Case study

Web Maps for Client-Side Visualization

We implemented a comprehensive tile-based mapping service that’s highly adapted for improved browser rendering performance

Key features

  • Obtain incrementally compiled tile-based maps

    Obtain incrementally compiled tile-based maps

  • Provide tools for building client-side visualizers

    Provide tools for building client-side visualizers

  • Visualize custom data over the global basemap

    Visualize custom data over the global basemap

Location-based services (LBS)
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Team size:
15 members
2017 – present

JavaScript / Node.JS / Scala / Spark / Three.js / Typescript / WebGL / Webpack / Yarn

About the client

An undisputed global leader in location-based services, our Dutch client offers an innovative cloud-powered development platform that can be used for building advanced geodata-centric solutions and services. The platform is equipped with a complete set of mapping and location analysis SDKs, APIs, and web-based visualization for client-side mapping.

Our client also delivers a wide range of services that give web-based accessibility map visualization, geocoding, routing, traffic, and positioning, when tackling complicated location issues. Our client’s automotive toolkit streamlines the development of comprehensive in-vehicle navigation systems that support timely over-the-air map updates, live traffic data sharing, 3D map rendering, and much more. Their mobile SDK helps provision iOS and Android devices with sophisticated location intelligence, including guidance, POI search, routing, indoor mapping, real-time data for urban mobility, and interactive visualization for web-based accessibility maps.

Web Maps for Client-Side Visualization

Our client came with the challenge

Map-powered apps are great for sharing information in a location-aware manner, and the internet allows us to broadcast this information to end users nearly instantaneously. The number of businesses around the globe that want to deliver web maps optimized services integrated with rapid, interactive, and customizable online maps has been growing at an amazing rate.

To keep up with industry trends, our client needed vector tile maps that were sufficiently lightweight, flexible, and updatable, that had great rendering performance, and that used minimum bandwidth. Such a map would be compiled on their collaborative mapping platform and use the freshest geolocation content. The map would cover the whole world and serve as the base layer over which developers could compile and render third-party content.

Since 2015, Intellias has been maintaining a thriving engineering hub for our client’s products and services, which cover in-vehicle and mobile navigation, geolocation services, and the mapping platform.

Intellias is developing the solution

Our web map collaboration started with Intellias’ extending the engineering capacity of our client’s German-based teams. These teams were entangled in a proof-of-concept project aimed at validating the feasibility of the vector tile mapping service for their collaborative platform. As the client’s teams were switched to other workstreams, Intellias engineers gradually acquired their knowledge and responsibilities. Consequently, it took us four months to take over most of the development accountability and technical supervision.

Our first Intellias team on this project is eight strong and comprises mostly senior Scala engineers. They’re working on a platform-based pipeline for compiling vector tiles from our client’s accurate map data. Our second team of seven is developing a library for browser-side map visualization.

The Intellias third team has created a data processing pipeline that’s integrated into our client’s mapping platform. The pipeline uses map data as its source and converts that data into vector tile data. Our team migrated data pipeline from our client’s legacy map data source to the new one supplied as part of our client’s platform data service. The new data source combines multiple data layers, including linear and polygonal features as well as road, lane, navigation, address, and other attributes.

Next, we configured the compilation pipeline to run incrementally. This helped make the compilation process fast and continuous by recompiling only those individual portions of the map whose relevant input data has been updated. The Intellias compilation team also developed a data validation library that enables detection of unexpected errors in the compiled vector tile data before visualization.

To take advantage of the richness of open web maps as an output and client-side rendering performance, our team is working on preparing simplified geometry data, including lines and polygons representing administrative borders, water bodies, roads, and more. As a result, our engineers have come up with an optimized data specification that includes rendering-friendly cartographic attributes.

The Intellias visualization team is developing a JavaScript/TypeScript platform-specific component for visualizing maps on the browser side. External platform consumers can build their own local vector tile map visualizers and ingest various types of data to be visualized as custom layers atop the base map. Supported data types include vector tiles, GeoJSON, vehicle sensor data, and traffic feeds. The visualization component is available as an SDK and ships with complete documentation and illustrative implementation examples.

We’ve achieved great results together

The partnership with Intellias has allowed our client to refine their collaborative map-based development platform with a comprehensive vector tile mapping service. Intellias continues to monitor, maintain, and improve this mapping service in production. What’s more, our compilation team has obtained complete ownership over the vector tile compilation pipeline.

Additionally, Intellias compilation engineers have adapted the vector tile compiler for producing maps in an entirely new format. This new map format is based on our client’s proprietary automotive map specification and is still at the proof-of-concept stage. It’s very light while being sufficiently detailed, easy to update and visualize, and optimized for online and offline use cases. The new map format has the potential to become the mainstream solution for any kind of map carrier, whether portable and wearable devices, web browsers, or automotive head units.

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