Business intelligence is a hot topic these days and, understandably, those in the transportation sector are clamoring to get a piece of that action; insights into their infrastructure/assets and management practices, return on investments and as a tool to make better decisions across their enterprise.
At DTS, we focus on intelligent asset management. Therefore, it makes sense that we are helping our DOT clients integrate their assets and GIS data with these business intelligence tools.
Business intelligence or “BI” is not new. Tableau® has been on the scene crushing it for well over a decade. Others, like Microsoft and Esri, are or are attempting to make inroads into this line of business. Here is a brief look at Microsoft’s Power BI. I encourage you to check it out as well as Esri’s Insights for ArcGIS. This is a space DTS has and will continue to play in!
Microsoft Power BI
Microsoft Power BI is a relative newcomer to the business analytics services arena. It offers a free desktop interface for the beleaguered data analyst tasked with creating sharp looking hard-copy reports that tell stories. Microsoft also offers cloud-based services (SaaS) for self-service analytics (free) and sharing (paid).
In addition, it has recently announced the Power BI Premium service, a capacity-based licensing model, which offers organizations the ability to manage their reports with on-premise Power BI Report Server. Microsoft has made it easy to run with an Azure cloud infrastructure (Azure Active Directory, Azure SQL Database, etc.) or leverage on-premises resources such as Active Directory, SQL Server, etc.
With Power BI service and Power BI Premium, developers can embed dashboards and reports in desktop and web applications. This functionality allows organizations to provide access to big data and powerful analytical tools in custom applications.
Power BI does support limited mapping functionality out-of-box with their familiar Bing map visualization component. It supports rendering points based on coordinates or geocoded addresses, and polygons based on common boundaries derived from geocoded location columns such as zip code, city, county and state values. Power BI currently does not support rendering linear data. They do offer an R component that has some mapping capabilities however.
For customers with geospatial data, the glaring lack of support for mapping features using native geometry from the underlying RDBMS is stark. So how is a DOT to represent their assets that include points, lines and polygons? Through custom components. Microsoft has made Power BI extensible meaning developers can create and share components.
ArcGIS Maps For Power BI
If your organization lacks a development team but is using ArcGIS Enterprise, then perhaps Insights for ArcGIS is worth looking into.
Esri has released ArcGIS Maps for Power BI free. While the data available for rendering has the same limitations as the default Bing map (coordinates or geocoded locations), it does offer a much richer visualization experience for the end user.
Supplemental reference layers may be included from AGOL or ArcGIS Server. Designers will appreciate multiple basemap options to choose from and map themes that include heat map and cluster renderers among others. The component also offers several feature selection options:
- Point and click for individual features. This is similar to what is available in the default Bing map
- Drawing a rectangle to select features contained
- Using polygon features from reference layers to select features contained
Overall, Esri has done a very nice job with this component. It is well worth checking out.