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Using online maps for sociological and marketing research / Creating online maps with high level tools

Creating online maps with high level tools

In this chapter our goal is to introduce tools whit which creating online maps is very easy, and can be achieved by everyday users. First we present Google Fusion Tables in which no programming is needed to create online maps using our own data. Second, the Google Chart Tools will be shown, where minimal programming is needed to create online maps.

Google Fusion Tables

Google Fusion Tables is a high level tool to easily visualize geographical data on online maps using the Google architecture like spreadsheet like data table from Google Docs and maps from Google Maps. Google Fusion Tables is just one kind of type of documents in Google Docs (or in Google Drive), and can be reached in the Create menu on the main screen.

You can open the (larger) image in new window.Creating a new Fusion Table document in Google Driveft_create_full.jpgCreating a new Fusion Table document in Google Drive

During the creation of a new fusion table, we can determine the source of the data. We have two main choices:

Using own data to display on a map

Our data can be in different formats:

Let us say, we have the following data in an Excel spreadsheet:

Choosing the file, we can upload it, and go through the simple import process.

You can open the (larger) image in new window.Intermediate step during the import process of the uploaded spreadsheetft_import_full.jpgIntermediate step during the import process of the uploaded spreadsheet
You can open the (larger) image in new window.Intermediate step during the import process of the uploaded spreadsheetft_import2_full.jpgIntermediate step during the import process of the uploaded spreadsheet

After importing the spreadsheet, the data is shown up in a spreadsheet-like data table. This is very similar in functionality to Google’s spreadsheet application.

To display data on the map, we have to select the column which contains the geographical information. This can be achieved in several ways:

On the map, we can change the map styles, aka how the markers and map objects in general are displayed.

Displaying data from the web

We can search the web for the desired data. Among the search result there are web tables and fusion tables. We can use other fusion tables, make our own copy of it, and modify it in the way we need it. The next figure gives an example of using another fusion table containing KML information. This column forms the basis of the geographical information, and the style of these KML polygons, such as fill color, border color, border width, etc, are bound to data of other columns.

You can open the (larger) image in new window.Map of the density of population in different counties og Hungaryft_counties_full.jpgMap of the density of population in different counties og Hungary

The other examples will be a heatmap of geo-tagged Wikipedia articles. After selecting new Fusion Table in Google Drive, we can search for “geo tagged wiki” terms. On the search result page the Fusion Tables category must be selected.

You can open the (larger) image in new window.Searching for geo-tagged Wikipedia articles among fusion tables.ft_search_full.jpgSearching for geo-tagged Wikipedia articles among fusion tables.

Selecting the appropriate data source, the data table is shown up with an “xy” column containing the geographical information.

Selecting the “Map” menu in the “Visualize” menu, the data is displayed on the world map. Checking the “Display as a heat map” option, the frequency of points is represented as different colors from green to red. (At the time of writing heat maps can be selected only in the old look of Fusion Tables, so we have to change for the old look before starting to visualize data.)

Exporting maps

These maps can be shared with anyone, or can be exported in an HTML file for embedding in a web page.

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