bpurcell.org - Introducing SpatialKey and the team behind the technology preview
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Viewing Individual Entry / Main
September 1, 2008

After leaving Adobe in November of 2007 I joined Universal Mind as the director of Technology. UM had been working on a product that was called LaunchPad. At that time LaunchPad was a proof of concept built for the San Francisco PD with basic heatmap capabilities and no server side architecture. Our goal was to pull together a team with GIS experience, data visualization and build a kick ass product based on LaunchPad. As a consulting organization it is a unique endeavor to go off and build a product that is not targeted toward any specific customer. With a small team and some part time resources we set out to build what is now known as SpatialKey. Over the last nine months I have had the pleasure of managing an amazing group of resources on the SpatialKey project. Initially we started with a very small team of Doug McCune and Ben Stucki. Anyone in the Flex community recognizes Doug and Ben as amazing Flex developers and it did not take me long to realize the same thing. I am amazed at the things they can do with Actionscript. In late December we hired Reggie Wilbanks. Reggie had worked in traditional GIS for a long time and brought us a lot of experience and quickly became a skilled AS3 and Flex developer. Andy Powell has also been a key resource while working with us part time in addition to customer facing projects. Zach Johnson joined our team in June straight out of University of Wisconsin with a masters in Cartography. Zach has great passion and skill for online mapping and data visualization and is a great writer as well. Behind the scenes Mike Connor has served as our product manager, Mike has been a great help to me in getting this product developed and shaping the Law Enforcement version. Tom Link has been the overall leader behind the project as Universal Mind's CTO. Thanks to Tom for bringing me to Universal Mind and giving me the great oppportunity to lead such an amazing team.

I am excited to finally introduce SpatialKey as a a next generation Information Visualization, Analysis and Reporting System. It is designed to help organizations quickly assess location based information critical to their organizational goals, decision making processes and reporting requirements. The technology preview allows you to use our visualization templates to look at sample datasets that we have collected over the last few months. A future release based on Adobe AIR will all users to import their own data and bring into the visualization templates to look at the data in multiple ways.

Why is it different?


Example view of SpatialKey

We've been seeing the same approach to web-based mapping for years now. It is pretty much all the same with just markers on a map. Little pin markers work fine if you're showing a few data points. If you are looking for the closest Star Bucks to your home you can pull up google, do a search and you see all of the Star Bucks within X miles of your home. Markers work great for that, but what if you wanted to see all of the StarBucks in the United States or play back the growth of Star Bucks as they grew from just a single coffee shop in Seattle to the thousands of locations around the country? Or only see the StarBucks built in the US during the 1990s? SpatialKey allows you to view thousands of points without the need of any server technology.

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. For large quantities of data you want to see density or sum total value. Piling a bunch of markers on top of each other ends up confusing users without a clear picture or story for the data. SpatialKey focuses on rendering aggregate data in meaningful ways. We can show a heatmap of the entire country or the entire world. and let you visualize any number of data fields. The technology preview is just using CSV files and loads them in at runtime, nothing is pre-rendered and you can intereact with the applications to filter the data and see updates within seconds. What you won't see (yet at least) is the same capability with a server implementation allowing you to do the same thing but with Millions of points. We are already doing this with our Law Enforcement version but could bring the same capability to other industries.

What can you do now?

Go check out our gallery pairing up our four visualization templates that launched with the Technology preview. We will be putting up videos in the near future to showcase the features and provide a walkthrough for each template. If you have a particular dataset that you think would be compelling to see use the contact us form to send us your information and we will be in touch to collect the data. Also sign up for the beta to be notified when the desktop application becomes available so that you can import and view your own data.

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