An IBM R&D team lead was kind enough to invite me for a chat at one of their labs. The team is building a new mapping solution for Cognos! It doesn’t look like it’s going to be as complicated, or have as many features as the ESRI maps, but it is far superior to what vanilla Cognos has now.
While I don’t have access to any screenshots to share here, I can describe what I was seeing. The demo was showing data pulled from the Amsterdam public transportation system. Unplanned bus stops by time of day. Unplanned could be red lights, stop signs, traffic, or even accidents. They showed a simple map of the city, with a clock plot over each area showing stops by time of day.
Creating a map can be as simple as taking an image and defining the coordinates for the corners. Apparently they support 3,500 different coordinates systems. This tool allows for the creating of internal maps too. Import your image, use a fill or polygon tool to create areas, or drop dots in certain locations. Both of which can be assigned various names for use in reports. They’re also working on a way for the software to analyze the image and try to guess specific zones. This would be incredibly useful for malls, or other places which need to track many small zones.
At the moment Cognos doesn’t have any form of map creators. The native maps (pre-RAVE), needed a third-party tool with a hefty price-tag. RAVE maps are possible, but tricky. You need to use mapping software and export is as a GeoJSON featureset. Several years back my client had a requirement to build an internal map showing the workflow of a series of manufacturing machines. Each step had to be colored based on a metric, and each machine had to have it’s grade displayed prominently next to it. As I didn’t have a MapInfo license, I needed to get tricky. Ultimately I had a solution in which each machine part was a separate image with transparency set. With each image in it’s own absolute positioned div, and all of the divs inside a singleton, a lot of conditional formatting setting the background color. This tool would have saved me a week of work.
Don’t get too hopeful about seeing this tool anytime soon though. They reminded me that they’re an R&D lab, not a software group. What they’re developing should become the basis of a new tool. We’re going to set up another meeting, and hopefully I’ll be able to get their test software installed at one of my clients. They need to know more about customer needs. How will customers use the maps? What are customers hoping for?
Feel free to leave a comment about what you would want in a new Cognos mapping tool. I’ll bring the list of comments to my next meeting with them.