Tag Archives: movement data

Since last week’s post, I’ve learned that there is an official OGC Moving Features JSON Encodings repository with more recent sample datasets, including MovingPoint, MovingPolygon, and Trajectory JSON examples.

The MovingPoint example seems to describe a storm, including its path (temporalGeometry), pressure, wind strength, and class values (temporalProperties):

You can give the current implementation a spin using this MyBinder notebook

An exciting future step would be to experiment with extending MovingPandas to support the MovingPolygon MF-JSON examples. MovingPolygons can change their size and orientation as they move. I’m not yet sure, however, if the number of polygon nodes can change between time steps and how this would be reflected by the prism concept presented in the draft specification:

Image source:

Many of you certainly have already heard of and/or even used Leafmap by Qiusheng Wu.

Leafmap is a Python package for interactive spatial analysis with minimal coding in Jupyter environments. It provides interactive maps based on folium and ipyleaflet, spatial analysis functions using WhiteboxTools and whiteboxgui, and additional GUI elements based on ipywidgets.

This way, Leafmap achieves a look and feel that is reminiscent of a desktop GIS:

Image source:

Recently, Qiusheng has started an additional project: the geospatial meta package which brings together a variety of different Python packages for geospatial analysis. As such, the main goals of geospatial are to make it easier to discover and use the diverse packages that make up the spatial Python ecosystem.

Besides the usual suspects, such as GeoPandas and of course Leafmap, one of the packages included in geospatial is MovingPandas. Thanks, Qiusheng!

I’ve tested the mamba install today and am very happy with how this worked out. There is just one small hiccup currently, which is related to an upstream jinja2 issue. After installing geospatial, I therefore downgraded jinja:

mamba install -c conda-forge geospatial 
mamba install -c conda-forge jinja2=3.0

Of course, I had to try Leafmap and MovingPandas in action together. Therefore, I fired up one of the MovingPandas example notebook (here the example on clipping trajectories using polygons). As you can see, the integration is pretty smooth since Leafmap already support drawing GeoPandas GeoDataFrames and MovingPandas can convert trajectories to GeoDataFrames (both lines and points):

Clipped trajectory segments as linestrings in Leafmap
Leafmap includes an attribute table view that can be activated on user request to show, e.g. trajectory information
And, of course, we can also map the original trajectory points

Geospatial also includes the new dask-geopandas library which I’m very much looking forward to trying out next.

MovingPandas 0.9rc3 has just been released, including important fixes for local coordinate support. Sports analytics is just one example of movement data analysis that uses local rather than geographic coordinates.

Many movement data sources – such as soccer players’ movements extracted from video footage – use local reference systems. This means that x and y represent positions within an arbitrary frame, such as a soccer field.

Since Geopandas and GeoViews support handling and plotting local coordinates just fine, there is nothing stopping us from applying all MovingPandas functionality to this data. For example, to visualize the movement speed of players:

Of course, we can also plot other trajectory attributes, such as the team affiliation.

But one particularly useful feature is the ability to use custom background images, for example, to show the soccer field layout:

To access the full example notebook, visit:

An update to the MovingPandas examples repository will follow shortly.

After writing “Towards a template for exploring movement data” last year, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to develop a solid approach for movement data exploration that would help analysts and scientists to better understand their datasets. Finally, my search led me to the excellent paper “A protocol for data exploration to avoid common statistical problems” by Zuur et al. (2010). What they had done for the analysis of common ecological datasets was very close to what I was trying to achieve for movement data. I followed Zuur et al.’s approach of a exploratory data analysis (EDA) protocol and combined it with a typology of movement data quality problems building on Andrienko et al. (2016). Finally, I brought it all together in a Jupyter notebook implementation which you can now find on Github.

There are two options for running the notebook:

  1. The repo contains a Dockerfile you can use to spin up a container including all necessary datasets and a fitting Python environment.
  2. Alternatively, you can download the datasets manually and set up the Python environment using the provided environment.yml file.

The dataset contains over 10 million location records. Most visualizations are based on Holoviz Datashader with a sprinkling of MovingPandas for visualizing individual trajectories.

Point density map of 10 million location records, visualized using Datashader

Line density map for detecting gaps in tracks, visualized using Datashader

Example trajectory with strong jitter, visualized using MovingPandas & GeoViews


I hope this reference implementation will provide a starting point for many others who are working with movement data and who want to structure their data exploration workflow.

If you want to dive deeper, here’s the paper:

[1] Graser, A. (2021). An exploratory data analysis protocol for identifying problems in continuous movement data. Journal of Location Based Services. doi:10.1080/17489725.2021.1900612.

(If you don’t have institutional access to the journal, the publisher provides 50 free copies using this link. Once those are used up, just leave a comment below and I can email you a copy.)


This post is part of a series. Read more about movement data in GIS.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to speak at the RGS-IBG GIScience Research Group seminar. The talk presents methods for the exploration of movement patterns in massive quasi-continuous GPS tracking datasets containing billions of records using distributed computing approaches.

Here’s the full recording of my talk and follow-up discussion:

and slides are available as well.

This post is part of a series. Read more about movement data in GIS.

The Geospatial Dev Room at FOSDEM 2021 was a great event that (virtually) brought together a very diverse group of geo people.

All talk recordings are now available publicly at:

In line with the main themes of this blog, I’d particularly like to highlight the following three talks:

MoveTK: the movement toolkit A library for understanding movement by Aniket Mitra

Telegram Bot For Navigation: A perfect map app for a neighbourhood doesn’t need a map by Ilya Zverev

Spatial data exploration in Jupyter notebooks by yours truly

Last October, I had the pleasure to speak at the Uni Liverpool’s Geographic Data Science Lab Brown Bag Seminar. The talk starts with examples from different movement datasets that illustrate why we need data exploration to better understand our datasets. Then we dive into different options for exploring movement data before ending on ongoing challenges for future development of the field.

Here’s the full recording of my talk and follow-up discussion:

This post is part of a series. Read more about movement data in GIS.

Rendering large sets of trajectory lines gets messy fast. Different aggregation approaches have been developed to address this issue. However, most approaches, such as mobility graphs or generalized flow maps, cannot handle large input datasets. Building on M³ prototypes, the following approach can be used in distributed computing environments to extracts flows from large datasets. 

This is part 3 of “Exploring massive movement datasets”.

This flow extraction is based on a two-step process, conceptually similar to Andrienko flow maps: first, we extract M³ prototypes from the movement data. In the second step, we determine flows between these prototypes, including information about: distribution of travel speeds and number of observed transitions. The resulting flows can be visualized, for example, to explore the popularity of different paths of movement:

After the prototypes have been computed, the flow algorithm computes transitions between pairs of prototypes. An object moving from prototype A to prototype B triggers an update of the corresponding flow. To allow for distributed processing, each node in the distributed computing environment needs a copy of the previously computed prototypes. Additionally, the raw movement data records need to be converted into trajectories. Afterwards, each trajectory is processed independently, going through its records in chronological order:

  1. Find the best matching prototype for the current record
  2. Ensure that the distance to the match is below the distance threshold and that the matched prototype is different from the previous prototype
  3. Get or create the flow between the two prototypes
  4. Ensure that the prototype and flow directions are a good match for the current record’s direction
  5. Update the flow properties: travel speed and number of transitions, as well as the previous prototype reference

This approach scales to large datasets since only the prototypes, the (intermediate) flow results, and the trajectory currently being worked on have to be kept in memory for each iteration. However, this algorithm does not allow for continuous updates. Flows would have to be recomputed (at least locally) whenever prototypes changed. Therefore, the algorithm does not support exploration of continuous data streams. However, it can be used to explore large historical datasets:

Flow example: passenger vessel speed patterns showing mean flow speeds (line color: darker colors equal higher speeds) and speed variation (line width)

If you want to dive deeper, here’s the full paper:

[1] Graser, A., Widhalm, P., & Dragaschnig, M. (2020). Extracting Patterns from Large Movement Datasets. GI_Forum – Journal of Geographic Information Science, 1-2020, 153-163. doi:10.1553/giscience2020_01_s153.

This post is part of a series. Read more about movement data in GIS.

To explore travel patterns like origin-destination relationships, we need to identify individual trips with their start/end locations and trajectories between them. Extracting these trajectories from large datasets can be challenging, particularly if the records of individual moving objects don’t fit into memory anymore and if the spatial and temporal extent varies widely (as is the case with ship data, where individual vessel journeys can take weeks while crossing multiple oceans). 

This is part 2 of “Exploring massive movement datasets”.

Roughly speaking, trip trajectories can be generated by first connecting consecutive records into continuous tracks and then splitting them at stops. This general approach applies to many different movement datasets. However, the processing details (e.g. stop detection parameters) and preprocessing steps (e.g. removing outliers) vary depending on input dataset characteristics.

For example, in our paper [1], we extracted vessel journeys from AIS data which meant that we also had to account for observation gaps when ships leave the observable (usually coastal) areas. In the accompanying 10-minute talk, I went through a 4-step trajectory exploration workflow for assessing our dataset’s potential for travel time prediction:

Click to watch the recorded talk

Like the M³ prototype computation presented in part 1, our trajectory aggregation approach is implemented in Spark. The challenges are both the massive amounts of trajectory data and the fact that operations only produce correct results if applied to a complete and chronologically sorted set of location records.This is challenging because Spark core libraries (version 2.4.5 at the time) are mostly geared towards dealing with unsorted data. This means that, when using high-level Spark core functionality incorrectly, an aggregator needs to collect and sort the entire track in the main memory of a single processing node. Consequently, when dealing with large datasets, out-of-memory errors are frequently encountered.

To solve this challenge, our implementation is based on the Secondary Sort pattern and on Spark’s aggregator concept. Secondary Sort takes care to first group records by a key (e.g. the moving object id), and only in the second step, when iterating over the records of a group, the records are sorted (e.g. chronologically). The resulting iterator can be used by an aggregator that implements the logic required to build trajectories based on gaps and stops detected in the dataset.

If you want to dive deeper, here’s the full paper:

[1] Graser, A., Dragaschnig, M., Widhalm, P., Koller, H., & Brändle, N. (2020). Exploratory Trajectory Analysis for Massive Historical AIS Datasets. In: 21st IEEE International Conference on Mobile Data Management (MDM) 2020. doi:10.1109/MDM48529.2020.00059

This post is part of a series. Read more about movement data in GIS.

Visualizations of raw movement data records, that is, simple point maps or point density (“heat”) maps provide very limited data exploration capabilities. Therefore, we need clever aggregation approaches that can actually reveal movement patterns. Many existing aggregation approaches, however, do not scale to large datasets. We therefore developed the M³ Massive Movement Model [1] which supports distributed computing environments and can be incrementally updated with new data.

This is part 1 of “Exploring massive movement datasets”.

Using state-of-the-art big gespatial tools, such as GeoMesa, it is quite straightforward to ingest, index and query large amounts of timestamped location records. Thanks to GeoMesa’s GeoServer integration, it is also possible to publish GeoMesa tables as WMS and WFS which can be visualized in QGIS and explored (for more about GeoMesa, see Scalable spatial vector data processing ).So far so good! But with this basic setup, we only get point maps and point density maps which don’t tell us much about important movement characteristics like speed and direction (particularly if the reporting interval between consecutive location records is irregular). Therefore, we developed an aggregation method which models local record density, as well as movement speed and direction which we call M³.

For distributed computation, we need to split large datasets into chunks. To build models of local movement characteristics, it makes sense to create spatial or spatiotemporal chunks that can be processed independently. We therefore split the data along a regular grid but instead of computing one average value per grid cell, we create a flexible number of prototypes that describe the movement in the cell. Each prototype models a location, speed, and direction distribution (mean and sigma).

In our paper, we used M³ to explore ship movement data. We turned roughly 4 billion AIS records into prototypes:

M³ for ship movement data during January to December 2017 (3.9 billion records turned into 3.4 million prototypes; computing time: 41 minutes)

The above plot really only gives a first impression of the spatial distribution of ship movement records. The real value of M³ becomes clearer when we zoom in and start exploring regional patterns. Then we can discover vessel routes, speeds, and movement directions:

The prototype details on the right side, in particular, show the strength of the prototype idea: even though the grid cells we use are rather large, the prototypes clearly form along vessel routes. We can see exactly where these routes are and what speeds ship travel there, without having to increase the grid resolution to impractical values. Slow prototypes with high direction sigma (red+black markers) are clear indicators of ports. The marker size shows the number of records per prototype and thus helps distinguish heavily traveled routes from minor ones.

M³ is implemented in Spark. We read raw location records from GeoMesa and write prototypes to GeoMesa. All maps have been created in QGIS using prototype data published as GeoServer WFS.

If you want to dive deeper, here’s the full paper:

[1] Graser. A., Widhalm, P., & Dragaschnig, M. (2020). The M³ massive movement model: a distributed incrementally updatable solution for big movement data exploration. International Journal of Geographical Information Science. doi:10.1080/13658816.2020.1776293.

This post is part of a series. Read more about movement data in GIS.

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