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Live Data Visualization with QGIS

May 12, 2014

With the recent release of Fulcrum data shares, we’ve opened up new capability to consume and view data collected in the field in systems outside of Fulcrum, including GIS tools, custom scripts, spreadsheets, or web maps, without the need to manually export content from your account.

One of the common needs for the GIS analyst working with Fulcrum is to create layers from the data alongside other GIS information contained in separate shapefiles, imagery, or geodatabases in-house. Combining these data from the field can be done easily by exporting data from Fulcrum to use in a map visualization, but what about when the data are constantly changing? Field teams can potentially be submitting hundreds of reports per day in the course of operations, and ideally the administrator needs maximum flexibility to work with the data in real-time, so errors can be identified and teams notified of issues while still on the scene. The faster the checking, the more cost savings possible by reducing revisits or redeployments days or weeks later. Using Fulcrum’s data share functionality, there are new options for working with data in other places.

Dynamic Layers in QGIS

One of the neatest features of QGIS is its support for the GeoJSON format, and the ability to load these layers from a URL, rather than a file on your local computer.

To set this up, you first need to enable data sharing on an app containing the data you want to work with. With sharing enabled, you’ll see a selector that lets you pick the format in which you want your data, so select GeoJSON:

Enable GeoJSON share

Once it’s live, you’ll see the URL for the GeoJSON format. Anytime this URL is requested, Fulcrum will return that app’s current data in the format of choice – that means once it’s loaded as a layer in our QGIS environment, clicking ‘Refresh’ on the layer will update it with the current information. Now flip over to QGIS and pick “Add Vector Layer” from the toolbar or Layer menu. Select Protocol at the top, then GeoJSON, and paste in the URL for your share:

Load into QGIS with URI

Now you should see your data as it’s updated live, right inside your GIS environment. Here I’m looking at bicycle rack data I’ve collected in Fulcrum, on top of the OpenCycleMap layer from OSM1. This is a great, simple way to get your data into your GIS tools for QA and analysis anytime you need, without manual steps to move your data around.

Bike rack data

There are dozens of other possibilities with how data shares can be used to integrate your field operations with back-office information management tasks. If you have interesting ideas about how this can be used, or any questions about getting it set up for your own data, let us know!

  1. You can load web map layers into QGIS using the OpenLayers plugin, including OSM, Bing, and Yahoo! Maps.