GMaps Plugin for Xcelsius Dashboards

The ComputerWorld Best Places to Work Dashboard was a mashup that featured a Google Maps component. I particularly liked seeing that on the dashboard, so I decided delve into the details of how Google Maps was incorporated into the Xcelsius 2008 dashboard.

It turns out that the functionality is achieved through Xcelsius plugins from Centigon Solutions. Ryan Goodman, the founder of Centigon (and Dashboard Spy reader and contributor – see Xcelsius Gas Price Data Visualization) was kind enough to participate in a Dashboard Spy interview. He explains their approach as well as his opinions on Xcelsius 2008 as a business intelligence platform.

But, first, let’s take a look at a demo dashboard put together by Ryan to demonstrate the plugin components for Xcelsius 2008. You can try out the Google Maps for Xcelsius Demo Dashboard for yourself at the link.

GMAP googlemaps plugin for Xcelius Dashboards

The Dashboard Spy Interview with Ryan Goodman:

Dashboard Spy: What were your goals when developing the plugins for Xcelsius?

Ryan: 1. My company, Centigon Solutions, has expertise in dashboard development. We develop both in
Xcelsius and Flex and we have an in-depth understanding of the technical and design challenges that companies face when using Xcelsius. When we released the first batch of components to the Xcelsius community, we wanted to focus on 3 key areas:

  1. Improve dashboard aesthetics and make it easy for non-graphic designers to create great looking dashboards.
  2. Simplify highly requested functionality that was cumbersome to create with Excel logic.
  3. Integrate new technologies with Xcelsius.

Dashboard Spy: New technologies such as Google Maps?

Ryan: Exactly. The GMaps component addresses our third goal to integrate new technologies. The GMaps Plugin component in its current form is best used for displaying data points to represent cities, regions, or addresses then allow dashboard end users to navigate using maps a robust map interface. You can see an example of this in action on the computerworld best places to work dashboard:
In this example, we can filter data points by company size, then click on data points to drive further analysis.

Dashboard Spy: Tell me more about the Google Maps component. I’m interested in the technical details.

Ryan: Sure. Leveraging the Google Maps Flash API and the Xcelsius 2008 SDK, we bridged the gap between Google Maps and Xcelsius using Adobe Flex. The result is a GMaps component that Xcelsius users can drag and drop into their dashboard. The GMaps plugin in its current beta form allows users to view and select data points similar to existing Xcelsius map solutions. All traditional Google Maps functionality including pan and zoom exist in this plugin component. The GMaps component includes properties for binding HTML labels, dynamic panning, and map type selection. This component illustrates a new world of possibilities for the Xcelsius community, as we look to integrate other existing technologies that bring tremendous value to dashboards. This GMaps Beta is the first step toward a robust mapping solution that will certainly change the way we navigate and visualize regional information.

Dashboard Spy: What do you think of the Business Objects Xcelsius 2008 platform?

Ryan: Xcelsius is a great technology for rapid dashboard development. With Xcelsius 2008, I was excited to see a new default skin that was flashier than previous versions, in addition to improvements in alerting and selector functionality. While there were only a few components added to the product, I think the addition of the SDK has opened the door for developers to create the controls and charts that dashboard developers and data visualization purists have longed for.

Dashboard Spy: Are you planning any new and exciting plugins for Xcelsius?

Ryan: Of course! The Xcelsius SDK has allowed us to introduce new controls that make dashboard development easier. As we look forward, there are tremendous opportunities for more effective data visualization controls. With a high level of expertise in the Xcelsius SDK, we will now look to create more complex components to fill in common Xcelsius requests.

Related post:

Tags: Xcelsius 2008 Dashboards, Xcelsius plugins, Centigon Solutions, Computerworld Best Places to Live Dashboard, Business Objects, Dashboard Design

Related books:

Xcelsius 2008 Dashboard Best Practices (Business Objects Press)

4 thoughts on “GMaps Plugin for Xcelsius Dashboards

  1. The information the maps provides could be communicated every bit as effectively in a table a fraction of the size (other than e.g. the shape of the country and where it is in relation to the others, which are both fairly trivial).

    I really should hate this.

    But I can’t.

    I love maps.

    The truth is that using them does have the drawbacks listed, but they have a wow factor that can help a message to play well.

    And of course … I love them.

    Any way, as mapps add-ins go, this looks like a good implementation. I think gmaps are wonderful and am pleased to see that the pan, zoom etc are reproduced in this add-in.

    Sorry – not very objective, but…

  2. I know what you mean, Mr. Tom. I, too, love maps. I think that geo-mapping could be used more in today’s business intelligence applications. When the GIS apps were getting big headlines, I thought that the mapping of data would be ubiquitous, but I’m still waiting. Maybe the popularity of Google Maps is the tipping point?

    I’m into BI dashboards for the construction industry where there is an interesting trend towards the incorporation of video feeds. Take a look at these two dashboards on this blog:

    Construction Project Management Dashboard

    Construction Management System Dashboard

    Using maps would be great additions to those dashboards.

    My question is this:

    In the world of mashups, is there even a difference between dashboards, scorecards, portals, etc. Isn’t everything going to be a dashboard?

    A couple of posts ago, someone complained that a dashboard wasn’t really a dashboard because it merely consolidated text views (meaning it was a navigational pattern and not a business data presentation). I don’t think that is valid. Even dashboards that simply pull different content together (like a portal) is truely a dashboard.

  3. Haha – Sounds like we need a 10-step-program … Hi, my name is Robert, and I’m addicted to maps… 😉

    I think it’s great to look at data in many different ways (tables, charts, maps, etc) – each different way you look at it helps you understand the data better.

    And one bit of trivia … although the map-widget mentioned here seems to be called “GMap”, there’s also SAS/Graph “proc gmap” (which has been around for over 25 years) which can do very similar maps in a web-based dashboard. Here’s one of my examples that shows SAS/Graph gmap implementation of a dashboard with a map …

  4. Pingback: GIS Dashboards | Dashboards By Example

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