Raster GIS: the trade-off is over with MapInfo Pro Advanced and MRR
by Steve Critchlow, Group Managing Director, on 06-May-2015 12:38:00
Spatial analysis is about releasing insights from data and visualising it in a way that can be easily communicated. Before you get to the maps, it’s all about the data.
There are two principle forms which the data used in a Geographic Information System (GIS) can take, vector based and raster based.
Vector data is used for display of discrete objects (points, lines and polygons/regions) while raster data is optimal for displaying data that continuously changes through space like elevation or aerial imagery.
Vector data consisting of coordinates connected by vectors (lines) is inherently more accurate than raster data, but these datasets are typically significantly smaller in size than raster datasets.
Raster Data – a continuous representation of data
Unfortunately, the ability to rapidly display and process raster data has been limited by the capabilities of available GIS applications and the various raster data formats. Big raster datasets have traditionally represented a trade-off between slow opening and display performance times and low resolution data. Luckily, that’s all about to change.
How has this trade-off disappeared with MapInfo Pro Advanced?
MapInfo Pro Advanced is a next generation raster GIS offering from Pitney Bowes. It combines the power of the 64-bit MapInfo platform with the performance of a raster data format called MRR.
So what’s so special about MRR? Below are just some of the attributes that make MRR pretty special in the slightly unglamorous world of raster data file properties:
- Support for variable size grid cells in the single file
- Multiple variables in a single grid
- Supports numeric, classified and imagery data
- Efficient display of data at all zoom levels.
In regards to the last property, what is meant by “efficient display of data at all zoom levels”?
Well, previously with MapInfo the efficient use of raster files declined rapidly when files sizes started to hit the 500MB to 700MB size. These are large files for most applications but depending on the resolution of the grid cells within the file, these files may actually cover a small geographical area.
MRR contains properties such that no matter what the file size (1GB, 10GB, 100GB, 1TB) the opening and display performance is almost instantaneous.
Here’s a comparison to paint a picture for you of the performance of the MRR format on the 64bit MapInfo Pro platform on a pretty typical laptop.
Firstly, what was achievable prior to 64-bit MapInfo Pro?
- MI Pro 32-bit with Engage 3D extension
- 1 tile of elevation data for New Zealand at 8m resolution, approximately 700MB
- Takes about 1 minute to open
What’s achievable with MapInfo Pro Advanced?
- MI Pro 64-bit with MapInfo Pro Raster extension
- All 140 tiles of elevation data for New Zealand at 8m resolution, merged into a single MRR file of approximately 11GB
- Takes about 1 second to open and panning and zooming operations are instantaneous.
That’s right, an 11GB file opening, panning and zooming with almost no delay in response time. But with MRR, this 11GB file is a little on the small side - a 100GB file has the same display performance as a 1GB file!
With MRR the limitation moves to the amount of free storage you have available and that creates huge efficiency and productivity gains.
How is the 64-bit MapInfo Pro platform utilised?
Apart from utilising the new ribbon interface and allowing for instant previewing of Colour, Sunshade and Highlight changes, the power of the MapInfo Raster lies in its ability to fully utilise the 64-bit platform.
This is most evident in the ability to run multiple analytical and raster processing functions concurrently while retaining the ability to use MapInfo to do other tasks. The productivity gains from having this multi-threading capability when working with large files are going to be significant.
Want to see it in action?
It’s not until you see MapInfo Pro Advanced in action, opening files of 10’s of gigabytes in seconds, that you begin to think about what could be achievable with the tool and the new MRR data format. Luckily for you we have a recording of a webinar you can watch which covers:
- How to drive down analysis times by visualizing data over huge areas
- What it’s like to open huge data files — from 10’s to hundreds of gigabytes — in seconds and get working moments later
- What becomes possible by combining the strengths of vector and raster-based data and analysis techniques?
- How these developements will impact all GIS professionals, but particularly those in insurance, retail, telecommunications and the public sector.