GIS Dashboards

A reader of the Dashboard Spy newsletter wrote asking about the current state-of-the-art practices on incorporating GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and Geospatial techniques into business dashboards. The reader was concerned about the complexity of doing so because she remembered how clunky (and expensive!) GIS systems were when she last looked into them 20 years ago.

We’ve covered quite a few GIS-driven dashboards on this blog (see bottom of this post for some interesting articles.), but the best way to get a sense of what geographically-oriented dashboards can do is to jump right into a few GIS dashboard examples.

Start with this demo of a map-driven sales portal/dashboard from IDV Solutions using their visualfusion product. Here’s a couple of screenshots to give you a sense of how you can drive data views through manipulating maps. This dashboard uses Microsoft Virtual Earth technology to power the mapping.

Note that the demo uses the time honored Contoso company as an example!

GIS Dashboard Example

You use the right panel to toggle the view. When you click on “Details”, you get this next screenshot:

gis-driven sales dashboard

And here are some best-practices and commentary about selecting GIS-driven dashboards. It comes from an excellent article on emergency management and the emerging trend of non-expert systems. See Emergency Recovery and Dashboards.

GIS & Dashboards

Not suprisingly, GIS-driven dashboards are becoming more and more common. The folks at ESRI have even begun pitching their ArcGIS Explorer tools as a platform for developing GIS dashboards. I consider this a positive sign for the future of GIS in all types of organizations – for too long what we do in GIS has been difficult to communicate to the outside world, and that has begun to change with things like widely-accessible web mapping tools and decision support dashboards. If we are able to design systems that reduce the time and steps required to communicate what is known from GIS analysis to decision makers then it becomes possible to more efficiently address the emergency situation.

Design criteria for GIS-enabled dashboards include:

  • The system must allow analysts to quickly customize the dashboard (for example, when conditions change, data sources are modified, etc…)
  • Dashboard tools and graphics must be readily understandable by decision makers who have no GIS training
  • Dashboards tools and graphics should focus on strategic objectives and the “big picture”

Snapshot of a hurricane monitoring dashboard developed by IDV Solutions.


SpatialKey is a project by Universal Mind intended to provide geographic visualization dashboards for a wide range of application areas. Their tools are very easy to work with and provide non-expert users with geographic and temporal analysis tools in a web-based setting. The best way to understand how powerful these tools are is to take a spin yourself – I recommend trying one of the crime data examples as they are the most relevant to what might be useful in an emergency management context.


SpatialKey offers very clever web mapping tools designed for non-experts to explore and analyze spatial data.

Here are some other Dashboards By Example posts about business dashboards with maps and gis functionality.

Tags: Mapping technology for business intelligence dashboards

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