CartoDB and the Manifold Uses of Tiled Maps

Friday, October 14, 2011
Javier de la Torre was kind enough to give me a demo account for the new CartoDB project from Vizzuality. Described by some as the "Open-source fusion tables", CartoDB is interesting to me for its novel tiling functionality. Usually, tiled maps are lightning-fast on the web, but they're set in stone and take forever to render on the server side. CartoDB uses some cool tweaks to serve map tiles fast as usual, but with added feature editing capability. When a feature is selected from the tiles, CartoDB instantaneously serves up a vector version for editing.

While this can lead to some interesting hiccups - multi-feature editing, for example - this is still a huge step forward for web cartography and GIS. It's got the speed of tiles and the interation of desktop vector. The future looks bright . . .

Here's an example from CartoDB, serving up a Geosprocket database of ecoregions clustered into Biodiversity Driver Zones (BDZs):

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Renewable Energy Potential Mapped

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I've been fiddling with some data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and the solar potential in particular has a great spatial angle to it. Using QGIS for analysis, I fused NREL's Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) database with U.S. Zipcodes. Then I used Developmentseed's Tilemill engine to give a picture of how insolation changes over the course of a normal year. If you click on any of the zipcode polygons, you can tease out the regional variations in specific months, and maybe even make a longshot prediction about how viable it might be to install some rooftop photovoltaic panels.

Sorry, Pittsburgh. It doesn't look good for you or Seattle, honestly. This may not be news to you.

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