kepler.gl

Uber—who would thought—have released kepler.gl, an open-source geospatial toolbox. It’s designed to provide the easiest way of visualising geospatial data and gaining useful insights. Perhaps it’s not really a surprise as Uber is a ‘geospatial’ service, so gaining an understanding of cities, movement and people is fairly fundamental to how it works.

We are starting to get a confluence of the range of frameworks and digital tools, demonstrated by kepler.gl leveraging Mapbox as a base data source. However, kepler.gl professes to be the next stage in geospatial data visualisation by combining all steps (data collection; data processing; visual exploration; and visualisation) in one ‘data-agnostic’, high-performance web-based application that can handle very large data sets on the fly. All layer geometry calculations are GPU-based, which Uber claims makes this much faster and more powerful than traditional tools… graphics card permitting.

“Showing geospatial data in a single web interface, kepler.gl helps users quickly validate ideas and glean insights from these visualizations.”

The idea of the single interface for all steps in the process enables a user to drag-and-drop a CSV or GeoJSON file into the app window, and then filter, explore and visualise immediately. The application has launched with a number of common visualisation techniques. The layering encompasses points, arcs, paths, polygons, grids and hexbins, in both 2D and 3D. In fact, there are quite a few interesting and new approaches that kepler.gl uses that enable both static and animated outputs, some echoing tools from traditional design and art software. It is, already, a powerful geo-analytics and visualisation framework that promises much more to come. More visualisation techniques are to be introduced, together with charting and dashboard creation, linking interactions between maps and charts. Further GIS operations will also be introduced, such as buffering, boolean operations such as union and intersection, and more. Overall, this is a very welcome and interesting new tool adding to a growing catalogue of tools and frameworks for exploring and visualising geospatial data.

June, 2018

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