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Master Multilayered Maps in Oracle Analytics

Philippe Lions
Senior Director

Over the years, map software has evolved from simple street names to include satellite imagery, step-by-step directions, building information, and even recommendations.

Visualizing these multiple layers of business data on a map and spatially interacting with them has been the forte of specialized geographic information system tools. However, this mapping wizardry has been a challenge for many market leading business intelligence and data visualization vendors.

The recent release of Oracle Analytics pushes its map data visualization capabilities to new heights, addressing such spatial analysis needs. In this blog, we will do a brief tour of the multilayered mapping capabilities included in the recent release of Oracle Analytics Cloud. 

How It Works

Multilayered mapping architecture allows users to visualize data using multiple map layers in a single map visualization. It does that by overlaying location data on layers represented by different types of geometries (points, lines, and polygons) or layers with specialized rendering of those geometries (heatmap or clusters). 

Imagine a railway company wants to analyze traffic by geography organized by city, zip code, county, state, or by other criteria. This is a perfect example of the need for multilayered maps. The company’s operations manager could use them to visualize traffic by city using a point geometry map layer; or by zip code, county, and state using a polygon geometry map layer. Customized areas could be visualized by line using a line geometry map layer. Here is a quick preview of what a visualization would look like in Oracle Analytics Cloud:

This visualization shows the passenger traffic data (fictitious) of Washington DC metro by stations (point geometry), by line (line geometry), and by zip code (polygon geometry).

The following video walks you through this multimap layer feature:



Adding Data Layers on a Map

To render a map visualization, you simply select a geography column (and optionally its associated metrics) and choose “map visualization.” Map visualization in Oracle Analytics looks up the most suitable map layer and displays that data on a map. For example, select zip code, name, and passenger count and display as Map.

To add more layers of business data to a map visualization, click on the Menu option above Category (Geography) and select Add Layer. This will add a new map layer to the visualization. A new layer can also be added from the map properties pane.

This menu also lets you manage the map layers (i.e., to hide, delete, or order a layer). We will discuss ordering map layers later in this blog. You can add and manage any number of layers using these options.

Once a layer is added, drag and drop the geography column to be visualized in the Category (Geography) field. A map layer corresponding to that geography field will be auto selected and visualized on the map.

Once all the required map layers have been added to the map visualization, you will be able to view the list of map layers by clicking on the drop-down list next to the Menu option. We have three map layers for the DC Metro in the example shown above: DC Metro Lines (line geometries); DC Metro Stations (point geometries); the DC zip code designations (polygon geometries).

The latest release of Oracle Analytics Cloud supports map visualization for the following layer types:

  • Point geometry layers
  • Line geometry layers
  • Polygon geometry layers
  • Heatmaps

In this blog, we will look at features related to point, line, and polygon geometry layers using the DC Metro example above. We will be discussing heatmaps in detail in a separate blog. 

Layer Properties

The Data Layers tab under map properties lets you manage the properties of all map layers, including name of the layer, map layer, layer type, transparency of a layer, and whether to show the layer or not. The layers icon highlighted in red sitting next to the globe icon is the Properties tab of multilayered maps. Map layers added to this map visualization are listed here. Clicking on the + icon will add more map layers.

Each map layer has a set of properties: 

1) Name: By default, Oracle Analytics Cloud assigns a name to the layer with column names used in that layer. You can change this to any custom name that you want. 

2) Map layer: The map layer is automatically chosen based on the match between contents of the column present in the category (geography) field and key columns of the custom map layer. As a user, you can change the map layer and manually assign other layers that are a better match. Here is a quick snapshot that shows how to change a map layer.

3) Layer type: Depending on the type of geometries defined in a map layer, users can change the type of layer. This will change the way a layer is rendered on the map. For example, map layers with points and polygon geometries can either be displayed as points and polygons respectively or as points. Map layers with point geometries can be displayed as either point or heatmap.  

4) Transparency: Transparency lets you choose the degree of transparency of this layer so that other coexisting layers are visible through this layer.

5) Show layer: Toggling the show layer to off/on will show/hide the layer from the map visualization. Another way to toggle the layer display is by clicking on the map layer icon in the legend. Here is a snapshot that shows this view.

6) Visualization grammar by layer type: Fields available under visualization grammar differ by the map layer type:
  • Category (geography): This field represents the geographic columns which will be matched against the key columns associated with custom map layer. This field can take multiple columns and all of these columns do not have to match with key columns in the layer. Values of all these columns will be shown in the tooltip that is displayed when you hover over that geometry.
  • Color: This field takes either metrics or attribute columns and assigns either gradient or distinct colors depending on the type of column.
  • Tooltip: The tooltip field takes metric columns and displays these metric values in the tooltip that is displayed when those data points are hovered over in the map visualization.
  • Filters: You can use filters to apply filters to your dataset.
  • Size: This field can take only metric columns and in case of point geometry, adjusts the size of the bubble in proportion to the metric value.

7) Legends: Each map layer contains its own legend, and all legends are displayed on the map visualization with appropriate icons to indicate the map layer to which that particular legend is associated.

Users can display these legends in various ways by selecting top, bottom, left, right, none, or auto. Selecting the layer icon allows you to toggle the display of its corresponding layers.


Layer Reordering and Display Controls

Layer ordering: “Order Layer” presented as a menu option lets you reorder a layer. Here is a quick snapshot showing the allowed options with Order Layer.

You can either bring the layer to front (top) or move it just above the layer which is on top of the current layer (Bring Forward). Similarly, you can send the map layer beneath/behind the layer above which the current map layer is positioned (Send Backward) or send it all the way to the bottom (Send to Back). 

You can also visually reorder map layers using a simple hold and slide option available in the properties pane. This will reorder the map layers in your map visualization.

Layer display controls: In addition to the “toggle hide layer” options described above, the menu provides a hide layer option that lets you hide a map layer. Functionally, this is the same as using the Toggling Hide button in Manage Layer properties, Tab, and in the Legend. Users can also delete a map layer using the Delete Layer option. This will permanently remove a map layer.

To find out whether Oracle Analytics Cloud is right for your business data plans, take this 2-minute assessment.


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