Power BI gets robust mapping with ArcGIS

Some features of Esri's enterprise GIS platform should soon be available in Microsoft's free BI platform

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Microsoft Power BI is slated to get some serious mapping capabilities, as Microsoft yesterday announced ArcGIS for Power BI by Esri is on the way -- "most likely this calendar year hopefully a lot sooner than that," Esri product manager Scott Ball said this morning. In fact, he added, it might be as early as within a week.

Users can create maps within Power BI now, but the existing functionality is rudimentary. Esri will be adding some, but certainly not all, of its enterprise ArcGIS capabilities to Microsoft's platform.

For example, Power BI users will be able to choose among four base maps, multiple themes and Esri's demographic reference layers that have data such as household income, median disposable income and median home value. However, Power BI users will not be able to pull demographic data out of those layers for use elsewhere in Power BI, and they can use only one of those layers at a time.

Ball said other ArcGIS capabilities in Power BI will include:

  • Tweaking map styles
  • Clustering to create heat maps or show that multiple points exist in a city when a map is zoomed out
  • Pulling in additional data layers from ArcGIS Online
  • Geo-enabling data "on the fly," such as understanding the location of addresses and shapes of common items like U.S. states and ZIP codes
  • Publishing ArcGIS-enabled maps to the Web like most other Power BI graphics

Power BI users will not be able to load their own, custom polygon data into Power BI for mapping, such as a company's own sales regions. "That may be coming down the road, though," Ball said. The initial release will allow users to quickly visualize which points are within available polygons such as zip codes, however.

ArcGIS capabilities will be available for both free and paid Power BI accounts and will work the same way in both, Ball said.

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New Power BI GIS capabilities could be used by insurance companies to analyze customers’ exposure to flood damage, according to Microsoft and Esri.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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