Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Google Fusion Tables by Gargi Chaudhuri

Google Fusion Tables, first launched in June 2009, is an experimental data visualization web application used to gather, visualize, and share data tables. This technology is open-source, cloud-based, and easy to use. Currently, it is an experimental app, therefore still in the beta stage. Google Fusion Tables, or Fusion Tables, has been heavily popular within teaching and research for data visualization using graphs, charts, and maps. You can use your own data, or you use can use free data available online without downloading to your computer.

For example, you want to map the Top 10 coffee exporting countries of the world and color them according to their amount of production. Your data is in a data table within Excel. You upload the data table to the Fusion Table website, assign which column holds location information, import a free map file from the Internet, and join the location column of your table with location column of the imported map. You can further customize each country (Fig. 1). A finished data table can be downloaded to your computer, shared with your own community and/or published online. 

Figure 1: Top 10 Coffee Producing Countries in 2012

It’s unique because it allows you to create maps with locational data very easily. In the Geography and Earth Science department, we use various software for map making, but learning any new software is a daunting task for students new in this field or outsiders. If you are someone who just wants to create a map for some specific purpose and do not aim to became a map-maker or spatial data analyst, then Google Fusion Table is a great app to bridge the gap. That ease makes it very useful in the non-map gen-ed courses I teach for hands-on assignments.

When I showcased this with a demonstration in the IT technology talk, the audience was quite excited and saw themselves using it for their own purposes. Since this web application is an experimental app and still in beta stage, it works seamlessly well most of the time.

More information about Google Fusion Tables can be found at https://support.google.com/fusiontables/answer/2571232?hl=en.

Submitted by Dr. Gargi Chaudhuri, 
Dept. of Geography and Earth Science