Visualizing Spatial Data using Google Drive and Fusion Tables

Some people think that Google does not provide a solution for Geographic Information Scientists. I’d beg to differ, beyond their purchase of Keyhole Inc. and the subsequent formation of Google Earth, Googlers have also created the Fusion Tables experiment. Fusion Tables allow you to take data available in a Google Drive spreadsheet and visualize various datum overlaid on a Google Map base map.

Creating Maps using Google Drive Spreadsheet and the Fusion Tables Experiment

Here’s an example Fusion Table map I created, using South American butterfly data provided by the Fusion Table experiment.  Clicking the “Rows” tab will showcase how the data exists within Google Drive, complete with embedded images.

Spreadsheet data seen in Google Drive

Google Drive Spreadsheet with Data

Notice that there are columns for Latitude and Longitude that are used to geocode the coordinates.  Fusion Tables also allow Google Drive users to create and associate objects with their spreadsheet records.  The in browser geocoding ranges in accuracy, depending on how your fields are configured.  For example, I created a Fusion Table for the 32 NFL Football teams, along with their XY location for where their arena is located.  The Arizona Cardinals play in Glendale, but the geocoder defaults to a Glendale located outside of Los Angeles instead.

Geocoding Glendale, Arizona

Geocoding Glendale, Arizona

Fortunately, Google Fusion Tables allow for customization of column types by using the Change function.


Unfortunately, using the “Two column location” check box does not work when trying to specify City and State as a two column location.  This would be useful in the event that a Latitude and Longitude are not available.

Change Type

The Two column location check box is hard coded to work with Latitude and Longitude values.  Thus rendering separate Address, City, State and Zip Code columns useless within the Two column location selection.

Longitude and Latitude values seem to be set as Two column locations by default.  However, Google Drive’s Fusion Table appear to interact with Longitude locations better than locations set with Latitude columns, despite those two columns being linked as a two column location.  Below is an example comparing the differences between using Lat and Long with my sample NFL Arena table.

Using Longitude to Geocode

Using Longitude to Geocode

Latitude Location

Using Latitude to Geocode

Using my Arena Name for the Arizona Cardinals, yields a similar result as using the XY values do.  Though there is a slight discrepancy, both Arena and XY geocode to the Arizona Cardinal’s arena in this case.

Cardinals Orthoimagery

Cardinals Satellite Imagery

Cardinals in Glendale, AZ

Cardinals in Glendale, AZ

Ideally, Google Fusion Tables appear to work better with data that isn’t parsed out into separate cells. Google Drive is equipped to manipulate data, but spreadsheets that are set to use the Fusion Table experiment are a little harder to manipulate.

To wrap it up, I wanted to gauge the community to see how many folks have looked into using Google Drive and Fusion tables on a project.  Does anyone have academic or business use stories for Google Fusion Tables?

Currently I have only played around with a couple sample data sets and am looking to put together a best practices guide for this web mapping tool.

Thanks a ton,


How does Geography inform Online Internet Marketing?

Geography and Online Internet Marketing

Location is pivotal to traditional modes of advertising communication. Traditional media campaigns are fixed in a given market and their results can be measured and visualized geographically. Newspapers have a fixed distribution. Billboards are literally connected to a physical space. Direct Mail is disseminated to address lists in Zip Codes and Carrier Route boundaries. Television and Radio markets also have fixed geographies, which makes it easier for Nielsen and Arbitron to measure their respective audiences and provide ratings information back to media buyers.

How does Geography inform Online Internet Marketing?

The Internet plays an enormous role in the Economy. Access to the World Wide Web continues to grow as people consume online content using their Desktops, Laptops, Tablets and Smartphones. Televisions and video game consoles are also increasingly providing digital content. Although some may believe the Internet economy exists independent of geography, location plays a huge role in marketing products online.

All sorts of demographic and psychogeographic analysis is conducted to make sense of traditional media markets, but how would one use geography to measure advertising communications in cyberspace?

Current trends in Online Internet Marketing, such as Search Engine Optimization (Organic Marketing), Search Engine Marketing (Paid for Marketing) and Location Based Applications already use Geography to fine tune and target their advertising messages. SEO can use geographical keywords, SEM can specify a given geography to target and Location Based Apps rely on the user’s location to provide nearby business profiles. All three forms of Online Internet Marketing listed can provide great results to businesses, but could be providing more value if they were to rethink their use of geography.

My complaint is that Online Internet Marketing platforms are not taking full advantage of geographical data and technologies. People will always exist in a physical place. And physical places are always informed by statistical demographics and psychographic analytics.

It is important for Online Internet Marketing platforms, if they want to survive, to provide more value to their growing customer base. My recommendation is to design a set of intuitive tools that can assist marketers in crafting messages that are informed by the socioeconomic landscape, no matter how big or small that landscape be.

Over the course of the next three weeks I will be reviewing “How Geography Informs” SEO, SEM and Location Based Applications.

I look forward to reading your replies, recommendations and suggestions.

Thanks a ton,