IBM adds map functionality to its Business Intelligence tools
Date: 24/10/2016

By Peter Fritzsche

Prior to August 2016, IBM’s Cognos Business Intelligence solution came with some standard map functionality which could be used to show tabular data in geographic maps. Whilst this gave Cognos report authors the ability to visualise geospatial data, the standard maps were generally not detailed enough to meet an organisation's needs, meaning they had to utilise one of the following alternatives:

  • Google Maps or Open Street Map API 
  • Use of third-party vendors (eg Integeo Map Intelligence Server) which are specialists in visualisation and analytics using maps 
  • Buying maps from map providers like MapInfo, or creating custom maps using MapInfo Professional

All of these work-arounds were not ideal as they were either resource intensive, required the licensing of a third-party tool, or both.

Mapbox and Cognos Analytics

Having Mapbox technology integrated into IBM Watson and Cognos Analytics will provide additional options for existing reports and dashboards. It will raise the bar of self-service capabilities and will give business users a fast way, not only to analyse why and how things are happening, but also where they are happening.

IBM has announced that Mapbox will be integrated with the next version of Cognos Analytics (Cognos 11) at the end of this year (December 2016). It will be part of the product, which means it will be available to all customers at no additional license costs.

What is possible using Mapbox with Cognos?

Mapbox features in Cognos will enable users to visualise geographic trends and patterns. It will provide access to maps of any country in the world. This will enable analysts to do location analytics with geographic dashboards, heat maps and customised maps.

The goal of visualising information on a map is to improve the data exploration process. Maps should increase the speed to understand and explore the data. Ideally a map visualisation not only presents data, but also identifies patterns or trends, which a crosstab will never show.

What's next?

IBM announced that Mapbox will only be available for IBM Watson and Cognos Analytics (Cognos 11). To get ready and to start benefiting from the new mapping feature, it is recommended existing Cognos BI customers upgrade to the latest version of Cognos Analytics. In the meantime, it’s probably worth reviewing which reports or dashboards would benefit from location analytics most. If you'd like information on upgrading to Cognos Analytics, or using Maps with Cognos, please contact Piers Wilson.

About Mapbox

Mapbox is an American company founded in 2010. It is a large provider of custom online maps for websites such as Foursquare, Pinterest, Evernote, the Financial Times, The Weather Channel and Uber Technologies.

Mapbox uses data from open data sources such as OpenStreetMap, NASA and from proprietary data sources such as DigitalGlobe. It is built on vector maps where data is delivered and rendered in real-time.