Product Update: Geo Data, First Class at Last

June 26, 2018 11:05 am PST | Data as a Service
geospatial map

Between 60 and 80 percent of all government data has a spatial or geographic component. This isn’t surprising — after all, governments are in the business of governing the physical world, and concepts like boundaries, places, zones, and routes affect thousands of different public processes.

Geographical data also contains profound and compelling insights about the world around us, many of which are critical to governance and policymaking. Historically, while Socrata has helped governments make tens of thousands of geographical datasets available to the public, we have not done enough to help policymakers and analysts unlock the insights hidden away in that data.

As of this week, we are proud to say all that has changed.

Now, for the first time in our history, geographical data will truly be treated as a first class asset on the Socrata platform, with an entirely new ingress, automation, management, and visualization capability that completely revolutionizes the experience of managing and analyzing geographical data on our platform.

This change comes in several parts that permeate the Socrata experience. 


Socrata’s new data import experience, in addition to being a delightful and dramatically more powerful experience than our legacy upload interface, brings a new model for loading and configuring geospatial data.

Instead of shapefiles being loaded in as a special kind of asset, now any kind of spatial data — tabular with a location column, a shapefile with points, lines, or polygons, a KML/KMZ file, etc. — can be loaded through the standard import experience and will produce a tabular dataset that can be used just like any other asset on Socrata. Geo assets will get their own Primer pages that centralize basic information about the dataset, more complete metadata management, schema documentation, related assets, and more.

Data Preview Page


Transforms and Management

Another powerful capability of the new import experience is the ability to edit your data during the upload with query-driven transformations. An example of the power of this functionality is in the process of bringing data from an ESRI server into Socrata. ESRI uses the ArcGIS Point standard for storing points, whereas Socrata visualizations require data in the GeoJSON or WKT standards. Now, with transformations, users can modify location fields coming from an ESRI environment into a compliant GeoJSON format, which unlocks visualization and reuse within Socrata.

Even more exciting, this capability exists not just on “first load,” but whenever a data publisher goes to edit a dataset. Previously, if a dataset or shapefile was loaded incorrectly onto the platform, a data publisher would have to open it up offline in Excel or another tool, try to make the appropriate transformation or correction, and then re-upload the entire dataset. Now, data cleaning can happen easily without leaving the Socrata environment. Data publishers can also reproject data into different formats, geocode data with addresses, and add new elements to an attribute table for visualization and consumption.


Visualizing Geospatial Data in Socrata



Once geo data has been ingressed through the new data import experience, it is represented in the platform as a standard Socrata dataset. This allows users to visualize all of the data in a shapefile — including the attribute table — in a variety of formats. Previously, if a shapefile was uploaded with valuable attribute data, users were unable to create bar charts, pie charts, or other kinds of analytical visualizations with that information.

Now, all of that analytical insight has been unlocked for use within Socrata. In the example below, we’re able to take a parcel file and easily visualize school district coverage across the city — valuable analytical insight that was previously difficult to access through our platform.


School District Coverage by Parcel



Of course, once all of this geospatial data is loaded and ready on the platform, the most important action a user can take is to visualize it on a map. Socrata has also made a substantial investment in our mapping capabilities, and we are thrilled to offer a beautiful, scalable, powerful experience to create and explore maps that is light years ahead of any previous Socrata offering.

Users can now create maps that offer analytical features like coloring and resizing points or lines based on attribute data, clustering and stacking to handle data at scale, and can even overlay multiple layers on the same map for analytical and exploratory purposes. Longtime Socrata users will be delighted at the power and flexibility that now sits at their fingertips.


geospatial map


At the end of the day, all of these changes allow Socrata users to build visualizations and maps with geospatial data at unprecedented scale and quality. We can’t wait to see what you will build!

Want to learn more about the new updates to geographical data on Socrata? Talk to your account manager or contact us.

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