Friday, July 24, 2015

Mapdeck beta testing invitation

We are very close to finalising functionality for the beta release and are looking for testers!

GIS background not required since Mapdeck service is aimed at people with no or limited experience with spatial software. Please send your expression of interest to participate via email to or via contact form on web site. All testers will have priority when applying for affiliates/reseller status (i.e. revenue sharing program). platform turned out to be quite a complex beast, with many independent modules which require integration within the main platform to enable full interoperability. Although the core functionality in the initial release is limited, it will enable individuals to:

  • sign up (i.e. create free account)
  • upload own files (spatial and non-spatial)
  • subscribe to a selection of spatial data and apps (free-of-charge and time limited paid subscriptions)
  • create and manage user content (with compulsory metadata for ease of managing information resources)
  • upgrade subscriptions to enable sharing – user content as well as Mapdeck apps and data 
  • create teams and share selected content; and
  • request assistance via User Support 

There are several functional components of Mapdeck that we would like to test in particular:

  • Mapdeck Vault: free app for managing and sharing user content
  • Mapdeck Finder: new spatial resources catalogue app with data, apps and user content search functionality 
  • Subscriptions and purchase workflow: for adding data and applications to user account
  • Free system apps: Data Viewer, Data Editor, File Manager and Deck Creator
  • First lot of specialised apps: Sales Area Management Tool v2 and Thematic Mapper v2 (when ready)

As you can see, there are many moving parts in Mapdeck and we would like to ensure everything is working as expected before we throw the gates open to the public. Your assistance will be greatly appreciated!

Related Posts:

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mapdeck in alpha release

We have a small announcement to make today – platform is now officially in alpha release. No time for confetti and big celebration yet as we are busily testing core functionality with a selected few to iron out any bugs and workflow issues.

The task is not easy when you consider we are building our own mini versions of Dropbox and Google Docs, and at the same time, reinvent basics of GIS concepts and technology while defining new spatial cataloguing standard…   Not a small challenge for a team of just a few.

We took the opportunity to tidy up front page and present you today with new site design and logo:

Front page now has links to a few demo maps created with Thematic Mapper app – this is still only an older prototype version but is powerful enough to be deployed in full production capacity and many of our clients are already taking advantage of its capabilities.

More exciting news coming soon!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Improving property selection with Census data

First published on

Buying a property is a complex process with many decision points along the way, regardless of whether you are buying to live in or to rent out. A very important part of that decision process is deciding where to buy, and what type of property in particular.

There will be those rare occasions when the buyer just sees a property for the first time, either in real life or just on a picture, and immediately knows “this is it!”.

However, more often than not, the selection of a property for purchase is an elimination process whereby you firstly exclude what you don’t want, and then evaluate and rank what is left to arrive at the final decision.

In either case, the more time one spends learning about various property options and getting to know the peculiarities of the local market, the better the chance of spotting that ‘perfect opportunity’ - or at least making the selection process a more logical exercise, and hence less stressful.

There is a large variety of property market information available to individuals. Some information is accessible for free online as part of marketing activities of various real estate related web sites, while other requires payment of hefty fees to access.

Although Australian Census data may not be at the top of the list of the most popular information sources to consult when buying a property, it is a great resource that should be seriously considered as a starting point in the purchasing process.

The key advantage of using Census data in property market research is that it allows you to quickly narrow the choice of locations to concentrate your further, more-detailed research on. Hence, it allows prospective buyers to make their research more focused, and subsequently, a much cheaper and much faster exercise.

After all, as any real estate agent will tell you, buying a property is about ‘location, location, location’. So, defining ‘where’ to start looking should always be a priority.

Sales reports for suburbs or postcodes that list recent transactions provide prospective buyers with good insights into the price distribution in a given location and at a given time but can be quite expensive to obtain. These are great for the final stage of your research when you are comparing between specific offerings on the market and assessing whether what you are interested in is good value in relation to other recent sales in that location.

However, considering there are a few hundred suburbs or postcodes per capital city, accessing all that information would be prohibitively expensive. Not to mention impractical if it is delivered in a pdf report format.

Therefore, tools that allow analysing and mapping data across whole regions offer much more utility in the early stages of the research.

Let’s review a few examples of simple maps with data from the latest 2011 Census of Population and Housing to illustrate the value of such information for deciding on where and what to buy. We will focus on Sydney and will use postal areas as a geographic reference.

Census data was current as at 6 August 2011 so it may appear a bit dated in 2015. However, in this analysis we are primarily interested in the relative differences between areas rather than absolute values, therefore the age of data is not so important, as long as it is reasonably recent.

The obvious choice in starting the analysis would be to look at median mortgage payments per postcode – this acts as a quick reference to the distribution of prices across the city. The map below gives a good indication where the expensive and not so expensive parts of Sydney are.

However, using this dataset alone will not allow you to distinguish between areas with lots of new mortgages (hence high mortgage payments) and those with expensive but mostly paid-off properties (that is, with smaller remaining mortgages).

Therefore, median rent data provides a much more useful picture since rental costs and the cost of buying a property are closely related (see “Australian property prices explained” for the explanation of this concept).

Using the map like the one above, you can determine areas around the city with similar property prices. For example, if you have identified one area with properties in your price range, by locating polygons shaded in the same colour you can easily identify neighbourhoods that have similarly affordable properties.

Price affordability is one factor affecting the choice of location but how desirable is the neighbourhood is another important consideration in the purchase decision. You could try to assess the attractiveness of the neighbourhood based on the rate of unemployment or family incomes but the best summary measure is The Index of Relative Socio-economic Advantage and Disadvantage which summarises information about the economic and social conditions of people and households within an area.

For example, a low score indicates relatively greater disadvantage and a lack of advantage in general. That is, these are locations with many households with low incomes, or many people in unskilled occupations and few households with high incomes, or few people in skilled occupations.

It is all well and good to follow advice to “buy in the West” because it is cheaper and prices have the potential to rise more than in the East over the next few years (this pattern of price growth was explained in an earlier article “Inner ring the best bet in Sydney and here's why”) but the decision has to be balanced with the risk that it will be much harder to sell or rent out in those locations when the going gets tougher.

Furthermore, as an investor, you may be interested primarily in locations with high concentration of rental properties which indicate high demand for rental accommodation. Whereas, owner-occupiers may prefer to avoid areas with excessive stock of rental accommodation.

Landlords cannot and should not discriminate against families with young children but those who would like to reduce the risk of excessive wear and tear of their rental properties could use Census data to pick locations where probability of this type of tenant is reduced.

And how crucial is a parking space if you are buying an apartment to rent out? Sure, it is great if there is one included in the purchase price but for many locations along major train lines and arterial roads where 30% or even 50% of households do not have a car, lack of parking space should not be a deal breaker.

Finally, consulting Census data can also help prospective buyers as well as existing landlords to assess the potential of specific locations for group rentals which can significantly boost rental yields by maximising income from the asset.

Census data cannot provide all the answers but it is of great help in the property selection process as it offers a fast way to narrow your search options to a handful of locations to then focus your more detailed research on. Using Census statistics will save you money and valuable time in arriving at the optimal selection for purchase.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Census 2010 data for California ZIP codes

We are busily collecting spatial data for our soon to be launched platform. Below is a sample of the US 2010 Census data for California ZIP Codes (5-Digit ZIP Code Tabulation Area or ZCTA5 to be precise) presented as a series of choropleth maps using a prototype version of our Thematic Mapper app.

To explore the data follow this link: California Population Statistics by ZIP Code (2010)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Test run: mapping 350,000 vector polygons

We are currently testing our new spatial data server. The challenge was to display around 350,000 Mesh Block polygons - in real time, in a standard browser without WebGL support. Why? Not just because... The future of online GIS is in real time rendering of spatial information - according to individual user requirements and attribute information that may be changing every second, on desktop as well as in mobile devices. This milestone takes us closer to having technology with such capabilities.

Briefly about Mesh Blocks - they are the smallest geographic region in the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS), and the smallest geographical unit for which Census data are available.

They broadly identify land use such as residential, commercial, educational, agricultural and parks, and contain counts of the total usual resident population and total dwelling count from the 2011 Census of Population and Housing.

This is the largest polygon file for Australia we could get our hands on so far (the data is distributed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in several files – one for each State or Territory, but we combined them into a single file). The next test is to handle and display all cadastre boundaries…

Saturday, February 21, 2015

MapDeck Crowdfunding

We were overwhelmed with the interest in MapDeck and our applications so this offer has now closed.  You can still register your interest in beta release via contact form on site. Stay tuned for the updates!

Please review the details of the offer below and submit your expression of interest via the contact form on front page. 

[ Our mission ] 

We believe that good information empowers businesses to make better decisions. And in turn, better decisions allow your organisation to reach its goals faster. Hence, access to the right information is imperative to your businesses future success.

By facilitating easy access to useful data and analytical tools - anywhere, at any time, and on any device – we can provide our users with a unique advantage: an opportunity to consult and review crucial information at the time of making important decisions. With MapDeck you can make fully informed decisions at any time.

We are currently building the infrastructure to make this all possible. By taking advantage right now of our first two stand-alone web applications you can help us with its development and bring forward the official launch of MapDeck to mid-2015!

[ Who will benefit from this offer ]

Our first prototype apps will be of particular interest to those who:
  • create and manage sales territories, franchise territories, or dealership areas based on postcodes; 
  • require socio-economic statistics to identify market opportunities in specific locations.
You will find links to examples of the output that can be created and published through our MapDeck applications below.

[The offer] 

We are inviting 100 new users to subscribe to our Mapdeck data and application package at a highly discounted price.

The apps are stand-alone, fully functional prototypes, a bit rough around the edges but already delivering real benefits to many existing users.

You do not have to wait for the Mapdeck platform to be fully operational to start reaping the rewards of incorporating spatial information and analysis into your decision making processes.

Start your subscription now by submitting your expression of interest via the contact form on front page

The package offer includes:

Sales Area Management Tool: this tool facilitates the fast creation of sales or franchise territories based on manually selected postcodes - either via a map-click function, drawing a circle or polygon on a map, or by typing in the required postcode numbers.

It takes only a few minutes to chart these territories, rather than weeks of painstakingly matching individual postcode numbers to locations off hardcopy maps. Information can then be exported in CSV format for reuse in spreadsheets or saved for editing at a later date.

For further details about Sales Area Management Tools functionality please refer to this All-Things-Spatial blog article.

Thematic Mapper: this tool allows you to create a visualisation of location-specific information that is matched to administrative boundaries (such as postcodes), or alternatively, to location-points (such as cities, towns or individual addresses).

Unlike other online GIS tools, Thematic Mapper allows you to create choropleth (thematic) maps on-the-go. In other words, polygons are assigned colours dynamically, according to rules defined by the user, and maps are not preconfigured in advance by the system administrator.

This capability empowers users to create custom maps, according to individual requirements and aesthetics - regardless of whether the map content is based on generic data (for example, postcode boundaries and Census statistics) or based on user private information* uploaded to the server (for example, monthly sales by postcode or by individual customer).

/* Please note, this specific functionality is not yet fully automated and hence it is not part of the package offering. However, we will be very happy to assist you with importing your own data under a separate arrangement./ 

The key advantage of Thematic Mapper is the ease in creating and publishing maps online. Users do not have to source their own data or be experts in GIS or spatial analytics to create comprehensive, information-rich and visually attractive online maps.

For further details about Thematic Mapper’s functionality please refer to this All-Things-Spatial blog article

Data included in this deal:

  • 2011 Australian Postal Area boundaries (2,500+ polygons) 
  • Census 2011 Basic Community Profiles (over 7,000 individual data items) 
  • Background maps and imagery from various open source projects (including OpenStreetMap and Geoscience Australia) 
  • location search powered by MapQuest’s Nominatim service 

Would you like to have access to similar information for the US, or UK or New Zealand? Be the first to ask! 

[ Consideration ] 

For a single payment of A$... [offer no longer available] you will secure a 12 month subscription to the above listed tools and data (tax invoice provided). This represents a significant discount to other, less-powerful GIS tools currently available in the market.

PLUS, all subscribers will receive:
  • free access to equivalent Mapdeck tools and data when it is formally launched (excluding the public publishing option) for the reminder of the subscription term; and 
  • 50% discount on the first full year subscription for these two Mapdeck tools if you choose to continue with the service. 

Please use our contact form on to register your expression of interest in this offer.

Important! Please note: The tools and data under this offer are provided on “as is” basis, with no warranty as to their fitness for any purpose or that your access to the service will be uninterrupted or error-free, also that any defects will be corrected. These are, after all, only prototypes.

The tools in the prototype release are intended primarily for individual use and the map sharing functionality is suitable only for small groups of users. While we place no restrictions on how many maps can be created and published per account, this offer is conditional on the overall traffic to all accounts not exceeding 100,000 users a month.

In the interest of all subscribers to this offer and their patrons, we reserve the right to block any maps that account for unreasonably large proportion of the traffic. The decision will be at our sole discretion. If you think traffic to your published maps will exceed the limits we will be happy to discuss contingencies on case by case basis.

[ Other options to participate in this initiative ] 

If you are not in a position to assist financially in the development of the Mapdeck platform by taking up our offer, you can still provide us with valuable feedback on the public maps created with the Thematic Mapper app. All it takes is a short message using the “contact us” form on!

Any comments on what you like or don’t like about the functionality of our apps, suggestions on how to improve them, or any request to add other functionality, or even build entire application are most welcome!

[ Examples of Thematic Mapper public maps ] 

Created with standard information:
Census data for property buyers

Created with custom information:
Demonstration of Thematic Mapper functionality (public maps)
Sydney Greater Metropolitan Region Property Prices
[In]Sight Regional Competitiveness Index for Local Government Areas 
Southern Inland - Local Business
Southern Inland – Employment
Southern Inland – Population
My Broadband maps 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mapping Consumer Spend

Identifying locations with the greatest potential for your product or service is a challenge for any business regardless of the scale of operations.

Conducting large scale customer research can be time consuming, not to mention costly, and buying expert reports may not necessarily provide the level of detail required to identify specific locations to focus your sales efforts on.

However, there is a quick and inexpensive way to evaluate market potential and to locate the most promising places for business expansion using information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and some clever tools. Surprisingly, these tools can yield very accurate results with very little effort.

As a demonstration, let’s consider a supplier of haircare products who intends to tap into the Sydney market. Using Mapdeck’s Thematic Mapper application it only takes a few mouse clicks to create a map with all the essential information for analysis:

[Household expenditure on haircare products by postcode]

The map clearly demonstrates that locations around Parramatta, Blacktown or Liverpool offer much bigger potential for haircare products than Sydney city and Eastern Suburbs (i.e. high concentration of dark red polygons indicating higher consumer spend).

With a few additional mouse clicks, it is easy to determine the estimated value of total haircare product sales in these 3 locations - for example, by defining a 5 km radius around the main retail precinct as a catchment area. It would yield the following result:

Estimated Market Size for Haircare Products:

Parramatta: $17.8M p.a.
Blacktown: $6.8M p.a. (excluding locations within 5km radius from Parramatta)
Liverpool: $15M p.a.

And how big is the overall market for haircare products in Australia? A few more mouse clicks are required to download the data and to open the csv file to reveal the big number:

Estimated market size for haircare products in Australia is almost $1 billion p.a. (lower bound is $950 million and upper bound is $1,035 million p.a.)

Not bad for 5 minutes work.

There are over 600 product and service categories to choose from to conduct your analysis and information can be mapped down to Statistical Area 1 (SA1) level, which means you can examine data over areas as small as just a few neighbourhoods.

Whether you are evaluating overall market potential or just investigating opportunities in specific catchment areas, the information available via Mapdeck can get you answers quickly. Ultimately, this will help save time and money so you can concentrate on exploring any identified market opportunities and not on chasing the data required to conduct the initial analysis.

For more information on this and other cost effective market intelligence solutions for business of all sizes please contact us via enquiry form on site.

Related Posts:
How maps can improve sales