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GCN : July 2015
12 GCN JULY 2015 • GCN.COM MAPSENSE.CO BY PATRICK MARSHALL EMERGING TECH GEOSPATIAL INFORMATION SYSTEMS offer powerful analytic tools for query- ing and displaying static location-sensitive data on maps. What they haven’t been designed to handle is the massive streams of real-time location data that are now emanating from cell phones and the myriad sensors that make up the Internet of Things. Although some GIS vendors, including Esri, offer extensions to bring in streaming location data, Mapsense has opted to design its product from the ground up. “One statistic I have heard is that there was more location data stored in 2014 than in all of previous history,” said Erez Cohen, CEO of Mapsense. “When it comes to companies that are collecting very, very large streaming location datasets, traditional GIS tools some- times flounder under the re- quirements of being able to visualize and analyze these datasets. That’s the focus of our company.” Mapsense has two new products. Mapsense Enter- prise is a set of data analysis and visualization tools into which companies can port their location data. Gener- ally, the data is hosted in Mapsense’s Amazon cloud storage, though on-premise storage is also an option. In either case, access to the data and to Mapsense’s tools is via a Web browser. Mapsense Developer is a set of open-source tools that allows users to create data-driven, fully interactive maps with only a few lines of code. Cartography and styling are simplified with the Mapsense CSS Machine, which lets users quickly create styles for Mapsense tiles, then grab the cascad- ing style sheet and add it to a master style sheet. “What we pride ourselves on is the data scale that we support and the fact that we can stream datasets,” Cohen said. “It’s hard to present and visualize very large location datasets in [Esri’s] ArcView. And try putting 100,000 data points even on a Google map — you’ll start running into browser issues.” Cohen said his team spent significant time building technologies to visualize those large location data- sets. For example, Mapsense uses a technique it calls “geographical data sam- pling.” When ingesting, say, 100 million tweets from a customer’s data stream, the program displays a subset that is representative of the larger set’s spatial distribu- tion. Further data will only be sent when requested by, for example, zooming in. Data streams from customers can be updated in real time or at specified intervals. Mapsense will ingest the data as it comes in, then port it to the inter- active map. Furthermore, although public datasets are available to all, Cohen said data provided by enterprise customers is available only to those customers. In addition to support- ing location searches on Twitter feeds, customers can also perform text searches and filter tweets by time, language or a wide array of attached metadata, such as the number of followers of a specific tweeter. And Twitter data is far from the only location- sensitive data stream Mapsense can handle. The program has been used, for example, to analyze data from sensors attached to California condors and can poll sensors for the posi- tions of the birds every 15 minutes. “You can see that they move north in the hot months,” Cohen said. “We can actually play back the position of each bird over time.” Apart from the ability to handle massive amounts of data quickly, Cohen said Mapsense’s streamlined user interface means customers don’t need to have much GIS or data-visualization training. “Increasingly, people who are not traditional GIS analysts need to make decisions based on loca- tion data,” Cohen said. “So instead of exposing tradi- tional GIS functionality in a desktop application, we are building everything around [application programming interfaces] that can be built into products.” • Mapsense aims to tame location data streams Mapsense illustrates cocaine -related crime incidents from the San Francisco Police Department’s Open Data Reported Incidents database. 0715gcn_012.indd 12 6/29/15 9:05 AM