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Trends and Outliers

TIBCO Spotfire's Business Intelligence Blog


Map For That? Term Doesn’t Do Justice to Data Visualization

j04433661 150x150 Map For That? Term Doesn’t Do Justice to Data Visualization  Politics and cell phone coverage are two subjects that get people complaining about the status quo.  They are also common reasons for seeking insights from details in maps derived from user information and data visualization.  The intelligence comes from watching those maps evolve over time or adapt to shifting trends.  New ways of looking at details and the dissatisfaction that leads to changes – with candidates and political party, devices or choice of carrier – is the difference between looking at a photo and watching a movie.

 So take a different view of what you “think” you already know.  For example, the 2004 and 2008 U.S. presidential elections — you know who won — but try a new look that renders the states according to the number of votes cast – showing their influence.  While the common tool was a simple red state/blue state map as an easy device for data visualization, the real information was contained in a “Cartogram” of electoral and total vote results.(scroll down to see comparisons).

 Regardless of which cellular provider delivers your calls and text messages, the arguments over which has enough coverage is beside the point when it comes to business intelligence about the network. User-generated maps like deliver updated information about outages, complaints from actual users. Other data visualization from American Roamer updates coverage geographies with independent reports and up-to-the-minute details.

 Combining maps that provide recognizable images – borders, geographies, limits – with data visualization or a motion like time-lapse photography delivers the best of quick understanding with the useful and, perhaps unexpected, level of details. Consider topographic maps that show the landscape, railroad maps or waterway maps that include depths and currents to assist things you CAN’T see.

A simple cell coverage map showed that there SHOULD be cell service in Franconia Notch, NH . But a quick look around tells you it is a logical “dead spot” far from repeater towers or surrounded by mountains that might disrupt signals. So which interpretation is correct?


What data could you map to learn more about your business?  Time, location, reaction, rate of change or sensitivity to price are just some of the characteristics worth exploring.   And you’ll need to see if defections – what political parties and cell phone companies call “churn” when people switch to a competitor – just to make a change and seek greener pastures to try something new.

 David Wallace
Spotfire Blogging Team

Image Credit: Microsoft Office Clip Art

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