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February 24, 2010

MTBGuru tracks as seen through Google Fusion Tables

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff,Mapping — mtbguru @ 9:02 am

Our friends at Google have been busy as always – you may have noticed their launch this past summer of Fusion Tables, a cloud-based collaborative database application. This description probably doesn’t do much justice to what it is and can do but follow the link for more details – it basically allows people to work with structured data stored in the cloud. Or simplier said: it’s to things like MS Access or SQL a bit like Google Docs is to MS Office. An API has also been released to allow developers programmatic access to the data.

Now the Fusion Tables team is launching some new and pretty cool features, enabling new ways to visualize geocoded data on maps. It quite surpasses what one can do with regular gmaps. To illustrate these new features, data from MTBGuru (public trips) have been used to demo these visualizations. Check out the embedded (live) maps to get a taste for what it can do. The map above shows tracks from public trips in the map area, which are all overlayed as polylines – a huge amount of them – it’s pretty cool to see patterns arise of popular or much-traveled routes and trails (I particularly like the Henry Coe cobweb!)… moreover the polylines are clickable and will show you an infowindow with links to the original trip page etc. The data, which lives in a Fusion Table, can be filtered and manipulated as one can expect in a database environment, and the visualization will be adjusted accordingly.
The map below gives you a ‘heat map’ view, giving you an idea of the density of tracks in a certain area.

More details are announced on the Google LatLong blog.

From our side, we’ve been exploring the API and see how we could use Fusion Tables and its new geocoding features on MTBGuru. We thought it would be great to have a layer with these polyline tracks overlayed on the map on our home page, so that is what we’ve started implementing. The screenshots below show you how the maps on the home and trip pages now look like: on the home map, a ‘track layer’ displays tracks originating from all public trips in the map area – its visibility can be controlled by the check box labeled ‘Show All Tracks’ circled in green on the screenshot. Moreover, when you’re logged in, you can choose to display only your own tracks, using an additional checkbox labeled ‘Show My Tracks’. The overlay works with all map types, so you can view the track layer on MyTopo maps, Open Street Map (OSM) etc.

To avoid making things look like a mess in areas with a dense population of trips, the trip icon checkboxes are now unchecked by default – which means the trip icons are hidden by default. If you do want to get the old view back, check the trip icon boxes and uncheck the ‘Show Tracks’ boxes.

On a trip page, by default only the track representing the trip is shown (as was the case before), but right above the map you now have controls to display the track layer. Again, when logged in, you can choose to display either all public trips or only your own. To be able to discern the trip from the other tracks, it is now being plotted in blue instead of red (see final screenshot).

Note that the polylines from the track layer don’t have as high a resolution as the polyine representing the trip, so the red traces will appear a bit rougher. Also, we plan to use the API to periodically update the Fusion table with the newest uploaded tracks – we’re still testing this so for now the most recent tracks may not show yet. And by the way, private trips will never be displayed, as they are not uploaded to the Fusion Table (private is private!).

Finally, we’ve created a Google Code project with sample code illustrating how we used the API to work with Fusion Tables and create the table with trips.




16 Responses to “MTBGuru tracks as seen through Google Fusion Tables”

  1. Dive into the map » Blog Archive » Mapping tracks with Google Maps and Google Fusion Tables Says:

    [...] with bike trails to explain what can be done with Google Fusion Tables. The MTBGuru blog has more details along with maps and screenshots on their site. I think that we will give this a try at work and see [...]

  2. Mapping your data with Google Fusion Tables « LocalLab : Foire aux Infos Says:

    [...] from around the world. Each bike trail includes hundreds or thousands of geographic points. In a blog post today, MTBGuru.com describes their experiences using Google Fusion Tables to show all 5000 trails on one [...]

  3. Klaus Says:

    Great article! Thank you very much! I tried it out for some GPS tracks in Berlin, Germany: more Google Fusion Tables examples at GPSies.com



  4. Eric Says:

    That new feature is really cool. Any chance the resolution on layered trails will increase in the future?

  5. Tom Says:


    we uploaded high resolution tracks to Google, but they do a significant amount of downsampling before rendering the track.

    So it’s up to them to increase the resolution.


  6. Mapping your data with Google Fusion Tables | IP Address Visitor Says:

    [...] from around the world. Each bike trail includes hundreds or thousands of geographic points. In a blog post today, MTBGuru.com describes their experiences using Google Fusion Tables to show all 5000 trails on one [...]

  7. Heat Mapping with Google Fusion Tables? « GeoChalkboard Says:

    [...] folks at MTBGuru.com detailed their use of the new capabilities in a blog post.  Some of the screen shots from their application can be seen below.  The data driving their [...]

  8. Google Fusion Tables « André Sabino PhD blog Says:

    [...] An example of use http://blog.mtbguru.com/2010/02/24/mtbguru-tracks-as-seen-through-google-fusion-tables/ [...]

  9. Californication » Blog Archive » Coe afgestoft Says:

    [...] het gebruik van track overlays via Google Fusion Tables toch al [...]

  10. Jonathan Goldberg Says:

    Dear Fusion Tables users,
    My name is Jonathan Goldberg and I am an MEng student at MIT at the CS
    department. As part of my thesis, I am trying to evaluate the
    collaboration tools of Fusion Tables. To do so, I have designed this
    survey to help me get the input from experienced Fusion Tables users
    like yourself.

    The survey will not take more than 5 minutes and it is closes on 05/08.

    As a gratitude for your help, I will raffle for a $40 gift certificate
    to your favorite online store (Amazon/iTunes/Gilt and etc).

    Here is the link for the survey:

    Thank you,

  11. Billy Says:

    Amazing stuff. Do you know of a way to embed the maps and include all of the layer check boxes? I’m currently limited to using Wikispaces and WordPress.com, but want to embed maps on at least one of these that allow people to select various layers (lots of info on the map!). Also, do I have to know how to write code in order to get those multiple check boxes to show up on my map the first place?


  12. mtbguru Says:

    @billy It is pretty easy to embed this stuff; go to a MTBGuru trip page and you’ll see the embed code below the map; simply copy and paste it. Eg < iframe src="http://www.mtbguru.com/trip/iframe/137152?width=500px&height=500px" width="510px" height="565px" frameborder="0" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0">

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