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Data Products 101
Part 2: Maps
This article focuses on one key area of our Location Insights products – Maps. I'll use the US Location Insight product for this example, but all of our international Location Insight products are functionally the same unless I call it out specifically as a unique part of the US package.
As a quick recap before I begin this article, let's cover two frequently asked questions:
What do the Location Insight packages include?
All Location Insight packages include:
Satellite imagery maps (with optional road overlay)
Detail rich street maps
Drivetime data to generate custom trade areas and point-to-point calculations
API-based Forward and Reverse Geocoding tools
In addition to the above, Canada and the US include:
CASS data for CASS certification and Address Standardization
On premise, forward geocoding tools
Rooftop and parcel centroid address point data
In addition to the above, the US also includes:
2010 US Census data summarized to the Block Group
What countries does Alteryx have Location Insight products for (as of Q4 2018)?
The United States (which includes: American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands)
The United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland
Australia and New Zealand
Europe (which includes: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Vatican City, and some coverage of Western Russia)
Let's get started:
Using Alteryx Maps
In Part 1 we covered installing our Data Products – now let’s jump into actually using it.
First, let’s drag a Map Input tool onto our canvas and review what maps we have available to us by clicking the ‘Base Map’ drop down.
As we can see here, we have multiple maps at our disposal. Carto Positron and Dark Matter come pre-loaded with Alteryx and function well as a basic map for your data – but the TomTom and Digital Globe maps you get with the Location Insights packages bring more accuracy and a lot more utility.
Let’s examine a quick comparison below to understand the features of each Base Map.
DigitalGlobe Aerials with Streets
As we can see above, there are some big differences between the 4 main Base Maps.
TomTom US offers a feature rich visual in a familiar and modern styling that makes it easy to immediately distinguish map layers from one another. There’s no mistaking a park with a lake, or an interstate highway with an avenue. Details which could be critical when trying to analyze where your customers live.
DigitalGlobe Aerials offers a pure satellite imagery map that makes it easy to pick out specific buildings or sight property lines between farms when manually creating spatial data.
DigitalGlobe Aerials with Streets offers a hybrid between the TomTom map and the DigitalGlobe Aerials – literally. In fact, DigitalGlobe Aerials with Streets uses the very street data used within the TomTom map. The inclusion of street data can give geographic context which is often lacking in a pure satellite imagery map.
Carto – our free map – offers similar features as the TomTom map that will help give context to your spatial data, but it doesn’t include as many layers as TomTom and it is not as easy to distinguish these layers from one another.
While the Map Input tool is useful for creating spatial data at the beginning of our analytical journey, it doesn’t help provide context to the data we are currently working with. Thankfully, the Browse tool has a built-in map function when working with spatial data.
All you have to do is select the ‘Map’ tab on the top left, then select your desired Base Map in the drop down. Now you can see your data visualized on one of our maps. Let’s pause and take a moment to reflect upon the fact that Maps are the OG in Visualytics.
Now we’ve seen how the Map Input tool can help start our analytical journey, and how maps within the browse tool provide context to the data we are working with - the last mapping tool in our toolkit we need to discuss is the Report Map tool.
Report Map is a powerful tool for visualizing your spatial data. It provides spatial context to the results at the end of your analytical journey. I highly recommend you check out the Tool Mastery article for it as well as the One Tool Sample found in the ‘Help’ menu in Alteryx.
As the Tool Mastery article provides plenty of context on how to configure the tool, I’ll point out that the TomTom base map within the Report Map tool allows users to customize individual geography layers. For example, your analysis is based near airports – the Report Map tool allows you to customize the appearance of the airport polygon layer and even other surrounding layers to show importance. Select the TomTom map in the Reference Base Map configuration to enable base layer customization.
You should now be equipped to use the Map portion of your Location Insights package. If you’re wondering where to start with diving deeper into spatial analytics then be sure to stay tuned for Part 3 of my Data Products 101 series - Drivetime Data.
Let's circle back to an earlier point about the three main maps of the Location Insights packages – the "DigitalGlobe Aerials with Streets" map uses the exact same street network data as the TomTom map. You might be wondering how that works, so let's take a quick dive into how maps work in Alteryx.
There are two ways Alteryx creates maps – fetching map tiles from an API (Carto and DigitalGlobe Aerials use this method) and rendering spatial data with a .map file (TomTom uses this method). In a practical sense, the TomTom map consists of a file inventory of .yxdb's, and the styling, layering, and rendering of the data within those .yxdb's is orchestrated by a .map file. The DigitalGlobe Aerials with Streets map is actually a hybrid of the road network spatial data in select .yxdb’s rendered on top of the satellite imagery tiles from the API.
Why does this matter?
Location Insights customers can take advantage of the base .yxdb’s for use in their spatial analysis. Perhaps you’re interested in lake polygons.
These raw .yxdb’s can be found wherever you installed the Location Insights package. For instance, the files should be found in C:\Data_Install\AlteryxMap\TomTom_US_2018_Q4\Data if I installed the Q4 2018 US data to C:\Data_Install.
To make this even more convenient, our US Location Insights users have a TomTom Layer Extraction app included with their installation. Access it within Alteryx via: Options > Run Analytical Apps > TomTom Layer Extraction App > Run
Configure the app to according to your needs – narrow down to which state geography(s) you want to extract from, then select the specific layer(s) you want data for, and finally select your output and if you want to merge the geographies.
Now you can integrate the spatial data for these layers directly into your workflow!
As mentioned previously, the styling, layering, and rendering of the spatial data within the .yxdb's is orchestrated by a .map file. Users can actually edit those .map files to make styling tweaks or add new elements. This process can be a bit tricky, especially for users without a GIS background. I won't dive into the process, but here is a Community Article that discusses .map file customization if you are interested.