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Adventures in Heatmapping: Why I Am In Love With Heat Maps


VFX is a visual product and I can think of few elements that can illustrate data as…funly as heatmaps can.

We’ve circled around a method of heatmapping that is business user-centric and appropriate for most data sets.  The overwhelming amount of business data calls for a heatmapping method we call frequency heatmapping, maybe more commonly known as hot spot analysis (which is sometimes an output visualization in eye-tracking research for HCI or Marketing).   By the way, there are many different flavors of heatmaps depending on the story your data tells and it is important that you use the right method to model truth (more on the families of heat maps and what sorts of data fits them here).

What are the benefits of incorporating heatmaps into your Visual Fusion application?  Here are five out of the gate…


· Understanding.  At-a-glance visualization conveys frequency and magnitude right off the bat –without additional interactions required of the user.

· Visual Appeal.  The fiery indication of more here and less there looks great and dazzles bosses.

· Flexibility.  Events can be weighted by data; more important things can be hotter and less important things can be…less hotter?



· Revealed Relationships.  Heatmaps provide a direct and inherent visualization of grouping or trending or reveal heavily stacked data that would otherwise be hidden.

· Efficiency.  Heatmaps can illustrate massive data sets, whereas the overhead of sending all of those points natively could totally hose a browser.


When mapping large or dense data sets, consider heatmapping.  In which example are corridors of traffic danger more evident?  Heatmaps reveal geographic trends and hot spots, diminish network overhead, and they look pretty snazzy.


Here is an example where a heatmap is used as a baseline reference.  Brighter areas show relative risk of piracy over the last thirty years.  If I overlay that with more recent instances of high seas hi-jinks, I see a trend away from the Red Sea and Somali coast.


More reading if you just can’t get enough when it comes to pondering heat maps…


John Nelson / IDV Solutions / john.nelson@idvsolutions.com


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