I’ve been working on a framework for a set of new macros to be included in the Bridge to R that I think will be very useful for many WPS users. Coming from a background in Demography, I’ve always been partial to maps and charts. There’s a plethora of open source products out there as well as API’s from Google, Bing, etc… that allow a user to create some pretty darn nice maps.
I recently became aware of a new R library by Hadley Wickham and David Kahle called ggmap. Professor Wickham has created some phenomenal software for the open source R system. Hadley created ggplot2 that is truly the standard for graphics in the R world. He has also written a book on ggplot2 that is well worth purchasing and can be found on Amazon by clicking here.
For most of us in the WPS world, we are rather limited to the native graphics available in the product. That was mostly overcome with the Bridge to R that we created a few years ago. So there are two things that I see as important at this juncture that needs to be addressed and that is geocoding and mapping.
First I want to discuss geocoding. Geocoding has always been this strange process that is 10x more convoluted than it really needs to be. For most of us, we want to provide an address from out data set and get back latitude and longitude for that address. For a much smaller group of users, they want to enhance their data with latitude and longitude as well as zip code, etc… Either way, using external services from commercial companies to do such a thing is often expensive. This is especially true or smaller data sets where there is a standard fee plus so much per name.
The second aspect worth discussing is the availability of mapping software and the associated cost. Some of these programs are expensive to say the least. Unless you intend to make a career out of creating a map (and I am not) then other alternatives need to be looked at to keep costs down.
So, long story short, it’s worth investigating interfacing into open source and cost free solutions for map making using WPS. I have briefly looked at Google, Bing and OpenStreetMaps. There are pros and cons to each one of them but I want easy and nice looking and that’s the driver behind my development.
Professor’s Wickham and Kahle have done a lot in this area trying address the short comings of R for mapping. I could not approach their creative genius and determination in creating ggmap, but I can create an interface that makes using ggmap easier for WPS users. So, my summer adventure is to create a clean interface using WPS and the Bridge to R so that WPS users will have some extraordinary maps that they can create using ggmap.
About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.