SpatialKey June 2013 Release

Posted on June 6, 2013 by Rebecca Morris


It's time for another release! Over the last few months, we've been working both behind the scenes and on the user interface to enhance your experience with SpatialKey. The new release focuses on improvements to getting data into SpatialKey and visualizing it in a dashboard.

In addition to these new features, you will notice significant thematic mapping performance enhancements. Displaying data for all US Counties for a 1.5M record dataset used to take around 90 seconds... now it takes only 3.5 seconds. Yes, you read that right, 25X faster!

Let's dive in and check out each of the new features in more detail.

Thematic Mapping

Are you importing locations outside of the US?

Our global thematic mapping release is here! SpatialKey has always offered thematic mapping by US State, County, and Postal Code (or by your own custom geographic boundaries) but now, through an additional subscription, you can map your data by Countries, Postal Codes, and CRESTA Zones internationally.

Images below: Country and France Postal Code (requires additional subscription level) thematic boundary examples

What is thematic mapping? Thematic maps (aka. Choropleth maps) show the distribution of a single attribute by various different geographical areas. They provide quickly digestible information and can highlight outliers and trends for datasets. Also, thematic maps can help you visualize data that isn’t otherwise mappable. You may run into a situation where you don’t have address information or latitude/longitude coordinates for the records in a dataset. When this happens, your data cannot be visualized on a map in traditional ways like individual points or a heatmap, but you can still use thematic mapping. Simply identify which thematic boundary each record belongs in, and we can create a visual representation of your data.

If your organization is interested in licensing global boundaries, please contact us or check out this article for additional details. If you have a need for additional thematic options - like Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), Legislative Districts, etc - please let us know. We are always looking to expand the built-in boundary options in SpatialKey.

Comparison Mapping with any Geographic Boundary

Our comparison analytics have just become even more powerful with the expansion of thematic visualization support to any boundary, anywhere in the world! Whether it is a built-in boundary used for standard thematic mapping (US County or High Resolution Postal Codes for example) or a custom shapefile that has been joined with your dataset, now you can view results of comparing two data points thematically by these boundaries.

Visualizing portfolio growth between 2011 and 2012 for a client's Japan portfolio (dark green signifies larger growth)

In addition to simple portfolio growth, you can visualize premium adequacy, compare results from various models, perform market share analyses, and much more. Select any two data points and how you wish to relate them, and you will have a powerful map, telling you much more about your data than before!

If comparing two data points within a single dataset, all thematic options for that dataset will be available. If comparing two data points within two separate datasets, only thematic options that are common between the two datasets will be available - e.g. CRESTA will only be available if both datasets have CRESTA enabled.

Data Upload Wizard

The Data Upload Wizard is getting smarter! We shuffled the screens, added a couple additional options and ... the Data Upload Wizard is able to learn from you as you walk through the upload process, delivering an enhanced user experience.

Here's a quick walkthrough of the new Data Upload Wizard workflow.

  • After selecting your dataset, identify if your data is in a single country, multiple country, or if your data is going to be analyzed without mapping. If your data is mappable, select how to map your data. The additional option you have that wasn't present before is to use other geographic boundaries.

  • The next screen is new and provides more optional functionality. If your organization has subscribed to our global boundary offering, you will see global boundary options in addition to the standard US boundary options (US State, County, and Postal Code).

  • Based on your selections on previous screens, we identify field types and required fields. Now you only have to scan the remaining fields and determine if anything other adjustments need to be made. Also, previewing your data is offered on demand now, whereas it was a step in the upload workflow before.

That's it, a few simple changes to bring you a more streamlined import workflow.

Let SpatialKey Decide

Now with only a single click, you can create a map! SpatialKey will now make all decisions to get you into your dashboard quicker. You still have flexibility to change visualizations and metrics once in your dashboard but with the new "Let SpatialKey Decide" feature, you can save decision making until the end, until after you have explored your data.

Coming from someone who opened many dashboards everyday, enjoy this new feature!

Layer Manager

With all of the changes elsewhere in SpatialKey for this release, we couldn't forget about the Layer Manager. Now, instead of having to look in the layer settings menu to find what you are looking for, we brought frequently used features front and center! Now you have quick access to change metrics, add labels, select visualization options, and remove a layer.

Data Import API Command Line Tool

The Data Import API is now more approachable than ever! Before, only IT and development teams could implement the Data Import API. With the new Data Import API Command Line Tool, typical users of SpatialKey can leverage this functionality without any programming knowledge.

Why use the Data Import API? SpatialKey makes it very easy to login and import data directly… so you might ask yourself, why would I need to use the Data Import API? One common use for the Data Import API is to schedule import tasks. Let’s say that your organization has an internal process that generated a new CSV file for your dataset every night, you could use the Data Import API to automatically pick up that file and submit a replace task in SpatialKey. Instead of coming into work in the morning, logging into SpatialKey, submitting the import job, and then working with the data, you can just wake up, login and start working with the refreshed dataset when you use the Data Import API.

For more details and to download the Command Line Tool visit this article.

Geocoding Options

Providing you with more flexibility and control over your data, we have integrated multiple geocoding options into SpatialKey. Some geocoding options will require a transactional fee to use but SpatialKey has also rolled out the SpatialKey Free geocoder, which is our own custom-built geocoding solution offered complementary with any SpatialKey license.

In addition to the added geocoding options, you can now export geocoded latitude and longitude coordinates and visualize geocodes on any basemap. For more details on geocoding option, check out this article.

Posted in data import, Visualization, Releases, choropleth | Leave a reply

SpatialKey and Insurance Data Mapping and Analysis

Posted on September 27, 2010 by admin


The insurance industry has long relied on location intelligence to assess and manage regional exposure to risk. But until recently, the geospatial analysis technologies available to help to extract this intelligence have been less than ideal. They’ve had high price tags, and their deployment, management, and use have required the help of dedicated data specialists. They’ve also taken a long time to process data.


SpatialKey changes all of that. Designed for hands-on use by the decision makers in your organization, the SaaS application breaks through barriers by giving insurers quick, easy-to-use data mapping and analysis capabilities—no programming or specialists required. Since there is no software to install or maintain, SpatialKey deploys instantly and can be used for a fraction of the cost of traditional GIS and location intelligence systems. And it complements the systems you already have in place.

With SpatialKey, you can bring in data from many sources and instantly visualize it on a map. Then you can analyze and report on your data on the fly to better understand patterns and correlations between policies, perils, demographics, and other factors. Ultimately, you’ll make decisions about capital management, underwriting, pricing, sales, and marketing that immediately benefit the bottom line.


Available either out-of-the-box or customized to meet your company’s specific needs, SpatialKey helps you realize the full potential of your insurance data without substantial system investment.

Use Cases:

* Manage risk exposure: In order to remain profitable and comply with government regulations, you’re constantly managing and monitoring risk exposure. SpatialKey provides highly interactive analysis of geographic data, allowing you to properly assess reinsurance protection needs.

* Catastrophic and large-scale event management: SpatialKey enables you to better assess and respond to large claim events such as floods and hurricanes. For example, import hurricane path data to assess probabilistic loss estimates. See how the event will affect local portfolio-holding exposure, and manage response resources accordingly.

* Maximize sales and marketing opportunities: By providing deeper insight into local demographic and policy characteristics, SpatialKey helps you develop more targeted marketing campaigns that deliver higher returns than traditional, blanket campaigns.

For more information or to start a new trial, please contact us

Posted in data import, Mapping, examples, Insurance, Visualization, solutions | Leave a reply

Tracking tropical storm Alex's potential impact on insurance policies with SpatialKey

Posted on June 30, 2010 by admin


Insurers and reinsurers alike are always on the lookout for tools that can provide them better predictive analysis and modeling of risk exposure, for example when faced with upcoming hurricanes, floods or other natural disasters. How will their policy portfolio be affected by a hurricane? Where should they dispatch local agents after a natural disaster? What level of reinsurance should they get when faced with new risk? All these decisions can make or break a company's bottom line as well as their customer service. Insurers use sophisticated modeling and forecasting tools to make decisions, but these tools are usually only accessible by trained analysts and getting reports takes hours if not days to receive.

With SpatialKey's SaaS platform, insurers can now finally bring together and analyze *on-the-fly* - not in hours or days as with other tools- a variety of data coming from different sources, and make immediate business decisions accordingly.

Take tropical storm Alex, expected to turn into a hurricane (thankfully heading away from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill) this Wednesday as an example. Since some of the predictive hurricane models are proprietary, we decided to use publicly available datasets of the hurricane's path at, as well as a mock sample of insurance policy to showcase how easy it was to import and analyze information using SpatialKey.

After downloading a shapefile containing the Tropical Storm ALEX 5-Day Track here, we easily imported it into SpatialKey and created a new report showing the potential 72 and 120 hour paths of the storm.

Tropical Storm ALEX 5-Day Track, Uncertainty Cone

Next we added our fictitious insurance company's policy data and overlayed it with the predictive hurricane's path. This allowed us to see in minutes, not days or hours, which policies in which geographies might be affected by Alex. Minutes vs days make a big difference- the quicker the information gets in the hands of decision makers within the insurance company, the quicker they can adjust their plans- for example where to dispatch local agents after a natural disaster.

Tropical Storm ALEX 5-Day Track, Uncertainty Cone with Policy files

SpatialKey shines by making complex data analysis simple and available to the people who need it the most.

Tropical Storm ALEX 5-Day Track, Uncertainty Cone with Policy files filtered

Within just a few minutes, no programming or analysts required, we imported the insurance policy data from a spreadsheet, shape files from the NOAA site and used the capabilities of SpatialKey to filter which policies could potentially be affected by the path of the storm. We could take this analysis further and forecast the impact of the storm on commercial vs home policies or per construction type. We could even import additional datasets, for example local demographics, for further insight. The analysis capabilities are endless. And the other benefit of SpatialKey is that the information (for example which policies are at the highest risk) can easily then be exported out of SpatialKey and shared within the organization for follow up. Or interactive reports containing the information above can be shared so that others on the team can further slice and dice it according to their analysis needs.

To find out how SpatialKey can help your insurance company, please visit here or contact us.

Posted in data import, examples, Insurance, Visualization, risk assessment | Leave a reply

Where 2.0 and Crisis Mapping

Posted on March 29, 2010 by admin


Our own Doug McCune, SpatialKey engineer extraordinaire, will be presenting a session about Crisis Mapping at Where 2.0 in San Jose this Thursday, April 1st. If you are attending the event, please come to Ballroom III at 4:50pm.

Analyzing conflicts via maps is not new. For centuries generals and politicians have moved pushpins on maps to help guide troop movements, understand enemy positions, or help avert conflict altogether. What's new to conflict and crisis mapping are the tools now allowing military, politicians, and humanitarian groups better understand what drives political instability and violent conflict, and better address it.

One of the more rewarding uses of SpatialKey has been driven by a team led by Dr Clionadh Raleigh. Dr Raleigh and team members from the PRIO Center for the Study of Civil War created the ACLED (Armed Conflict Location and Event Data) database. The ACLED project team's objective was to provide a better read of conflicts by understanding the relationships between combatants, social groups, economies, and even natural phenomena such as droughts or floods. Ultimately their goal is to achieve a more stable, just, and peaceful world.

Thanks in part to funding from the World Bank, ACLED provides up-to-date, immediately accessible analytics and maps for over 50 countries in the developing world to help academics, the World Bank, NGOs, aid agencies and more gain insights on civil war dynamics. The database includes for example the date and location of conflict events, event types, rebel and other groups involved, as well as specifics on battles, killings, riots, and recruitment activities by rebels, governments, militias, armed groups, protesters and civilians, and much more.

The difficulty of creating a central database for crisis mapping is that it needs to bring together vast amounts of diverse information coming from a wide variety of sources. In technical terms: a data mess. Since neither Dr Raleigh nor the users of the ACLED database are trained GIS (Geographic Information System) professionals, they decided to use SpatialKey to centralize and analyze the data. SpatialKey is web-based and does not require special training or programming. All users need is an internet connection to immediately create highly visual maps and reports.

The benefit of using SpatialKey is that each agency using ACLED data can now create maps to help answer totally different questions, no data specialists required. Some groups need to better understand how to mitigate conflict in a specific area, others want to find the safest zone to place a refugee camp, and yet others want to understand the impact of possible floods and droughts on a conflict so they can arrange their resources accordingly.

This has allowed researchers to analyze data with more precision, as well as create a more collaborative environment to help the researcher community create predictive models of civil war. It has also helped challenge assumptions. For example Dr Raleigh says that many people considered civil wars to be primarily rural events, but SpatialKey has showed that these conflicts tend to happen close to larger cities, as rebel groups attempt to engage with the military. She considers that the combination of ACLED and SpatialKey goes a long way toward advancing the field- it provides the next generation in conflict analysis and crisis mapping.

If you cannot attend Doug's session, please read our case study on the use of SpatialKey by ACLED.

For more information on SpatialKey, or to start your free trial, please go to

Posted in data import, Mapping, examples, Visualization, solutions, crisis mapping | Leave a reply

International Geocoding

Posted on June 1, 2009 by Brandon Purcell


Since the initial Beta release of SpatialKey in March we have received many requests for International geocoding. If you are not familiar with the term, geocoding it is the process of converting street addresses, or zip codes (postal codes) to geographic coordinates often expressed as latitude and longitude. With SpatialKey we are using TIGER (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system) to geocode our data. TIGER is provided by the Census Bureau which is freely available for public use. The TIGER geocoder is only available in the US and there is no such international equivalent. We have been researching different options for a unified international solution for SpatialKey but there are several challenges that that have prevented us from providing a solution:

  1. International geocoding requires conversion from vastly differing address formats across many different countries making it difficult to obtain a one size fits all solution. This requires us to implement specific solutions for different countries or areas of the world.
  2. Of the well known and widely available international geocoding solutions most are not free or prevent the commercial use within a third party product.
  3. Many international geocoding solutions are quite costly and can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to geocode just a few thousand addresses.

What can I do now if I have International data that I want to use in SpatialKey?

If your existing data does not have latitude and longitude and is outside of the United States there are several third party solutions that you can use to geocode your data before importing into SpatialKey. The USC GIS research laboratory provides a comprehensive listing of free and paid Geocoding options. There are very few free services that offer bulk geocoding for international addresses but you can utilize one of the free services listed at USC GIS research laboratory and script your own solution for bulk geocoding. Using a combination of a third party geocoding solution and our data import API you can automate management of your data within SpatialKey.

One solution that provides a free bulk geocoding for European data with up to 5000 addresses per day is BatchGeocode uses the Yahoo API's and supports both United States and European addresses.

Will SpatialKey provide International geocoding in the future?

We will continue to search for a low cost, easy to use International geocoding solution that can be integrated with SpatialKey. If you have an immediate need for international geocoding within SpatialKey we can custom develop a solution that integrates with a third party geocoder. Contact our sales team if you are interested in a custom solution.

Posted in data import, geocoding | Leave a reply

SpatialKey Data Import API

Posted on May 21, 2009 by Brandon Purcell


Getting data into SpatialKey has always been simple but until now there was no way to programatically automate imports and updates of your datasets. Today we introduced the SpatialKey Data Import API (DIAPI). The DataImport API allows developers to utilize a variety of platforms and programming languages (like Java, ColdFusion, .Net, PHP, etc.) to automate the creation and management of Datasets within SpatialKey.

Here are the basic steps to get started with the DIAPI:

  1. Generate an XML file describing the dataset and a CSV containing the actual data. See Creating Data Import XML and CSV files for more details.
  2. Use the HTTP services to authenticate and upload these assets. See the Developer Guide and DIAPI Documentation for more details.

To help you get started we have provided samples in both Java and ColdFusion. Additionally we provide an example application that you can download, customize and deploy called the SpatialKey Data Poller.

Posted in data import | Leave a reply