7 Ideas for Creating Custom Maps Using Microsoft Power BI

How to harness Microsoft’s premier data visualization tool to generate creative, insightful maps

Creating geographic maps with Power BI

Did you know that with Microsoft Power BI lt=Power BI consulting, simplified, you can create maps to represent spatial data for a whole lot of purposes? Along with this, you can create a customized map on Power BI.

Below are seven ways you can do map visualizations using Microsoft’s premier business intelligence suite.



1. Shape Maps

Shape maps tie an object such as a polygon, circle or a line based on a latitude or longitude coordinate. When using these to represent spatial data, you can see polygon shapes on a transparent background.

Pros

  • Easy to interpret as their main purpose is to show geographical comparisons of a parameter.
  • Polygons can be easily customized.

Cons

  • No labels on the map. You have to hover over a polygon to see the tooltip.

  • Limited support for inputs. Doesn't accept GeoJSON or Shapefiles, only takes TopoJSON data.

2. ESRI ArcGIS Maps

These maps offer features no other Power BI maps can offer, like clustering and drive time radius. ArcGIS maps are created by ESRI, which is a global leader in geospatial software.

Pros

  • Offered in various themes - dark, light, streets, OpenStreetMap.
  • You can add reference layers from ArcGIS online.
  • Possible to add infographics which have data that updates as you change map locations.
  • Possible to make a heat map.

Cons

  • Cannot be embedded or published online (as of now).
  • No provision to add custom shapes to the map.

3. Route maps

Route maps are used to show distances covered over a length of time. These display paths are a wonderful way of representing movement over time. Route maps take latitude, longitude and time to showcase trajectory of an item.

Pros

  • The only map capable of displaying a route over time. It is shown as a line on Power BI.

Cons

  • No themes or alternative base maps. The only background map is Bing map.

4. Flow maps

Somewhat similar to route maps, flow maps are used to represent movement or flow. But unlike the route map, these are used to display an entire network of nodes and how movement is directed towards or away from these nodes.

Pros

  • The only map capable of showing a geographic network.
  • You can use to show movement from one node or several nodes in a single map, using different colors.

Cons

  • There are a few bugs in the formatting options.
  • You can only use Bing map to generate a map.
  • Lesser themes and you can just use lines to display movement.

5. Filled maps

These maps are used to show shaded geospatial areas, mostly meant for basic display.

Pros

  • Flexible regarding data input; you can upload stored coordinates, or the map can geocode location data.
  • Easy to use, has Power BI’s full support.
  • Easy to save, share and publish on the web.
  • Highly customizable

Cons

  • Lacks themes which can make polygon shapes difficult to distinguish Aerial from Road background.
  • Only Bing maps available which sometimes geocode wrong locations.
  • No support for Shapefiles or GeoJSON input.

6. Basic maps

In Power BI, the basic map can be used to display spatial points that can be represented as bubbles.

Pros

  • You can choose between Aerial and Roads base maps.
  • Small points can also be easily and realistically represented.
  • Can work with stored coordinates or can geocode location data.
  • Accessible, easy to use, save, share and publish on the web.

Cons

  • Lack of themes means you have limited color options for data.
  • Only Bing maps are offered, and there are occasional bugs in geocoding location data.
  • No support for data formats like ESRI Shapefiles and GeoJSON.

7. Custom maps

Using Power BI, it is also possible to create your own custom map visualization using JavaScript libraries like d3.js, Highmaps, mapping libraries like Leaflet or statistical languages like Cran R.

Pros

  • You can add as many features and as many details as you like. This gives you immense control over output.
  • There’s extensive support for input; you can use Shapefiles, GeoJSON, etc.

Cons

  • If you are a beginner, you might take some time to learn the use of JavaScript libraries and others.
  • Sometimes the map cannot be published to the web.



Microsoft Power BI Consultants

Creating custom maps is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unlocking Microsoft Power BI’s data visualization potential. Innovative Architects is a Microsoft Gold Certified partner and our consultants can help your business leverage the maximum value from your enterprise technology investments, including Power BI.

With offices in Atlanta, GA, Washington, D.C. and West Palm Beach, FL, we are strategically located to connect with businesses throughout eastern U.S. Contact us today to get started.