggest logistics solutions providers in Europe and Asia, Trans.eu, we developed a custom mapping solution with a data layer that shows real-time road restrictions for freight forwarding. We aggregate our own database of real-time spatial information and create an enhanced view of possible routes for Trans’ clients.  

3. Business operations heatmapping

Overall, visualizing geospatial data gives organizations the tools needed to increase operational efficiency, positively impacting their bottom line. Operations heat mapping can be used by many industries and businesses to understand trends and specific aspects of their business. Instead of looking at numbers or spreadsheets, they can visualize the data using color shading (the higher the number, the more intense the color). With this visualization, businesses can not only better understand the results, but also discover new opportunities. 

Below, you will find a heatmap showing Uber pickup locations in NYC, clearly showing which areas of the city should be serviced by more drivers and where they aren’t required in equally large numbers.

4. Geomarketing in retail

In 2017 Forrester found mobile geolocation data helped digital marketers increase conversion rates by 60% and improve the ROI of campaigns by 68%. Geolocation data visualization can help businesses segment their customers more effectively. By looking at data related to in-store visits, retailers can draw links between their online advertising efforts and purchases that happen in brick-and-mortar stores. Visualizing geolocation data and attributing it to relevant areas can help marketers understand where to focus their geomarketing efforts so that they reach high-value segments, as well as what areas are underserved and could be used to meet the demand.

The below animation shows how Vodafone used data visualization to understand how people visit their specific Barcelona stores and where they come from. The visualization presents 51 store locations alongside an overview on network mobility patterns. When a specific store is selected, the view dynamically updates to display site-specific visitor details that can be further filtered by place of origins (home or work), day of week, and even hour of the day. It includes demographic details as well. 

5. Identifying crime zones

The New Inquiry aggregates data from police reports to focus on identifying high-risk zones so that they could be used for more effective crime prevention. Its White Collar Crime Risk Zones data visualization uses machine learning to focus specifically on identifying white collar crime risk zones across the United States. The below map shows a fragment of New York City’s Manhattan, clearly showing where most cases are reported.

6. Better communication

Images often speak louder than words. Geospatial data visualization can serve as a powerful communication tool in diverse industries to portray or explain various complex phenomena. An excellent example was developed by Hans Hack as part of the Reprojected Destruction project. It uses satellite data of city-wide damage to buildings and infrastructure of Aleppo, Syria and projects it onto ground maps of London and Berlin. The purpose of this project is to demonstrate the extent of destruction that might have been wrought onto the major European capitals, should the Syrian civil war was to take place on the European continent. The visualization also shows the percentage of houses destroyed per city district.

7. Fleet and asset tracking

GIS data visualization is indispensable for effective fleet management and asset tracking is crucial in logistics. A detailed area map coupled with real-time tracking improves organizational efficiency. By clearly indicating crucial asset whereabouts, fleet management systems help optimize routing, tour planning and last mile delivery. 

There are a lot of fleet management and asset tracking solutions available on the market. They feature comprehensive dashboards to offer asset managers a holistic view into their assets. If you’re looking into building a custom admin panel, consider our open-source AdminJS.

8. Land surveying

Analyzing the terrain and features of a specific geographic area is essential for government agencies and the construction industry – be it for keeping records or planning a new construction work. This is where photogrammetry comes into play. 

Photogrammetry involves processing photos and geospatial data into flat, 2D maps or 3D models using specialized software. This methodology was used by the Faroese Environment Agency to create detailed mapping of Faroe Islands. The primary task was to track changes to the coastline and urban development. They used drone mapping to capture images of the island, which were then combined with geospatial data. The end result, an open-source map, is available for anyone to download and use, although it is in Icelandic. 

9. Public safety management

Situational awareness is key for public safety authorities as they prepare to ensure public safety during mass events or deal with natural disasters. Knowing the scale of damage is essential for planning response, resource deployment and evacuation. Photogrammetry can also be helpful in this area by offering detailed images of damaged areas. 

This method was used to map the 2020 wildfires in California. The visualization was brilliantly featured in this New York Times publication.  

10. Boosting agriculture

Technology offers an enormous potential for boosting agriculture when coupled with geospatial data visualizations. It’s particularly useful in precision agriculture. Drone imagery and GIS data was used to assess crops on a Spanish farm.  

Spatial analysis and data visualizations indicated an aquifer that was waterlogging the field and cutting yields. The application of vegetation indices also helped to identify nitrogen deficiencies. As a result, farm owners applied new fertilizer and improved the irrigation system which improved the yield within just one season.

11. Road safety management

When combined with data on road accidents, geospatial data visualization can yield an excellent overview of paths or areas that should be prioritized for inspection by traffic safety authorities. The below visualization demonstrates the number of accidents that took place on the highways in the U.S. in 2015 – the green color indicates zero fatalities per 1000 miles, while the darkest red indicates over 100 deaths. 

The data was sourced from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and added as a GeoJsonLayer (one of the formats available for encoding geospatial data structures). This method can be used to visualize diverse datasets.

12. Construction and planning

Architects and urban planning units can greatly benefit from 3D city visualizations that can be built with photogrammetry. Such visualizations can be used to carry out complex planning and design assessments which are required in the case of, for instance, building a new skyscraper in the City of London. This video shows how a photogrammetry 3D city model is used to assess how the potential new construction would affect the existing environment. It allows to investigate aspects like wind comfort levels or solar glare assessments.  

13. Real-time tracking

Visualizing geospatial data can be applied in developing services that display public geographic data in real-time. An excellent example of such a service is Flightradar24, which tracks over 180,000 flights on a daily basis and displays them on an interactive map in real-time. The service is prepared using a scenegraph layer and is publicly available. 

14. Gaming and VR

Gaming engines are often used to build VR apps. They make use of point clouds, which can be prepared with 3D mapping methods. As such, point clouds are perfect for preparing visualizations of geometrically complex datasets.

This advanced data visualization method must take into account the need for high performance as well as rendering complexities.

Visualize geospatial data with RST Software

As you can see, there are many ways in which geospatial data visualizations can be used in diverse industries to ease the decision-making processes. If you’re looking for specialists who could help you turn raw data into meaningful, high-quality geospatial visualization, just drop me an email at magda@rst.software.

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