Territorial Turf

Fig 1 – Territories from Census Zip Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTAs) on Bing Maps

An interesting GIS development over the years has been the evolution from monolithic applications to multiple open source plug and play tools. Considering GIS as a three tier system with back end storage, a controller in the middle, and a UI display out front, more and more of the middle tier is migrating to either end.

SQL DBs, such as SQL Server, Oracle Spatial, and especially PostGIS, now implement a multitude of GIS functions originally considered middle tier domain. On the other end, the good folks at turf.js and proj4js continue to push atomic GIS functions out to javascript, where they can fit into the client side UI. The middle tier is getting thinner and thinner as time goes on. Generally the middle is what costs money, so rolling your own middle with less work is a good thing. As a desirable side effect, instead of kitchen sink GIS, very specific user tools can be cobbled together as needed.

Looking for an excuse to experiment with turf.js, I decided to create a Territory Builder utilizing turf.js on the client and some of the US Census Bureau Services on the backend.

US Census Bureau does expose some “useful” services at TigerWeb. I tend to agree with Brian Timoney that .gov should stick to generating data exposed in useful ways. Apps and presentation are fast evolving targets and historically .gov can’t really hope to keep up. Although you can use the census custom TigerWeb applications for some needs, there are many other occasions when you would like to build something less generic. For example a Territory builder over Bing Maps.

Here is the simplified POC work flow:

1. Use Census WMS GetMap to show polygons on a canvas over Bing Maps.
2. Use Census WMS GetFeatureInfo to return a GeoID of selected polygon(s).
3. Use Census REST service and GeoID to return selected polygon vertices.
4. Use Turf.js merge function to merge selected polygons into a single Territory polygon
5. Display territory polygon using Bing Maps Ajax v7 Microsoft.Maps.AdvancedShapes polygon

Fig 2 – Territory polygon with a demographic overlay on top of Bing Maps

Note: Because there doesn’t appear to be an efficient way to join demographic data to geography with current TigerWeb service APIs, the demographic tab of this app uses a custom WMS PostGIS backend, hooking SF1 to TIGER polygons.

1. Census WMS GetMap over Bing Maps

WMS GetMap requests simply return an image. In order to overlay the image on a Bing Map this Territory app uses an html5 canvas and context app.context.drawImage(imageObj, 0, 0); The trick is to stack the canvas in between the Bing Map and the Bing Map navigation, scale, and selector tools. TigerWeb WMS conveniently exposes epsg:3857 which correctly aligns with Bing Map tiles.

    function showCensus() {
        if (app.canvas == null) {
            app.canvas = document.createElement('canvas');
            app.canvas.id = 'censuscanvas';
            app.canvas.style.position = 'relative';
            var mapDiv = app.map.getRootElement();
            //position this canvas under Bing navigation and over map tiles
            mapDiv.insertBefore(app.canvas, mapDiv.childNodes[3]);
            app.context = app.canvas.getContext("2d");
        //match canvas size to map size
        app.canvas.height = app.map.getHeight();
        app.canvas.width = app.map.getWidth();

        var imageObj = new Image();
        //image onload function draws image on context
        imageObj.onload = function () {
            app.canvas.style.opacity = app.alpha / 100;
            app.context.drawImage(imageObj, 0, 0);
        //prepare a TigerWeb WMS GetMap request
        //use proj4.js to transform ll to mercator bbox
        var b = app.map.getBounds();
        var epsg3857 = "+proj=merc +a=6378137 +b=6378137 +lat_ts=0.0 +lon_0=0.0 +x_0=0.0 +y_0=0 +k=1.0 +units=m +nadgrids=@null +wktext  +no_defs";
        var sw = proj4(epsg3857).forward([b.getWest(), b.getSouth()]);
        var ne = proj4(epsg3857).forward([b.getEast(), b.getNorth()]);
        bbox = sw[0] + "," + sw[1] + "," + ne[0] + "," + ne[1];

        var url = "";
        if (tab == "Territory") {
            app.alpha = 100;
            // GetMap request
            url = "http://tigerweb.geo.census.gov/arcgis/services/TIGERweb/tigerWMS_Current/MapServer/WmsServer?REQUEST=GetMap&SERVICE=WMS&VERSION=1.3.0&LAYERS=" + app.censusPolygonType + "&STYLES=&FORMAT=image/png&BGCOLOR=0xFFFFFF&TRANSPARENT=TRUE&CRS=EPSG:3857&BBOX=" + bbox + "&WIDTH=" + app.canvas.width + "&HEIGHT=" + app.canvas.height;
        imageObj.src = url;

2. Census WMS GetFeatureInfo for obtaining GeoID

Unfortunately the WMS GetMap request has no IDs available for polygons, even if requested format is image/svg+xml. SVG is an xml format and could easily contain associated GeoID values for joining with other data resources, but this is contrary to the spirit of OGC WMS service specs. Naturally we must obey OGC Law, which is too bad. Adding a GeoID attribute would allow options such as choropleth fills directly on existing svg paths. For example adding id = “80132″ would allow fill colors by zipcode with a bit of javascript.

http://tigerweb.geo.census.gov/arcgis/services/TIGERweb/tigerWMS_Current/MapServer/WmsServer?REQUEST=GetMap&SERVICE=WMS&VERSION=1.3.0 &LAYERS=2010 Census ZIP Code Tabulation Areas&STYLES=&FORMAT=image/svg+xml&BGCOLOR=0xFFFFFF&TRANSPARENT=TRUE&CRS=EPSG:3857 &BBOX=-11679625.942909468,4709198.547476525,-11645573.246808422,4737900.651597611&WIDTH=891&HEIGHT=751

<g transform="matrix(1.3333333 0 0 -1.3333333 445.5 375.5)">
<path id="80132" d="M300.50809 -258.78592 L302.54407 -257.91829 L303.17977 -257.55608 L304.45554 -256.98889
L280.30116 -268.55133 L280.7184 -268.34637 L298.33448 -259.95117 L300.50809 -258.78592 "
  stroke="#99454A" fill="none" stroke-opacity="1" stroke-width="1.5"
 stroke-linecap="round" stroke-linejoin="round" stroke-miterlimit="10" />

Instead TigerWeb WMS exposes GetFeatureInfo requests. Using a click event we calculate a lat,lon location and send a GetFeatureInfo request to find a GeoID for the enclosing polygon.

http://tigerweb.geo.census.gov/arcgis/services/TIGERweb/tigerWMS_Current/MapServer/WmsServer?REQUEST=GetFeatureInfo&SERVICE=WMS&VERSION=1.3.0&CRS=EPSG:4326 &BBOX=13.6972399985862,-128.010213138288,52.2800368298775,-53.444917258507&WIDTH=1061&HEIGHT=549 &INFO_FORMAT=text/xml&QUERY_LAYERS=2010 Census ZIP Code Tabulation Areas&X=388&Y=190

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<FeatureInfoResponse xmlns=”http://www.esri.com/wms” xmlns:esri_wms=”http://www.esri.com/wms”>
<FIELDS INTPTLON=”-101.2099848″ INTPTLAT=”+38.9263824″ CENTLON=”-101.2064010″ CENTLAT=”+38.9226272″ STGEOMETRY=”Polygon” OBJECTID=”16553″ AREAWATER=”163771″ AREALAND=”1327709219″ FUNCSTAT=”S” ZCTA5CC=”B5″ MTFCC=”G6350″ NAME=”ZCTA5 67764″ LSADC=”Z5″ BASENAME=”67764″ GEOID=”67764″ ZCTA5=”67764″ OID=”221404258331221″/>

Since cross browser restrictions come into play it’s necessary to add a bit of server side proxy code to actually return the xml.

Some MVC controller magic:

 function GetCensusFeature(e) {
    var x = e.pageX - $("#map").offset().left;
    var y = e.pageY - $("#map").offset().top;
    var FeatureUrl = {
        url: "http://tigerweb.geo.census.gov/arcgis/services/TIGERweb/tigerWMS_Current/MapServer/WmsServer?REQUEST=GetFeatureInfo&SERVICE=WMS&VERSION=1.3.0&LAYERS=" + app.censusPolygonType + "&STYLES=&FORMAT=image/png&BGCOLOR=0xFFFFFF&TRANSPARENT=TRUE&CRS=EPSG:3857&BBOX=" + bbox + "&WIDTH=" + app.canvas.width + "&HEIGHT=" + app.canvas.height + "&INFO_FORMAT=text/xml&QUERY_LAYERS=" + app.censusPolygonType + "&X=" + x + "&Y=" + y
        app.postit('/api/Operation/GetFeatureInfo', {
            data: JSON.stringify(FeatureUrl),
            success: function (response) {
                if (response.length > 0) {
                    var parser = new DOMParser();
                    var xmlDoc = parser.parseFromString(response, "text/xml");

Eventally gets here to a C# Controller which can proxy the GetFeatureInfo request:

        /// <summary>
        /// GetFeatureInfo
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="FeatureUrl"></param>
        /// <returns>xml doc</returns>
        public async Task<IHttpActionResult> GetFeatureInfo(Models.FeatureUrl feature)
            var wc = new HttpClient();
            var getFeatureInfoRequest = new Uri(feature.url);
            var response = await wc.GetAsync(getFeatureInfoRequest);
            var content = await response.Content.ReadAsStreamAsync();
            var result = "";
            using (var reader = new StreamReader(content))
                while (!reader.EndOfStream)
                    result += reader.ReadLine();
            return Ok(result);

Finally, on success, javascript can parse the xml for GeoID and add a canvas context box with some text information:

     success: function (response) {
              if (response.length > 0) {
                    var parser = new DOMParser();
                    var xmlDoc = parser.parseFromString(response, "text/xml");
                    if (tab == "Territory" && xmlDoc.getElementsByTagName("FeatureInfoResponse")[0].hasChildNodes()) {
                        app.context.rect(x, y, 125, 25);
                        app.context.fillStyle = 'white';
                        app.context.lineWidth = 1;
                        app.context.strokeStyle = 'black';
                        app.context.fillStyle = 'black';
                        app.context.font = '11pt Calibri';
                        var fields = xmlDoc.getElementsByTagName("FIELDS")[0];
                        app.context.fillText(fields.getAttribute('NAME'), x + 5, y + 15);
                        var geoid= fields.getAttribute('GEOID')

Fig 3 – building territories from Census Block Groups on Bing Maps

3. Census REST to obtain vertices

The GEOID retrieved from our proxied GetFeatureInfo request allows us to grab vertices with another TigerWeb service, Census REST.

This spec is a little more proprietary and requires some detective work to unravel.
FeatureUrl.url = “http://tigerweb.geo.census.gov/arcgis/rest/services/TIGERweb/PUMA_TAD_TAZ_UGA_ZCTA/MapServer/1/query?where=GEOID%3D” + geoid + “&geometryPrecision=6&outSR=4326&f=pjson”;

There are different endpoint urls for the various polygon types. In this case Zip Codes are found in PUMA_TAD_TAZ_UGA_ZCTA. We don’t need more than 1 meter resolution so precision 6 is good enough and we would like the results in epsg:4326 to avoid a proj4 transform on the client.

This follows the same process as previously sending the REST request through a proxy controller. You can see the geojson geometry result with this sample request:

Census REST doesn’t appear to offer a simplify parameter so the coordinates returned are at the highest resolution. Highly detailed polygons can easily return several thousand vertices, which is a problem for performance, but the trade-off is eliminating hosting data ourselves.

4. turf.js merge function to Build Territory

Finally the interesting part, where we get to use turf.js to handle merging multiple polygons into a single territory polygon.

var FeatureUrl = {
url: "http://tigerweb.geo.census.gov/arcgis/rest/services/TIGERweb/PUMA_TAD_TAZ_UGA_ZCTA/MapServer/1/query?where=GEOID%3D" + geoid + "&geometryPrecision=6&outSR=4326&f=pjson";
app.postit('/api/Operation/GetFeatureGeo', {
    data: JSON.stringify(FeatureUrl),
    success: function (response) {
        var polygon = JSON.parse(response);
        if (polygon.features.length == 0 || polygon.features[0].geometry.rings.length == 0) {
            alert("No Geo Features returned.")
        if (app.territoryFeatures == null) {
            app.territoryFeatures = new Array();
            app.territory = turf.polygon(polygon.features[0].geometry.rings);
        else {
            var tpolygon = turf.polygon(polygon.features[0].geometry.rings);
            var fc = turf.featurecollection(app.territoryFeatures);
            try {
                app.territory = turf.merge(fc);
            catch (err) {
                alert("turf.js error: " + err.message);
        if (app.territory.geometry.coordinates.length > 0) {

    error: function (response) {
        alert("TigerWeb error:" + response);

5. Display Territory Bing Maps Ajax polygon

The final rendering just uses Bing Maps Ajax v7 Microsoft.Maps.AdvancedShapes to add the new territory to the map.

function displayTerritory() {
    var coordLen = app.territory.geometry.coordinates.length;
    if (app.territory.geometry.type == 'Polygon') {
        var rings = new Array();
        for (var i = 0; i < coordLen; i++) {
            var vertices = new Array();
            for (var j = 0; j < app.territory.geometry.coordinates[i].length; j++) {
                vertices.push(new Microsoft.Maps.Location(app.territory.geometry.coordinates[i][j][1], app.territory.geometry.coordinates[i][j][0]));
        var polygon = new Microsoft.Maps.Polygon(rings, { fillColor: new Microsoft.Maps.Color(100, 100, 0, 100) });
    else if (app.territory.geometry.type == 'MultiPolygon') {
        var multi = new Array();
        for (var i = 0; i < coordLen; i++) {
            var ringslen = app.territory.geometry.coordinates[i].length;
            for (var j = 0; j < ringslen; j++) {
                var vertices = new Array();
                for (var k = 0; k < app.territory.geometry.coordinates[i][j].length; k++) {
                    vertices.push(new Microsoft.Maps.Location(app.territory.geometry.coordinates[i][j][k][1], app.territory.geometry.coordinates[i][j][k][0]));
        var polygon = new Microsoft.Maps.Polygon(multi, { fillColor: new Microsoft.Maps.Color(100, 100, 0, 100) });
    else {
        alert("geometry type is " + app.territory.geometry.type + ". Territory requires a Polygon or MultiPolygon.")

Fig 4 – Territory Total for P0040003 Latino Origin – Map: Quantile population classifier Census Block Groups on Bing Map


TigerWeb offers some useful data access. With TigerWeb WMS and REST api, developers can customize apps without hosting and maintaining a backend SQL store. However, there are some drawbacks.

Some potential improvements:
1. Adding an svg id=GeoID would really improve the usefulness of TigerWeb WMS image/svg+xml, possibly eliminating steps 2 and 3 of the workflow.

2. Technically it’s possible to use the TigerWeb REST api to query geojson by area, but practically speaking the results are too detailed for useful performance. A helpful option for TigerWeb REST would be a parameter to request simplified polygons and avoid lengthy vertice transfers.

turf.js is a great tool box, however, occasionally the merge function had trouble with complex polygons from TigerWeb.

Fig 6 - turf merge had some rare difficulties with complex polygons from TigerWeb

In the end, territories are useful for query aggregates of SF1 demographic data.

Fig 5 – Territory Total for P0120025 Male 85 Years and older – Map: Jenks population classifier Census Block Group on Bing Map

Kind of 3D with D3

Fig 1 – NASA Near Earth Observation - Cloud Optical Thickness using D3js.org Orthographic projection

Charts and Graphs

Growing up in the days before graphing calculators (actually before calculators at all), I’ve had a lingering antipathy toward graph and chart art. Painful evenings plotting interminable polynomials one dot at a time across blue lined graph paper left its inevitable scars. In my experience, maps are a quite different thing altogether. Growing up in Ohio at the very edge of Appalachia, I have quite pleasant memories of perusing road atlases, planning escapes to a dimly grasped world somewhere/anywhere else.

The “I’m outa here” syndrome of a mid-century youth, landed me in Colorado where I quickly found the compelling connection between USGS Topo maps and pleasant weekends climbing in Colorado’s extensive National Forests. I still fondly recall the USGS map desk at Denver’s Lakewood Federal Center where rows of flat metal cabinet drawers slid out to expose deep piles of 1:24000 scale topography maps with their rich linear contour features.

I bore you with this personal recollection to set the stage for my amazement at discovering d3.js. My enduring prejudice of charts and graphs had already begun to crack a bit after seeing Hans Rosling’s entertaining Ted lectures from 2006. (D3 version of Wealth and Health of Nations). Perhaps my pentient for the concrete posed a barrier to more abstract demands of statistical modeling. At any rate Hans Rosling’s engaging enthusiasm was able to make a dent in my prejudice, and I found myself wondering how his graphs were coded. Apart from the explicit optimism conveyed by Rosling’s energy, the visual effect of primary colored balloons rising in celebratory fashion is quite hopefully contradictory of the harsh Hobbesian dictum.

“the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

The revelation that my childhood experience of the 50s is recapitulated by the modern economic experience of children in Trinidad and Tobago was something of an eye opener. Although no maps are in sight, the dynamic visualization of normally depressing socio-economic statistics lent visual energy to a changing landscape of global poverty.

Fig 2 – Hans Rosling’s Wealth & Health of Nations implemented in D3

The application of technology to the human condition seems so inspiring that it’s worth the reminder that technology has its flaws. Can it really be that the computational power in hand on the streets of Lagos Nigeria now exceeds that of Redmond or Palo Alto? Will ready access to MIT courseware on Probability and Statistics actually mitigate the desperation of Nairobi’s slums? A dash of Realpolitik is in order, but the graphics are none the less beautiful and inspiring.

Fig 3 – Mobile phones transform Lagos


d3js.org is an open source javascript library for data visualization. In d3, data enters, performs, and exits with a novel select pattern geared to dynamic rendering. The houselights dim, the stage is lit, data enters stage left, the data performance is exquisite, data exits stage right. This is a time oriented framework with data on the move. The dynamism of data is the key to compelling statistics and d3 examples illustrate this time after time.

With d3.js Economics may remain the Dismal Science, but its charts and graphs can now be a thing of beauty. D3 charts are visually interesting, but more than that, chart smarts are leaking into the spatial geography domain. Mike Bostock of NYT fame and Jason Davies are prolific contributors to d3js.org.

D3 version 3.0, released just a couple of weeks ago, added a wide range of projective geometry to d3.geo. Paths, Projections, and Streams combine to realize a rich html5 rendering library capable of animation effects rarely seen in GIS or on the web.

Visually these are not your grandfathers’ charts and maps.


There’s more. Sean Gillies recently remarked on the advent of TopoJSON, apparently a minor side project of mbostock, fully supported by D3.Geo.Paths. In the GIS world ESRI has long held the high ground on topological data (the Arc of GIS), and now some blokes from NYT charts and graphs have squashed it into an easy to use javascript library. Wow!

TopoJSON is still more or less a compressed transport mechanism between OGC Simple Features in a server DB and client side SVG, but I imagine there will shortly be server side conversions for PostGIS and SQL Server to take advantage of major low latency possibilities. Client side simplification using the Visvalingam’s algorithm are virtually instantaneous, so zoom reduction can occur client side quite nicely.

I think you get the idea. D3.js is powerful stuff and lots of fun.

Some Experiments

It’s the New Year’s holiday with spare time to fire up a favorite data source, NASA Neo, and try out a few things. The orthographic projection is an azimuthal projection with the advantage of reproducing the visual perspective of earth from a distant vantage point.

Simple as:

var projection = d3.geo.orthographic()

Fig 4 – Natural earth world data in d3js.org orthographic projection

In addition to a graticule and circle edge paths, this takes advantage of TopoJSON formatted natural earth world data published on GitHUB by, you guessed it, mbostock.

        d3.json("topojson/world-110m.json", function (error, world) {
                .datum(topojson.object(world, world.objects.land))
                .attr("class", "boundary")
                .attr("d", nasa.path);

Add some mouse event handlers to whirl the globe:

mousedown: function () {
        nasa.p0 = [d3.event.pageX, d3.event.pageY];
        nasa.context.clearRect(0, 0, nasa.width, nasa.height);
    mousemove: function () {
        if (nasa.p0) {
            nasa.p0 = [d3.event.pageX, d3.event.pageY];
            nasa.projection.rotate([nasa.λ(nasa.p0[0]), nasa.φ(nasa.p0[1])]);
            nasa.svg.selectAll("path").attr("d", nasa.path);
    mouseup: function () {
        if (nasa.p0) {
            nasa.context.clearRect(0, 0, nasa.width, nasa.height);
            nasa.p0 = null;

Interactive orthographic from mbostock has a nice set of handlers adapted for this experiment. Note there are still a few quirks regarding transposing mousedown event locations to be worked out in my experimental adaptation. (My holiday free time is running out so some things have to make do.)

With mouse action, d3’s orthographic projection becomes a globe. It responds much more smoothly in Chrome than IE, apparently due to a javascript performance advantage in Chrome.

Fig 5 – javascript performance testing

This ortho globe feels 3D all because D3 affords a fast refresh through a projection on the vector continent and graticule paths.

nasa.svg.selectAll("path").attr("d", nasa.path); 

Vectors are fast, but for deeper information content I turn to NASA’s Near Earth Observation data, available as imagery from this public WMS service. The beauty of this imagery is still compelling after all these years.

Fig 6 – NASA Land night temperature overlay

However, geodetic imagery needs to be transformed to orthographic as well. D3 has all the necessary plumbing. All I added was the NASA WMS proxy with a .net WCF service.

getOverlay: function (overlay) {
        if (overlay != null && overlay.length>0) {

            nasa.image = new Image;
            nasa.image.onload = nasa.onload;
            nasa.image.src = Constants.ServiceUrl + "/GetMap?url=http://neowms.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/wms/wms?Service=WMS%26version=1.1.1%26Request=GetMap%26Layers=" + overlay + "%26SRS=EPSG:4326%26BBOX=-180.0,-90,180,90%26width="+nasa.width+"%26height="+nasa.height+"%26format=image/jpeg%26Exceptions=text/xml";

    onload: function () {

        var dx = nasa.image.width,
            dy = nasa.image.height;

        nasa.context.drawImage(nasa.image, 0, 0, dx, dy);

        var sourceData = nasa.context.getImageData(0, 0, dx, dy).data,
            target = nasa.context.createImageData(nasa.width, nasa.height),
            targetData = target.data;

        for (var y = 0, i = -1; y < nasa.height; ++y) {
            for (var x = 0; x < nasa.width; ++x) {
                var p = nasa.projection.invert([x, y]), λ = p[0], φ = p[1];
                if (λ > 180 || λ < -180 || φ > 90 || φ < -90) { i += 4; continue; }
                var q = ((90 - φ) / 180 * dy | 0) * dx + ((180 + λ) / 360 * dx | 0) << 2;
                targetData[++i] = sourceData[q];
                targetData[++i] = sourceData[++q];
                targetData[++i] = sourceData[++q];
                targetData[++i] = 255;
        nasa.context.clearRect(0, 0, nasa.width, nasa.height);
        nasa.context.putImageData(target, 0, 0);

Looping through 1,182,720 pixels in javascript is not the fastest, but just to be able to do it at all with only a dozen lines of javascript is very satisfying. There may be some server side options to improve performance and PostGIS Raster is worthy of investigation. However, html5 browsers with enhanced GPU access should eventually supply higher performance raster transforms.

Fig 7 – NASA Land night temperatures transformed with D3 Orthographic projection.invert

Selection JsTree

For this experiment I also made use of JsTree for the layer selections out of the NASA WMS GetCapabilities. Layer choices are extensive and even with a tree expander approach the options overflow the available div space of IE’s jQuery UI draggable accordion panel. Scroll bars work poorly with draggable divs. A future enhancement could be manually allocated multiple expanders following NASA’s Ocean, Atmosphere, Energy, Land, and Life categories. Unfortunately this would invalidate the nice GetCapabilities layer extraction feature of the proxy service. NASA’s WMS also provides LegendURL elements for better understanding of the color ranges, which should be added to the selection panel.

Since d3.geo offers projection.scale(), mousewheel events are a nice to have option that is easily bound to a browser window with jquery-mousewheel plugin.

$(window).mousewheel(function (event, delta, deltaX, deltaY) {
            var s = nasa.projection.scale();
            if (delta > 0) {
                nasa.projection.scale(s * 1.1);
            else {
                nasa.projection.scale(s * 0.9);
            nasa.svg.selectAll("path").attr("d", nasa.path);
            nasa.context.clearRect(0, 0, nasa.width, nasa.height);

Tilted Perspective
Even though NEO data resolution doesn’t really warrant it, using tilted perspective d3.geo.satellite projection affords a space station view point. Incorporating a steerable camera is a more complex project than time allows.

var projection = d3.geo.satellite()
    .rotate([76.00, -34.50, 32.12])
    .center([-2, 5])

Fig 8 – Tilted perspective d3.geo.satellite projection of NASA BlueMarbleNG-TB

Possible Extensions:
Time is the next target, since NASA Neo exposes Time extension features.
<Extent default=”2012-12-11″ name=”time”>


One approach would be a time series download as an array of image objects from the proxy service, with a step through display bound to a slider on the UI. Once downloaded and projected the image stack could be serially displayed as an animation sequence. NASA WMS Time domain is somewhat abbreviated with only about 12-14 steps available. For a longer animation affect some type of caching worker role might store images as a continuous set of PostGIS raster data types with an ongoing monthly update. PostGIS has the additional advantage of pre-projected imagery fetching for more efficient time lapse performance.

IIS requires adding a .json application/json mime type to make use of TopoJSON formatted data.


Mike Bostock and Jason Davies have done us all a great favor making the power of d3 freely available on GitHUB under BSD License. For sheer prodigality http://bl.ocks.org/mbostock and http://bl.ocks.org/jasondavies examples can hardly be matched. Anyone need a Guyou Hemisphere projection or perhaps a Peirce Quincuncial tessellation? d3.geo has it ready to serve up in web friendly fashion.

James Fee sums up d3 quite succinctly in his recent post “Why D3 Will Change How We Publish Maps”. I agree. We’re all joining the blokes over in charts and graphs.

Interrupted Bonne
World Tour
Rotating EquiRect

TatukGIS – Generic ESRI with a Bit Extra

Fig1 basic TatukGIS Internet Server view element and legend/layer element

TatukGIS is a commercial product that is basically a generic brand for building GIS interfaces including web interfaces. It is developed in Gdynia Poland:

The core product is a Developer Kernel, DK, which provides basic building blocks for GIS applications in a variety of Microsoft flavors including:

  • DK-ActiveX – An ActiveX® (OCX) control supporting Visual Basic, VB.NET, C#, Visual C++
  • DK.NET – A manageable .NET WinForms component supporting C# and VB.NET
  • DK-CF – A manageable .NET Compact Framework 2.0/3.5 component – Pocket PC 2002 and 2003, Windows Mobile 5 and 6, Windows CE.NET 4.2, Windows CE 5 and 6
  • DK-VCL – A native Borland®/CodeGear® Delphi™/C++ Builder™

These core components have been leveraged for some additional products to make life a good deal easier for web and PDA developers. A TatukGIS Internet Server single server deployment license starts at $590 for the Lite Edition or $2000 per deployment server for the full edition in a web environment. I guess this is a good deal compared to ESRI/Oracle licenses, but not especially appealing to the open source integrators among us. There is support for the whole gamut of CAD, GIS, and raster formats as well as project file support for ESRI and MapInfo. This is a very complete toolkit.

The TatukGIS Internet Server license supports database access to all the usual DBs: "MSSQL Server, MySQL, Interbase, DB2, Oracle, Firebird, Advantage, PostgreSQL… " However, support for spatial formats are currently only available for Oracle Spatial/Locator and ArcSDE. Support for PostGIS and MS SQL Server spatial extensions are slated for release with TatukGIS IS 9.0.

I wanted to experiment a bit with the Internet Server, so I downloaded a trial version(free)..

Documentation was somewhat sparse, but this was a trial download. I found the most help looking in the sample subdirectories. Unfortunately these were all VB and it took a bit of experimental playing to translate into C#. The DK trial download did include a pdf document that was also somewhat helpful. Perhaps a real development license and/or server deployment license would provide better C# .NET documentation. I gather the historical precedence of VB is still evident in the current doc files.

The ESRI influence is obvious. From layer control to project serialization, it seems to follow the ESRI look and feel. This can be a plus or a minus. Although very familiar to a large audience of users, I am afraid the ESRI influence is not aesthetically pleasing or very smooth. I was able to improve over the typically clunky ArcIMS type zoom and wait interface by switching to the included Flash wrapper (simply a matter of setting Flash="true").

The ubiquitous flash plugin lets the user experience a somewhat slippy map interface familiar to users of Virtual Earth and Google Maps. We are still not talking a DeepZoom or Google Earth type interface, but a very functional viewer for a private data source. I was very pleased to find how easy it was to build the required functionality including vector and .sid overlays with layer/legend manipulation.

This is a very simple to use toolkit. If you have had any experience with Google Map API or Virtual Earth it is quite similar. Once a view element is added to your aspx the basic map interface is added server side:

<ttkGIS:XGIS_ViewerIS id="GIS" onclick=”GIS_Click" runat="server" OnPaint="GIS_Paint" Width="800px" Height="600px" OnLoad="GIS_Load" BorderColor="Black" BorderWidth="1px" ImageType="PNG24" Flash="True"></ttkGIS:XGIS_ViewerIS>

The balance of the functionality is a matter of adding event code to the XGIS_ViewerIS element. For example :

    protected void GIS_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
       GIS.Open( Page.MapPath( "data/lasanimas1.ttkgp" ) );
       GIS.SetParameters("btnFullExtent.Pos", "(10,10)");
       GIS.SetParameters("btnZoom.Pos", "(40,10)");
       GIS.SetParameters("btnZoomEx.Pos", "(70,10)");
       GIS.SetParameters("btnDrag.Pos", "(100,10)");
       GIS.SetParameters("btnSelect.Pos", "(130,10)");

       addresslayer = (XGIS_LayerVector)GIS.API.Get("addpoints19");

The ttkgp project support allows addition of a full legend/layer menu with a single element, an amazing time saver:

<ttkGIS:XGIS_LegendIS id="Legend" runat="server" Width="150px" Height="600px" ImageType="PNG24" BackColor="LightYellow" OnLoad="Legend_Load" AllowMove="True" BorderWidth="1px"></ttkGIS:XGIS_LegendIS>

The result is a simple functional project viewer available over the internet, complete with zoom, pan, and layer manipulation. The real power of the TatukGIS is in the multitude of functions that can be used to extend these basics. I added a simple address finder and PDF print function, but there are numerous functions for routing, buffering, geocoding, projection, geometry relations etc. I was barely able to scratch the surface with my experiments.

Fig2 – TatukGIS Internet Server browser view with .sid imagery and vector overlays

The Bit Extra:
As a bit of a plus the resulting aspx is quite responsive. Because the library is not built with the MS MFC it has a performance advantage over the ESRI products it replaces. The TatukGIS website claims include the following:

"DK runs some operations run even 5 – 50 times faster than the leading GIS development products"

I wasn’t able to verify this, but I was pleased with the responsiveness of the interface, especially in light of the ease of development. I believe clients with proprietary data layers who need a quick website would be very willing to license the TatukGIS Internet Server. Even though an open source stack such as PostGIS, Geoserver, OpenLayers could do many of the same things, the additional cost of development would pretty much offset the TatukGIS license cost.

The one very noticeable restriction is that development is a Windows only affair. You will need an ASP IIS server to make use of the TatukGIS for development and deployment. Of course clients can use any of the popular browsers from any of the common OS platforms. Cloud clusters in Amazon’s AWS will not support TatukGIS IS very easily, but now that GoGrid offers Virtual Windows servers there are options.

Fig3 – TatukGIS Internet Server browser view with DRG imagery and vector overlays

Fig4 – TatukGIS Internet Server browser result from a find address function

Summary: TatukGIS Internet Server is a good toolkit for custom development, especially for clients with ESRI resources. The license is quite reasonable.

Census data

I have been busy for awhile now working with demographic data. The US Census Bureau collects an extravagant amount of population data in the decennial census which last occurred in 2000. They are currently preparing for the 2010 census. http://www.census.gov/ The challenge in my case is to provide an interface to the demographic data in a thematic form for use against an OWS background. I am using an SVG client so I have full access to vector polygonal entities.

My original thought was to use WMS SLD <FeatureTypeStyle> to color fill polygons by calculated population range. Although this is possible with simple queries it becomes cumbersome when dealing with table JOIN sql queries. The way the census demographic data is organized provides several tables of statistical fields described in a catalog matrix. The front part of each record includes the geography header which keys to a special table of geography records. The geography table includes the geography hierarchy fields but not the actual geometry. An additional JOIN is required from concatenated geography fields to a polygon geometry table. In essence a double JOIN is used to get from a population statistic in the catalog matrix to the actual points of the associated geometry.

Here is a simple PostGIS SQL select on a single matrix element, H004002, at the county level of geography within a spatial bbox for Summary File SF1 Census demographics:

SELECT AsSVG(g.the_geom,1,6) as geom, sf1.”H004002″ as field, g.”NAME” as label, geo.”STATE”||geo.”COUNTY” as id FROM “SF10037″ sf1
JOIN “SF1geo” geo ON geo.”LOGRECNO”=sf1.”LOGRECNO” JOIN “county” g ON geo.”STATE”||geo.”COUNTY”=g.”STATE”||g.”COUNTY” WHERE geo.”SUMLEV”=’050′ AND geo.”GEOCOMP”=’00′ AND g.the_geom && GeometryFromText(‘LINESTRING(-107.11538505554199 38.072115898132324,
-104.59134674072266 40.524038314819336)’,4269)

Resulting in this view

The difficulty in using an OWS service from something like GeoServer is that the database query is automatically built from an xml filter definition. I did not see a way to build the complex join query using the current filter implementation. Short of diving into the GeoServer code, I could not use an OGC standard approach to my query and decided to bypass the OWS approach and go directly against the PostgreSQL/PostGIS. There is, however, an effort in the GeoServer community to add a complex feature capability which may address this type of issue. http://docs.codehaus.org/display/GEOTOOLS/Community+Schema+Support+and+Complex+Types
Census geography follows a tree hierarchy which subdivides geography into smaller and smaller polygonal entities. Unfortunately the tree is not homogeneous across all of the US. For example, ‘Native American Lands’, ‘Populated Places’, ‘Metropolitan Areas’ etc each have a different tree. The vast majority of the US, though, follows a simple ‘state -> county -> tract -> blockgroup -> block’ hierarchy.

The census does not necessarily collect/publish data to the full block depth for all demographic data. For example, using Summary File SF2 with a characteristic iterator of ‘Pakistani alone’ and total population in occupied housing units, no records are available below the county geography. On the other hand using SF1 vacancy status for housing, records are available all the way down to the block level:

The thematic legend color scheme was chosen using the excellent information by Cynthia Brewer for sequential data representation: http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/c/a/cab38/ColorBrewer/ColorBrewer.html

I kept the class categories and color range simpler by implementing with a small 5 step interval across the data range. The interesting problem with any type of sequential thematics is choosing appropriate class ranges. The simplest approach is to take the total range and simply divide it by the selected number of interval to obtain the class extents. This approach can often result in large numbers of homogeneously colored polygons, since many polygons have zero or small populations while a few have a large set of population. The majority of polygons will then fall into the same color class with only a few color coded further up the range. In fact if the range spread is significant there may be several classes with no polygons at all.

Another approach is to sort the polygons by population and divide the total number of polygons by interval into classes, which are then assigned colors. This approach classifies across the number of polygons represented instead of across the population range. The result is a more pleasing gradation of polygon color. However immediate problems occur when the data clusters at one end of the range. The result of this simplistic approach is that many of the classes fall into the same interval while only one or two classes contain all of the clustered data falling at one end of the histogram. This can be seen above where all four of the lower classes are taken up in values between 0 and 1 while only the last class picks up the high end of the population data range. The maps may be more pleasing but the information conveyed is again skewed.

The last approach can be tweaked a bit by subdividing only the polygons containing populations above zero. By lumping all of the zero range into a single class and then subdividing the remainder of the data, where there are interesting things going on, the view is a bit less skewed for zero dominant characteristics. Of course the data may be dominated by some value slightly above 0 in which case the tweaking is not especially helpful

The issues of chloropleth mapping are quite complex and even of interest to mathematicians. There are some in depth mathematical texts analyzing the intricacies of the problem which I am avoiding for the moment. My ultimate goal is to take advantage of SVG to render the actual histogram chart of the polygon selection sorted into population order. This chart would be overlaid with a set of simplistic intervals as low opacity elements with draggable edges. The idea is to allow the user to carefully select non symmetric classes from the histogram view. The histogram with its class selection is retained as an enhancement to the legend so the viewer knows exactly the class extents shown in the thematic view. In essence this passes the complexity of classification off to the user, but also retains a record for the viewer.

The need for a user profile and a way to save view setups is also apparent since the idea ultimately is to create some interesting analysis and make it available to other viewers anywhere in range of the internet.

Here is a screen shot of a similar interface developed a while ago for imagery clamp and thresholding using an interactive range setting on the rgb histograms.