Maps, SpatialKey

Announcing SpatialKey – Geographic Information Without Limits

SpatialKey LogoToday I’m proud to announce the launch of SpatialKey, the geospatial information visualization product I’ve been working on with our fantastic team at Universal Mind. I’ll make a bold statement that I stick by: this is the best web-based mapping product in existence. Today we’re releasing a “technology preview” that gives you a little glimpse at what we’ve been working on (just to whet your appetite until we release the full product).

Quick links
Before I explain what SpatialKey is I wanted to give a few quick links because I know a lot of you are going to have your ADD act up before you read the rest of the post.

  • SpatialKey Gallery – lists a few dataset/template pairs that we think tell great stories. Read the descriptions of the datasets and then launch the app to play with the data yourself.
  • screenshot067.jpg
    San Antonio Prostitution hotspots

    San Antonio Prostitution Crimes – This link will jump you straight into exploring the prostitution crimes in San Antonio from Jan 2006 – July 2007. Check out how clearly the heatmap points out the corners that are the hotspots in the city.

  • Growth of Walmart – This link will load the Walmart dataset into a playback template that lets you click play and watch Walmart take over America.

Beyond points on a map

Overwhelmed with markers

We’ve been seeing the same tired approach to web-based mapping for years now. Everyone throws markers on a map. You want to track crime? Throw a bunch of markers on a map. Little pin markers work fine if you’re showing a few data points. Want to see the location of Starbucks within a 3 block radius of your house? Use markers. But what if you want to see the total sales of all Starbucks worldwide? Or all crimes for the past 10 years? For the whole country?

SpatialKey uses some of the most advanced visualization renderings for geospatial data that have ever been seen on the web. The focus here is on aggregate renderings: heatmaps, thematic grids, graduated circles. 1,000 markers all piled on top of each other doesn’t help anyone. What you want to see is density or sum total value. SpatialKey focuses on rendering aggregate data in meaningful ways. We can show you a heatmap of the entire country and let you visualize any number of data fields. You want to see the heatmap represent total sales of all stores in the region? No problem. You want to see average house price over the past 10 years? We can do that.

Heat Map Heat Grid
SpatialKey Heat Maps SpatialKey Heat Grids

We haven’t seen innovative technology in this industry since Google let you drag the map. (I actually vividly remember that moment when I first dragged a Google map and my mouth started to water). It’s time to move beyond points on a map.

Your data doesn’t have limits
Try adding 10,000 data points to a Google Map. I dare you. What happens? If you’re using the “My Maps” feature of Google Maps, you’re limited to only show 200 points at a time, then you have to page through your data. And to top it all off you’re limited to a whopping total of 1,000 data points in the entire data set. So you get to page through 5 pages of data and only see 1/10th of your total data set anyway. If you create your own application with the Google Maps AJAX API you’re going to have serious performance problems when you get up into a few hundred markers. We think that’s ridiculous.

SpatialKey breaks through the limits of previous mapping technology in two ways. First, we’re simply faster. Flash can process and render data far faster than JavaScript. We can render 10,000 data points in a matter of milliseconds. You simply can’t do that with any JavaScript API out there. Second, we’re smarter. We aggregate data to produce heatmaps instead of just trying to overlay markers one on top of the other. Fundamentally, a massive dataset is an information visualization problem, not a technical one. You need better renderings to convey massive amounts of data, and that’s what SpatialKey delivers.

This is just the beginning
This is a technology preview. That basically means we’re showing you some cool stuff, but we’ve got way more up our sleeve. We’re looking for feedback on what we’ve got, and we’re hoping to get you excited about what we’ll be rolling out. We’ll be releasing new versions of SpatialKey Personal that will let you easily import your own data (if you’ve got an Excel file with addresses you can drop it right in). We’re also going to be releasing SpatialKey Enterprise, which lets you load a data set of any size (millions and millions of points). And then we’ve got a third product that we’re launching called SpatialKey Law Enforcement Dashboard, which is an enterprise version of SpatialKey specifically targeted toward police departments (includes special law enforcement reporting templates). And in the meantime we’ll be rolling out some more example datasets for you to play with, so keep an eye on the SpatialKey blog.

So go check out the SpatialKey Gallery and play with some data. We’re looking for feedback during this phase, so if you have any suggestions or (god forbid!) you run across bugs, please let us know by emailing