Zaru: A New Platform for Real-Time Spatial Dashboards
2021-09-29, 11:00–11:30, Humahuaca

Zaru is a new system for creating real-time spatial dashboards. Zaru uses video-gaming techniques and a novel method of encoding data in images to enable real-time compositing and visualization of potentially giant data sets. This solution was initially developed by design firm Sasaki as a better way to understand the relationship between urban amenities and the people who can access them. The platform is powerful and scalable, but requires no back-end infrastructure to run. As a solution for data sharing and visualization it has broad potential and room for creativity - making it ideal for the FOSS community.

Zaru grew out of a need for easier access to large datasets and the desire to find a better way to query and visualize them. We believe interactive models and visualizations can help provide deeper understanding of complex relationships and lead to better-informed decisions. Smooth, real-time feedback lets us keep all assumptions fluid and allow users to understand causal relationships intuitively.

By using numeric datasets that can account for probabilities, but also allowing arbitrary inputs to behave as “sliders”, we can play out these scenarios and quickly explore a dense set of possible outcomes. Zaru can be used to support decisions around urban growth scenarios, environmental threat analysis, site selection for development and many other geospatial analyses. Zaru can also be an effective web-based storytelling tool.

The underlying technologies borrow from the gaming community, but are very close to standard geospatial practices. We use the WGS 84 web map tile schema and encode data in PNG format (GeoPngDB). Data tiles are loaded exactly as image tiles would be for an aerial or street map, but by keeping the data in raw format, we are able to manipulate the visualization in real-time. This allows us to apply filters and apply color schemes to tease out patterns instantly.

In addition to raster datasets, Zaru supports record-based geospatial data using a novel combination of spatial and non-spatial encoded images. This allows specific queries to be run over millions of records in real-time.

This presentation will showcase Zaru’s current capabilities using proofs of concept and real-world case studies. We hope to begin a dialog about what’s possible using these techniques and potentially inspire collaborations or spin-offs from these solutions.

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Authors and Affiliations

Ken Goulding
Eric Youngberg




Data visualization: spatial analysis, manipulation and visualization


1 - Principiants. No required specific knowledge is needed.

Language of the Presentation


Ken is a Principal at Sasaki, an internationally recognized multi-disciplinary design firm. Trained in architecture and planning, Ken has dedicated his career to finding the most pertinent applications of technology to planning and design, and he remains actively involved in inventing, prototyping, and building new tools and approaches.

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