10 Oct 2011

Development: The Fall of the Tiled Map Image

Pregenerated tiled map images as used by Google Maps, Microsoft Bing and many GIS focused vendors has been the dominant solution GIS web mapping for solutions for many years. Pregenerated tile maps were a clever and highly successful solution to the technology limitations of the time (circa 2004) however, these limitations no longer exist. Is it time for a change of approach?

The pregenerated tile image approach offered a high scale solution for fundamentally static data. It enabled browsers with poor support for vector graphics (slow VML and SVG) and slow javascript engines to deliver a seamless highly interactive user experience.The pregeneration exercise required massive processing power to create tiles and huge storage requirements to store them. Refreshing tile sets was a cumersome affair with considerable overhead. For reasonable sized areas and deep zoom levels it becomes cost prohibitive for many organizations. Replacing pregeneration with on the fly generation is too slow for a practical user experience with most tile engines. Many clever caching strategies have been used to work around this issue but they all have limitations. From an end user perspective map tiles are just images. They lack the interactive experiences possible with vector data. Tiled map images are considerably larger than their vector data equivalent and do not compress well using compression techniques available within HTTP hence, are not well suited to smaller bandwidth web environments.

Several key technology changes may help solve these issues and drive change to more modern and effective techniques:
Browser Statistics
  • HTML 5 - brings with it long awaited support for standardized vector graphics through SVG and Canvas.
  • Wide and comprehensive support for HTML 5 in modern browsers.
  • High Performance Browser Vector Graphics - both IE and Firefox now support hardware enabled vector rendering. Prior to this the practical limit for vector graphics in browsers was 500-1000 features. The new are not clear but examples exist of in excess of 10,000 features.
  • Massive performance enhancements for Javascript engines
  • Rapid adoption of more capable browser releases driven by better user experiences and increased concerns over browser security by IT teams.
  • Mobile - mobile is rapidly becoming the most important end user platform. Mobile form factors range from traditional small devices to touch tablets.
  • Dynamic data - timely near real time data has become part of a normal user experience.
  • User experience - user expectations have increased significantly and pregenerated tiles can no longer deliver.
    What will be the next generation of web mapping?
    The technology barriers and drivers above all point to a new solution - vector web mapping. Why?
    1. Better Support for Mobile - Vector graphics have significant advantages to support multiple mobile form factors. Vector graphics are available in HTML 5 compliant mobile browsers. Vector graphics are relatively small size compared with images means hence, support lower bandwidth environments. Vectors also compress well (up to 90%) using GZIP that is available within HTTP.
    2. Dynamic Data - with pregenerated tile images its impossible to adequately provide support for dynamic data. Businesses rely on rapidly changing data. Delivery of on the fly vector graphics allows real time data to be displayed. Combined with support for server push of data to browsers in HTML 5 truly dynamic data can be supported in the browser. This also enables many variations of the same map to be displayed (eg. cartography, layer visibility and subsets of features) without storage duplication.
    3. User Experience - vector graphics allow richer user experiences to be created. HTML 5 and hardware graphics support provides support for creating a practical dynamic user experience with data volumes traditionally found in GIS systems. Improved user experiences can also be achieved from the availability of vectors themselves. For example:
      • Dynamic selections and styling without return trips to the server
      • Interactivity generated by mouse movements over features
      • Rich editing interfaces
      • Vector animation for time series
      • Vector graphics are massively smaller. 7 times smaller files before compression.
      • Vector graphics are significantly faster to render. 15-20 times faster than generating an image.
      • Scalability barriers can be overcome. This removes the need for pregeneration.
    There are some examples of web mapping in vector graphics available already from small innovative companies. Google has already adopted vector graphics for its consumer focused mobile offering. An opportunity exists here for the GIS industry to take ownership of business focused web mapping back from the consumer vendors through delivery of technology focused on business needs.

    20 comments:

    1. Vector web mapping is indeed the future of current web mapping tools. Unfortunately, problems remain and the old raster-google-map culture is deeply installed... This document is interesting on this topic:
      http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-33024-7_7
      http://www.ahahah.eu/data/doc/gisscience2012_gaffuri_draft.pdf

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

        Delete
    2. A borrower cannot predict the occurrence of an expense beforehand. Conventionally however, borrowers were expected to predict well and keep a minimum gap of one month between application and approval. The borrowers who could not were left with no choice except to get finance at excessively high rates of interest. Instant loans changed all this. This article explains how instant loans have brought about a change in the loans scenario. The article also states the various forms of instant loans that are available in the financial market nowadays. a fantastic read

      ReplyDelete
    3. Small business owners and entrepreneurs are good at working on their own and thinking outside the box. When things aren't working though, we are not good at something which, if left unchecked, can destroy our business - asking for help. 3d coat 4

      ReplyDelete
    4. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I could leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed scaning what you all have to say amazon business

      ReplyDelete
    5. Schools demand ubiquitous computing. Technology costs must be integrated in general school budgets. All budgets, despite project or department, must be completely reviewed to see how technology can support and make the end product more successful. antminer u3 instructions

      ReplyDelete
    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

      ReplyDelete
    7. This question has been in the minds of most folks. In the midst of the uprising technology advances we are also faced with lots of negative effects we see today. This question is actually related with life and medicine as technology has solved a lot of our health problems in the past that was almost impossible to deal with. Discover Pool

      ReplyDelete
    8. Many hunters dream about having Amazing adventures like one might see in the movies. Other outdoorsmen head outdoors at the familiar tree stand. If you are seeking something new from the normal and... Kids hunting boots

      ReplyDelete
    9. This question has been in the minds of most folks. In the midst of the uprising technology advances we are also faced with lots of negative effects we see today. This question is actually related with life and medicine as technology has solved a lot of our health problems in the past that was almost impossible to deal with. Tech articles

      ReplyDelete
    10. Very good information. Its very useful for me. For best Minneapolis Web Design company visit proweb365.com

      ReplyDelete
    11. Schools demand ubiquitous computing. Technology costs must be integrated in general school budgets. All budgets, despite project or department, must be completely reviewed to see how technology can support and make the end product more successful. original site

      ReplyDelete
    12. The original triathletes were amazing. Dave Scott and Mark Allen accomplished amazing feats in triathlon long before technology took over the sport. youtube converter mp3

      ReplyDelete
    13. Have you noted that when you go and read the news online, and read through the various stories from the syndicated websites that they usually have a technology section, and that technology section is filled with the latest gadgets, social networking methods, and any of the newest things coming from Silicon Valley? I have, and as a lover of technology, and coordinator for a think tank, I am disturbed by all this. Now then let me explain what I mean. call recorder app iphone

      ReplyDelete
    14. Trying to puzzle out your state pension age could be an extremely difficult course of action, and several people don't have a clue how to start. Luckily, because of technological innovation, there are several super easy ways of determining your own state pension age by means of online pension calculators. hours for work calculator

      ReplyDelete
    15. This question has been in the minds of most folks. In the midst of the uprising technology advances we are also faced with lots of negative effects we see today. This question is actually related with life and medicine as technology has solved a lot of our health problems in the past that was almost impossible to deal with. kg to stone converter

      ReplyDelete
    16. With most people plugged in all the time, I often wonder what effect technology is having on our kids. Some say technology is another helpful learning tool that is making our kids smarter and some say it is having no significant effect at all. Still, others propose that technology use is encouraging social isolation, increasing attentional problems, encouraging unhealthy habits, and ultimately changing our culture and the way humans interact. Durometer

      ReplyDelete
    17. กำจัดปลวกเชียงใหม่ ( chiangmai termite ) เป็นบริษัทกำจัดปลวกเชียงใหม่ ฉีดปลวกเชียงใหม่ราคาถูก เน้นความคุ้มค่า เพื่อลดค่าใช้จ่ายของลูกค้า. มีขั้นตอนการฉีดปลวกเหมือนกับบริษัทใหญ่ราคาแพง. ฉีดปลวกเชียงใหม่

      ReplyDelete
    18. The use of computer technology has become a major part of the teaching process in the 21st century. As a young teacher you will be expected to use computer technology to enhance the learning of your students. However, you, as an inexperienced teacher, should begin with simple technology, slowly using only one form at a time. Over time you must gain experience in all forms of technology to add interest and real life data as well as efficiency to their teaching. This article is designed to help you to use technology successfully as quickly as possible. offshore web hosting

      ReplyDelete
    19. If I could highlight the one main mistake that small to medium sized businesses do, it is failing to implement internet marketing into their current marketing and promotions strategies. Most small to medium sized companies are either afraid of exploring internet marketing strategies, intimidated that they don't have the knowledge to do so, or under the misunderstanding that it is far too expensive for them. Unblock Kickass

      ReplyDelete