Microsoft brings 3D maps to Excel users

The PC market might be a hot mess right now, but anyone using a Windows machine for data analysis might be rejoicing a bit thanks to a new Excel add-on called GeoFlow. It’s a tool for visualizing geospatial and temporal data, a use case that’s only going to become more common as the internet of things becomes more real and sensors make when and where are as critical as how much.

And now, if you have up to a million rows of these types of data and are on a newish Windows machine, GeoFlow will let you plot the data over Bing Maps. The visualizations actually look pretty good, and time lapse capabilities are always good when time is a variable.


I also like Microsoft’s focus on using the tool for storytelling, citing the ability to share findings through “cinematic, guided video tours.” Even though visualizations are getting much better, more impressive and interactive — especially online — telling a good story with complex data is still pretty difficult.

Of course, GeoFlow is only in Preview mode, so it’s possible there are kinks to work out. And, who knows, maybe early users will roundly dismiss it.

One of California ISO's massive control rooms

One of California ISO’s massive control rooms

But it’s definitely trying to solve an increasingly important problem — something you can see at a far greater scale in the work the California ISO is doing with a startup called Space-Time Insight. Other startups — like TempoDB and SpaceCurve (see disclosure)— are even dedicated to building databases to address the oncoming deluge of this data.

GeoFlow actually comes from much larger-scale project, too, for what it’s worth. In a Microsoft Research blog post on Thursday, the company talks about its roots as part of the Worldwide Telescope project that let users explore a high-resolution, interactive map of the universe.

Disclosure: Reed Elsevier, the parent company of science publisher Elsevier, is an investor in SpaceCurve as well as Giga Omni Media, the company that publishes GigaOM.