Intensity Maps using Google Fusion Tables

What is an Intensity Map?


An intensity map highlights geographical regions based on relative values. Geographical regions can be countries, states, counties, cities, etc. and the values or aspects that can be highlighted or represented could be as varied as social, political, cultural, economic, sociological, agricultural, etc.

What is Google Fusion Tables?

Google-Fusion-TablesGoogle Fusion Tables is a cloud-based service for data management and integration. Fusion Tables enables users to upload tabular data files (spreadsheets, CSV, KML), currently of up to 100MB. The system provides several ways of visualising the data (e.g., charts, maps, and timelines) and the ability to filter and aggregate the data. It supports the integration of data from multiple sources by performing joins across tables that may belong to different users. Users can keep the data private, share it with a select set of collaborators, or make it public and thus crawlable by search engines. The discussion feature of Fusion Tables allows collaborators to conduct detailed discussions of the data at the level of tables and individual rows, columns, and cells.

Source:  Data Management Integration and Collaboration in the Cloud.

Practical Exercise:

Intensity Map of the Population in Ireland by County in 2011

The map below was created by merging data from the Ireland Population Census of 2011 and Ireland Geographical data in KML format.

The color range used here is transitioning from blue for the lowest density, to red, for the highest density.

heatmap colors
Ireland Population by County 2011

I will guide you through the steps I followed to create the population intensity map shown above.

  1. First, let’s find the Population Data for Ireland in 2011 by visiting the Central Statistics OfficeSelect the data in the site, copy and paste directly in a Google Spreadsheet, it will be saved automatically in your Google Drive. I named this file as Irish Population Census 2011 in my Google Drive.
  2. Now, let’s find the geographical data for the counties boundaries of Ireland. Visit this link containing Ireland Map Data in KML, and when prompted, save the file in your desktop.
  3. Next, go to Google Drive and log in.  If you haven’t use Fusion Tables, before, you probably need to connect the app. Click on Create > Connect more apps, then search for Fusion Tables. Click on the “Connect” button to add the app.
  4. Now, when you click on Create in Google Drive, you should see the Fusion Table option. Click on this to create a new Fusion Table document.  Select “From this computer”, Click on Browse, navigate to the desktop, and select the previous KML downloaded , Click on Next.
  5. Fusion Tables will give you a preview of the data. Check to make sure it makes sense, then click Next. In this step I noticed 3 error in the geographical tagging for the counties Carlow, Cavan and Clare, which were corrected and the amended file was saved as Ireland County Borders.
  6. Now go to File, select Merge, and choose the Google Spreadsheet created with the Population Data.
  7. Finally, in the new merged file, click on the Tab “Map of Geometry” in this is not shown, click on the + symbol and add the Map. Now you need to go to “Tools”>Configure Map>Geometry>Change Feature>Styles>Buckets then, you can decide what distribution and colors you want to apply to represent the population density and voila! the Intensity Map is done!

Further Considerations

This data visualisation can be use with multiple purposes as for example:

  • Transportation: Identify business opportunities from under-served or growing areas. Uncover niche areas that might be seeking this products or services.
  • Energy Development: Determine the characteristics of the different areas in the country and uncovering population trends to propose inhabited locations where can be possible install new sources of renewal energy as wind turbines.
  • Strategic planning: Changes to human populations over time signal necessary changes in business, public policy and governmental regulations. The highly accurate data gathered for the Irish Census are a perfect source for making informed decisions.

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