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Visualizing trajectories with QGIS & MobilityDB

In the previous post, we — creatively ;-) — used MobilityDB to visualize stationary IOT sensor measurements.

This post covers the more obvious use case of visualizing trajectories. Thus bringing together the MobilityDB trajectories created in Detecting close encounters using MobilityDB 1.0 and visualization using Temporal Controller.

Like in the previous post, the valueAtTimestamp function does the heavy lifting. This time, we also apply it to the geometry time series column called trip:

SELECT mmsi,
    valueAtTimestamp(trip, '2017-05-07 08:55:40') geom,
    valueAtTimestamp(SOG, '2017-05-07 08:55:40') SOG
FROM "public"."ships"

Using this SQL query, we again set up a — not yet Temporal Controller-controlled — QueryLayer.

To configure Temporal Controller to update the timestamp in our SQL query, we again need to run the Python script from the previous post.

With this done, we are all set up to animate and explore the movement patterns in our dataset:


This post is part of a series. Read more about movement data in GIS.

Visualizing IOT time series with QGIS & MobilityDB

Today’s post presents an experiment in modelling a common scenario in many IOT setups: time series of measurements at stationary sensors. The key idea I want to explore is to use MobilityDB’s temporal data types, in particular the tfloat_inst and tfloat_seq for instances and sequences of temporal float values, respectively.

For info on how to set up MobilityDB, please check my previous post.

Setting up our DB tables

As a toy example, let’s create two IOT devices (in table iot_devices) with three measurements each (in table iot_measurements) and join them to create the tfloat_seq (in table iot_joined):

CREATE TABLE iot_devices (
    id integer,
    geom geometry(Point, 4326)
);

INSERT INTO iot_devices (id, geom) VALUES
(1, ST_SetSRID(ST_MakePoint(1,1), 4326)),
(2, ST_SetSRID(ST_MakePoint(2,3), 4326));

CREATE TABLE iot_measurements (
    device_id integer,
    t timestamp,
    measurement float
);

INSERT INTO iot_measurements (device_id, t, measurement) VALUES
(1, '2022-10-01 12:00:00', 5.0),
(1, '2022-10-01 12:01:00', 6.0),
(1, '2022-10-01 12:02:00', 10.0),
(2, '2022-10-01 12:00:00', 9.0),
(2, '2022-10-01 12:01:00', 6.0),
(2, '2022-10-01 12:02:00', 1.5);

CREATE TABLE iot_joined AS
SELECT 
    dev.id, 
    dev.geom, 
    tfloat_seq(array_agg(
        tfloat_inst(m.measurement, m.t) ORDER BY t
    )) measurements
FROM iot_devices dev 
JOIN iot_measurements m
  ON dev.id = m.device_id
GROUP BY dev.id, dev.geom;

We can load the resulting layer in QGIS but QGIS won’t be happy about the measurements column because it does not recognize its data type:

Query layer with valueAtTimestamp

Instead, what we can do is create a query layer that fetches the measurement value at a specific timestamp:

SELECT id, geom, 
    valueAtTimestamp(measurements, '2022-10-01 12:02:00') 
FROM iot_joined

Which gives us a layer that QGIS is happy with:

Time for TemporalController

Now the tricky question is: how can we wire our query layer to the Temporal Controller so that we can control the timestamp and animate the layer?

I don’t have a GUI solution yet but here’s a way to do it with PyQGIS: whenever the Temporal Controller signal updateTemporalRange is emitted, our update_query_layer function gets the current time frame start time and replaces the datetime in the query layer’s data source with the current time:

l = iface.activeLayer()
tc = iface.mapCanvas().temporalController()

def update_query_layer():
    tct = tc.dateTimeRangeForFrameNumber(tc.currentFrameNumber()).begin().toPyDateTime()
    s = l.source()
    new = re.sub(r"(\d{4})-(\d{2})-(\d{2}) (\d{2}):(\d{2}):(\d{2})", str(tct), s)
    l.setDataSource(new, l.sourceName(), l.dataProvider().name())

tc.updateTemporalRange.connect(update_query_layer)

Future experiments will have to show how this approach performs on lager datasets but it’s exciting to see how MobilityDB’s temporal types may be visualized in QGIS without having to create tables/views that join a geometry to each and every individual measurement.

Detecting close encounters using MobilityDB 1.0

It’s been a while since we last talked about MobilityDB in 2019 and 2020. Since then, the project has come a long way. It joined OSGeo as a community project and formed a first PSC, including the project founders Mahmoud Sakr and Esteban Zimányi as well as Vicky Vergara (of pgRouting fame) and yours truly.

This post is a quick teaser tutorial from zero to computing closest points of approach (CPAs) between trajectories using MobilityDB.

Setting up MobilityDB with Docker

The easiest way to get started with MobilityDB is to use the ready-made Docker container provided by the project. I’m using Docker and WSL (Windows Subsystem Linux on Windows 10) here. Installing WLS/Docker is out of scope of this post. Please refer to the official documentation for your operating system.

Once Docker is ready, we can pull the official container and fire it up:

docker pull mobilitydb/mobilitydb
docker volume create mobilitydb_data
docker run --name "mobilitydb" -d -p 25432:5432 -v mobilitydb_data:/var/lib/postgresql mobilitydb/mobilitydb
psql -h localhost -p 25432 -d mobilitydb -U docker

Currently, the container provides PostGIS 3.2 and MobilityDB 1.0:

Loading movement data into MobilityDB

Once the container is running, we can already connect to it from QGIS. This is my preferred way to load data into MobilityDB because we can simply drag-and-drop any timestamped point layer into the database:

For this post, I’m using an AIS data sample in the region of Gothenburg, Sweden.

After loading this data into a new table called ais, it is necessary to remove duplicate and convert timestamps:

CREATE TABLE AISInputFiltered AS
SELECT DISTINCT ON("MMSI","Timestamp") *
FROM ais;

ALTER TABLE AISInputFiltered ADD COLUMN t timestamp;
UPDATE AISInputFiltered SET t = "Timestamp"::timestamp;

Afterwards, we can create the MobilityDB trajectories:

CREATE TABLE Ships AS
SELECT "MMSI" mmsi,
tgeompoint_seq(array_agg(tgeompoint_inst(Geom, t) ORDER BY t)) AS Trip,
tfloat_seq(array_agg(tfloat_inst("SOG", t) ORDER BY t) FILTER (WHERE "SOG" IS NOT NULL) ) AS SOG,
tfloat_seq(array_agg(tfloat_inst("COG", t) ORDER BY t) FILTER (WHERE "COG" IS NOT NULL) ) AS COG
FROM AISInputFiltered
GROUP BY "MMSI";

ALTER TABLE Ships ADD COLUMN Traj geometry;
UPDATE Ships SET Traj = trajectory(Trip);

Once this is done, we can load the resulting Ships layer and the trajectories will be loaded as lines:

Computing closest points of approach

To compute the closest point of approach between two moving objects, MobilityDB provides a shortestLine function. To be correct, this function computes the line connecting the nearest approach point between the two tgeompoint_seq. In addition, we can use the time-weighted average function twavg to compute representative average movement speeds and eliminate stationary or very slowly moving objects:

SELECT S1.MMSI mmsi1, S2.MMSI mmsi2, 
       shortestLine(S1.trip, S2.trip) Approach,
       ST_Length(shortestLine(S1.trip, S2.trip)) distance
FROM Ships S1, Ships S2
WHERE S1.MMSI > S2.MMSI AND
twavg(S1.SOG) > 1 AND twavg(S2.SOG) > 1 AND
dwithin(S1.trip, S2.trip, 0.003)

In the QGIS Browser panel, we can right-click the MobilityDB connection to bring up an SQL input using Execute SQL:

The resulting query layer shows where moving objects get close to each other:

To better see what’s going on, we’ll look at individual CPAs:

Having a closer look with the Temporal Controller

Since our filtered AIS layer has proper timestamps, we can animate it using the Temporal Controller. This enables us to replay the movement and see what was going on in a certain time frame.

I let the animation run and stopped it once I spotted a close encounter. Looking at the AIS points and the shortest line, we can see that MobilityDB computed the CPAs along the trajectories:

A more targeted way to investigate a specific CPA is to use the Temporal Controllers’ fixed temporal range mode to jump to a specific time frame. This is helpful if we already know the time frame we are interested in. For the CPA use case, this means that we can look up the timestamp of a nearby AIS position and set up the Temporal Controller accordingly:

More

I hope you enjoyed this quick dive into MobilityDB. For more details, including talks by the project founders, check out the project website.


This post is part of a series. Read more about movement data in GIS.

Forget label buffers! Better maps with selective label masks in QGIS

Cartographers use all kind of tricks to make their maps look deceptively simple. Yet, anyone who has ever tried to reproduce a cartographer’s design using only automatic GIS styling and labeling knows that the devil is in the details.

This post was motivated by Mika Hall’s retro map style.

There are a lot of things going on in this design but I want to draw your attention to the labels – and particularly their background:

Detail of Mike’s map (c) Mike Hall. You can see that the rail lines stop right before they would touch the A in Valencia (or any other letters in the surrounding labels).

This kind of effect cannot be achieved by good old label buffers because no matter which color we choose for the buffer, there will always be cases when the chosen color is not ideal, for example, when some labels are on land and some over water:

Ordinary label buffers are not always ideal.

Label masks to the rescue!

Selective label masks enable more advanced designs.

Here’s how it’s done:

Selective masking has actually been around since QGIS 3.12. There are two things we need to take care of when setting up label masks:

1. First we need to enable masks in the label settings for all labels we want to mask (for example the city labels). The mask tab is conveniently located right next to the label buffer tab:

2. Then we can go to the layers we want to apply the masks to (for example the railroads layer). Here we can configure which symbol layers should be affected by which mask:

Note: The order of steps is important here since the “Mask sources” list will be empty as long as we don’t have any label masks enabled and there is currently no help text explaining this fact.

I’m also using label masks to keep the inside of the large city markers (the ones with a star inside a circle) clear of visual clutter. In short, I’m putting a circle-shaped character, such as ◍, over the city location:

In the text tab, we can specify our one-character label and – later on – set the label opacity to zero.
To ensure that the label stays in place, pick the center placement in “Offset from Point” mode.

Once we are happy with the size and placement of this label, we can then reduce the label’s opacity to 0, enable masks, and configure the railroads layer to use this mask.

As a general rule of thumb, it makes sense to apply the masks to dark background features such as the railways, rivers, and lake outlines in our map design:

Resulting map with label masks applied to multiple labels including city and marine area labels masking out railway lines and ferry connections as well as rivers and lake outlines.

If you have never used label masks before, I strongly encourage you to give them a try next time you work on a map for public consumption because they provide this little extra touch that is often missing from GIS maps.

Happy QGISing! Make maps not war.

Official Austrian basemap and cadastre vector tiles

The BEV (Austrian Bundesamt für Eich- und Vermessungswesen) has recently published the Austrian cadastre as open data:

The URLs for vector tiles and styles can be found on https://kataster.bev.gv.at under Guide – External

The vector tile URL is:

https://kataster.bev.gv.at/tiles/{kataster | symbole}/{z}/{x}/{y}.pbf

There are 4 different style variations:

https://kataster.bev.gv.at/styles/{kataster | symbole}/style_{vermv | ortho | basic | gis}.json

When configuring the vector tiles in QGIS, we specify the desired tile and style URLs, for example:

For example, this is the “gis” style:

And this is the “basic” style:

The second vector tile source I want to mention is basemap.at. It has been around for a while, however, early versions suffered from a couple of issues that have now been resolved.

The basemap.at project provides extensive documentation on how to use the dataset in QGIS and other GIS, including manuals and sample projects:

Here’s the basic configuration: make sure to set the max zoom level to 16, otherwise, the map will not be rendered when you zoom in too far.

The level of detail is pretty impressive, even if it cannot quite keep up with the basemap raster tiles:

Vector tile details at Resselpark, Vienna
Raster basemap details at Resselpark, Vienna

Dynamic Infographic Map Tutorial

This is a guest post by Mickael HOARAU @Oneil974

As an update of the tutorial from previous years, I created a tutorial showing how to make a simple and dynamic color map with charts in QGIS.

In this tutorial you can see some of interesting features of QGIS and its community plugins. Here you’ll see variables, expressions, filters, QuickOSM and DataPlotly plugins and much more. You just need to use QGIS 3.24 Tisler version.

Here is the tutorial.

Snowy day map style now available on the QGIS hub

Today’s post is a follow-up and summary of my mapping efforts this December. It all started with a proof of concept that it is possible to create a nice looking snowfall effect using only labeling:

After a few more iterations, I even included the snowflake style in the first ever QGIS Map Design DLC: a free extra map recipe that shows how to create a map series of Antarctic expeditions. For more details (including project download links), check out my guest post on the Locate Press blog:

If you want to just use the snowflake style in your own projects, the easiest way is to grab the “Snowy Day” project from the QGIS hub (while the GeoPackage is waiting for approval on the official site, you can get it from my Dropbox):

The project is self-contained within the downloaded GeoPackage. One of the most convenient ways to open projects from GeoPackages is through the browser panel:

From here, you can copy-paste the layer style to any other polygon layer.

To change the snowflake color, go to the project properties and edit the “flake_color” variable.

Happy new year!

Exploring ZAMG’s new open weather data

The Central Institution for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) is Austrian’s meteorological and geophysical service. And as such, they have a large database of historical weather data which they have now made publicly available, as announced on 28th Oct 2021:

The new ZAMG Data Hub provides weather and station data, mainly in NetCDF and CSV formats:

I decided to grab a NetCDF sample from their analysis and nowcasting system INCA. I went with all available parameters for a period of one day (the data has a temporal resolution of one hour) and a bounding box around Vienna:

https://frontend.hub.zamg.ac.at/grid/d512d5b5-4e9f-4954-98b9-806acbf754f6/historical/form?anonymous=true

The loading screen of QGIS 3.22 shows the different NetCDF layers:

After adding the incal-hourly layer to QGIS, the layer styling panel provides access to the different weather parameters. We can switch between these parameters by clicking the gradient icon next to the parameter names. Here you can see the air temperature:

And because the NetCDF layer is time-aware, we can also use the QGIS Temporal Controller to step through the hourly measurements / create an animation:

Make sure to grab the latest version of QGIS to get access to all the functionality shown here.

Exploring Vienna’s street-level Lidar “Kappazunder” data sample

Kappazunder is the city of Vienna’s database created during their recent mobile mapping campaign. Using vehicle-mounted Lidar and cameras, they collected street-level Lidar and street view images.

Slide from the official announcement on Thursday, 23rd Sept 2021. Full slide deck: https://www.slideshare.net/DigitalesWien/kappazunder-testdatensatz-2020-ogd-wien

Yesterday, they published a first sample dataset, containing one trajectory on data.gv.at. The download contains documentation, vector data (.shp), images (.jpg), and point clouds (.laz):

Trajectory

The shapefiles contain vehicle location updates, photo locations, and areas describing the extent of the point clouds. Since the shapefile lack .prj files, we need to manually specify the correct CRS (EPSG:31256 MGI / Austria GK East).

The vehicle location updates and photo locations contain timestamps as epoch. However, the format is a little special:

To display a human-readable timestamp, I therefore used the following label expression:

format_date( datetime_from_epoch( "epoch_s"*1000), 'HH:mm:ss')

Adding these labels also reveals that the whole trajectory is just 2 minutes long. This puts the download size of over 5GB into perspective. The whole dataset will be massive.

Lidar

The .laz files are between 100 and 200MB, each. There are four .laz files, even though the previously loaded point cloud extent areas only suggested three:

Loading the .laz files for the first time takes a while and there seem to be some issues – either on the user end (me) or in the files themselves. Trying to load content of the ept_ folders only results in very few points and multiple “invalid data source” errors:

For the few point that are loaded, it looks like the height information is available:

Update on 2021-10-01: I’ve reported the data loss issue and Martin Dobias has provided a first work-around that makes it possible to view the data in QGIS:

135284370-b07272bb-be8a-47ac-b050-d6024613c63b.png (911×765)

Images

The street view images are published as cubemaps. Here’s a sample of the side view:

Great label callout lines

One of the new features in QGIS 3.20 is the option to trim the start and end of simple line symbols. This allows for the line rendering to trim off the first and last sections of a line at a user configured distance, as shown in the visual changelog entry

This new feature makes it much easier to create decorative label callout (or leader) lines. If you know QGIS Map Design 2, the following map may look familiar – however – the following leader lines are even more intricate, making use of the new trimming capabilities:

To demonstrate some of the possibilities, I’ve created a set of four black and four white leader line styles:

You can download these symbols from the QGIS style sharing platform: https://plugins.qgis.org/styles/101/ to use them in your projects. Have fun mapping!

QGIS Atlas on steroids

Today’s post is a video recommendation. In the following video, Alexandre Neto demonstrates an exciting array of tips, tricks, and hacks to create an automated Atlas map series of the Azores islands.

Highlights include:

1. A legend that includes automatically updating statistics

2. A way to support different page sizes

3. A solution for small areas overshooting the map border

You’ll find the video on the QGIS Youtube channel:

This video was recorded as part of the QGIS Open Day June edition. QGIS Open Days are organized monthly on the last Friday of the month. Anyone can take part and present their work for and with QGIS. For more details, see https://github.com/qgis/QGIS/wiki#qgis-open-day

Plotting large point CSV files quickly & interactively

Even with all their downsides, CSV files are still a common data exchange format – particularly between disciplines with different tech stacks. Indeed, “How to Specify Data Types of CSV Columns for Use in QGIS” (originally written in 2011) is still one of the most popular posts on this blog. QGIS continues to be quite handy for visualizing CSV file contents. However, there are times when it’s just not enough, particularly when the number of rows in the CSV is in the range of multiple million. The following example uses a 12 million point CSV:

To give you an idea of the waiting times in QGIS, I’ve run the following script which loads and renders the CSV:

from datetime import datetime

def get_time():
    t2 = datetime.now()
    print(t2)
    print(t2-t1)
    print('Done :)')

canvas = iface.mapCanvas()
canvas.mapCanvasRefreshed.connect(get_time)

print('Starting ...')

t0 = datetime.now()
print(t0)

print('Loading CSV ...')

uri = "file:///E:/Geodata/AISDK/raw_ais/aisdk_20170701.csv?type=csv&xField=Longitude&yField=Latitude&crs=EPSG:4326&"
vlayer = QgsVectorLayer(uri, "layer name you like", "delimitedtext")

t1 = datetime.now()
print(t1)
print(t1 - t0)

print('Rendering ...')

QgsProject.instance().addMapLayer(vlayer)

The script output shows that creating the vector layer takes 02:39 minutes and rendering it takes over 05:10 minutes:

Starting ...
2020-12-06 12:35:56.266002
Loading CSV ...
2020-12-06 12:38:35.565332
0:02:39.299330
Rendering ...
2020-12-06 12:43:45.637504
0:05:10.072172
Done :)

Rendered CSV file in QGIS

Panning and zooming around are no fun either since rendering takes so long. Changing from a single symbol renderer to, for example, a heatmap renderer does not improve the rendering times. So we need a different solutions when we want to efficiently explore large point CSV files.

The Pandas data analysis library is well-know for being a convenient tool for handling CSVs. However, it’s less clear how to use it as a replacement for desktop GIS for exploring large CSVs with point coordinates. My favorite solution so far uses hvPlot + HoloViews + Datashader to provide interactive Bokeh plots in Jupyter notebooks.

hvPlot provides a high-level plotting API built on HoloViews that provides a general and consistent API for plotting data in (Geo)Pandas, xarray, NetworkX, dask, and others. (Image source: https://hvplot.holoviz.org)

But first things first! Loading the CSV as a Pandas Dataframe takes 10.7 seconds. Pandas’ default plotting function (based on Matplotlib), however, takes around 13 seconds and only produces a static scatter plot.

Loading and plotting the CSV with Pandas

hvPlot to the rescue!

We only need two more steps to get faster and interactive map plots (plus background maps!): First, we need to reproject the lat/lon values. (There’s a warning here, most likely since some of the input lat/lon values are invalid.) Then, we replace plot() with hvplot() and voilà:

Plotting the CSV with Datashader

As you can see from the above GIF, the whole process barely takes 2 seconds and the resulting map plot is interactive and very responsive.

12 million points are far from the limit. As long as the Pandas DataFrame fits into memory, we are good and when the datasets get bigger than that, there are Dask DataFrames. But that’s a story for another day.

Dashboards in QGIS

If you are following QGIS topics on social media, you may have already seen this but if you don’t, I recommend having a look at Tim Sutton’s most recent adventures in building dashboards with QGIS:

The dashboard is built using labeling and geometry generator functionality. This means that they work in the QGIS application map window as well as in layouts. As hinted at in the screenshot above, the dashboard can show information about whole layers as well as interactive selections.

Here’s a full walk-through Tim published yesterday:

You can follow the further development via Tim’s tweets or the dedicated Github issue (where you can even find an example QGIS dashboard project in a GeoPacakge for download).

More icons & symbols for QGIS – updated

The 2016 post More icons & symbols for QGIS still regularly makes it to the top 10 list of posts by visitors. I wouldn’t attribute this popularity to the quality of this particular post, however. Instead, it’s a pretty clear sign that QGIS users are actively searching for more styling resources to add to their installations.

When it comes to styling resources, the person to follow right now is clearly Klas Karlsson who’s been keeping a steady stream of styling-related posts coming to Twitter:

Additionally, he’s the master-mind behind QGIS Hub, a – currently prototypical – platform for sharing styling resources and print layout templates:

If you are interested in sharing styling resources, head over there. Similarly, if you want to lend a hand developing QGIS Hub, get in touch!

Movement data in GIS #30: synchronized trajectory animations with QGIS temporal controller

QGIS Temporal Controller is a powerful successor of TimeManager. Temporal Controller is a new core feature of the current development version and will be shipped with the 3.14 release. This post demonstrates two key advantages of this new temporal support:

  1. Expression support for defining start and end timestamps
  2. Integration into the PyQGIS API

These features come in very handy in many use cases. For example, they make it much easier to create animations from folders full of GPS tracks since the files can now be loaded and configured automatically:

Script & Temporal Controller in action (click for full resolution)

All tracks start at the same location but at different times. (Kudos for Andrew Fletcher for recordings these tracks and sharing them with me!) To create an animation that shows all tracks start simultaneously, we need to synchronize them. This synchronization can be achieved on-the-fly by subtracting the start time from all track timestamps using an expression:

directory = "E:/Google Drive/QGIS_Course/05_TimeManager/Example_Dayrides/"

def load_and_configure(filename):
    path = os.path.join(directory, filename)
    uri = 'file:///' + path + "?type=csv&escape=&useHeader=No&detectTypes=yes"
    uri = uri + "&crs=EPSG:4326&xField=field_3&yField=field_2"
    vlayer = QgsVectorLayer(uri, filename, "delimitedtext")
    QgsProject.instance().addMapLayer(vlayer)

    mode = QgsVectorLayerTemporalProperties.ModeFeatureDateTimeStartAndEndFromExpressions
    expression = """to_datetime(field_1) -
    make_interval(seconds:=minimum(epoch(to_datetime("field_1")))/1000)
    """

    tprops = vlayer.temporalProperties()
    tprops.setStartExpression(expression)
    tprops.setEndExpression(expression) # optional
    tprops.setMode(mode)
    tprops.setIsActive(True)

for filename in os.listdir(directory):
    if filename.endswith(".csv"):
        load_and_configure(filename)

The above script loads all CSV files from the given directory (field_1 is the timestamp, field_2 is y, and field_3 is x), enables sets the start and end expression as well as the corresponding temporal control mode and finally activates temporal rendering. The resulting config can be verified in the layer properties dialog:

To adapt this script to other datasets, it’s sufficient to change the file directory and revisit the layer uri definition as well as the field names referenced in the expression.


This post is part of a series. Read more about movement data in GIS.

TimeManager is dead, long live the Temporal Controller!

TimeManager turns 10 this year. The code base has made the transition from QGIS 1.x to 2.x and now 3.x and it would be wrong to say that it doesn’t show ;-)

Now, it looks like the days of TimeManager are numbered. Four days ago, Nyall Dawson has added native temporal support for vector layers to QGIS. This is part of a larger effort of adding time support for rasters, meshes, and now also vectors.

The new Temporal Controller panel looks similar to TimeManager. Layers are configured through the new Temporal tab in Layer Properties. The temporal dimension can be used in expressions to create fancy time-dependent styles:

temporal1

TimeManager Geolife demo converted to Temporal Controller (click for full resolution)

Obviously, this feature is brand new and will require polishing. Known issues listed by Nyall include limitations of supported time fields (only fields with datetime type are supported right now, strings cannot be used) and worse performance than TimeManager since features are filtered in QGIS rather than in the backend.

If you want to give the new Temporal Controller a try, you need to install the current development version, e.g. qgis-dev in OSGeo4W.


Update from May 16:

Many of the limitations above have already been addressed.

Last night, Nyall has recorded a one hour tutorial on this new feature, enjoy:

QGIS video tutorials: election maps, hydrology, and more

Mapping spatial decision patterns, such as election results, is always a hot topic. That’s why we decided to include a recipe for election maps in our QGIS Map Design books. What’s new is that this recipe is now available as a free video tutorial recorded by Oliver Burdekin:

This video is just one of many recently published video tutorials that have been created by QGIS community members.

For example, Hans van der Kwast and Kurt Menke have recorded a 7-part series on QGIS for Hydrological Applications:

and Klas Karlsson’s Youtube channel is also always worth a follow:

For the Pythonically inclined among you, there is also a new version of Python in QGIS on the Automating GIS-processes channel:

 

Five QGIS network analysis toolboxes for routing and isochrones

In the past, network analysis capabilities in QGIS were rather limited or not straight-forward to use. This has changed! In QGIS 3.x, we now have a wide range of network analysis tools, both for use case where you want to use your own network data, as well as use cases where you don’t have access to appropriate data or just prefer to use an existing service.

This blog post aims to provide an overview of the options:

  1. Based on local network data
    1. Default QGIS Processing network analysis tools
    2. QNEAT3 plugin
  2. Based on web services
    1. Hqgis plugin (HERE)
    2. ORS Tools plugin (openrouteservice.org)
    3. TravelTime platform plugin (TravelTime platform)

All five options provide Processing toolbox integration but not at the same level.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’re probably also aware of the pgRoutingLayer plugin. However, I’m not including it in this list due to its dependency on PostGIS and its pgRouting extension.

Processing network analysis tools

The default Processing network analysis tools are provided out of the box. They provide functionality to compute least cost paths and service areas (distance or time) based on your own network data. Inputs can be individual points or layers of points:

The service area tools return reachable edges and / or nodes rather than a service area polygon:

QNEAT3 plugin

The QNEAT3 (short for Qgis Network Analysis Toolbox 3) Plugin aims to provide sophisticated QGIS Processing-Toolbox algorithms in the field of network analysis. QNEAT3 is integrated in the QGIS3 Processing Framework. It offers algorithms that range from simple shortest path solving to more complex tasks like Iso-Area (aka service areas, accessibility polygons) and OD-Matrix (Origin-Destination-Matrix) computation.

QNEAT3 is an alternative for use case where you want to use your own network data.

For more details see the QNEAT3 documentation at: https://root676.github.io/index.html

Hqgis plugin

Access the HERE API from inside QGIS using your own HERE-API key. Currently supports Geocoding, Routing, POI-search and isochrone analysis.

Hqgis currently does not expose all its functionality to the Processing toolbox:

Instead, the full set of functionality is provided through the plugin GUI:

This plugin requires a HERE API key.

ORS Tools plugin

ORS Tools provides access to most of the functions of openrouteservice.org, based on OpenStreetMap. The tool set includes routing, isochrones and matrix calculations, either interactive in the map canvas or from point files within the processing framework. Extensive attributes are set for output files, incl. duration, length and start/end locations.

ORS Tools is based on OSM data. However, using this plugin still requires an openrouteservice.org API key.

TravelTime platform plugin

This plugin adds a toolbar and processing algorithms allowing to query the TravelTime platform API directly from QGIS. The TravelTime platform API allows to obtain polygons based on actual travel time using several transport modes rather, allowing for much more accurate results than simple distance calculations.

The TravelTime platform plugin requires a TravelTime platform API key.

For more details see: https://blog.traveltimeplatform.com/isochrone-qgis-plugin-traveltime

Stand-alone PyQGIS scripts with OSGeo4W

PyQGIS scripts are great to automate spatial processing workflows. It’s easy to run these scripts inside QGIS but it can be even more convenient to run PyQGIS scripts without even having to launch QGIS. To create a so-called “stand-alone” PyQGIS script, there are a few things that need to be taken care of. The following steps show how to set up PyCharm for stand-alone PyQGIS development on Windows10 with OSGeo4W.

An essential first step is to ensure that all environment variables are set correctly. The most reliable approach is to go to C:\OSGeo4W64\bin (or wherever OSGeo4W is installed on your machine), make a copy of qgis-dev-g7.bat (or any other QGIS version that you have installed) and rename it to pycharm.bat:

Instead of launching QGIS, we want that pycharm.bat launches PyCharm. Therefore, we edit the final line in the .bat file to start pycharm64.exe:

In PyCharm itself, the main task to finish our setup is configuring the project interpreter:

First, we add a new “system interpreter” for Python 3.7 using the corresponding OSGeo4W Python installation.

To finish the interpreter config, we need to add two additional paths pointing to QGIS\python and QGIS\python\plugins:

That’s it! Now we can start developing our stand-alone PyQGIS script.

The following example shows the necessary steps, particularly:

  1. Initializing QGIS
  2. Initializing Processing
  3. Running a Processing algorithm
import sys

from qgis.core import QgsApplication, QgsProcessingFeedback
from qgis.analysis import QgsNativeAlgorithms

QgsApplication.setPrefixPath(r'C:\OSGeo4W64\apps\qgis-dev', True)
qgs = QgsApplication([], False)
qgs.initQgis()

# Add the path to processing so we can import it next
sys.path.append(r'C:\OSGeo4W64\apps\qgis-dev\python\plugins')
# Imports usually should be at the top of a script but this unconventional 
# order is necessary here because QGIS has to be initialized first
import processing
from processing.core.Processing import Processing

Processing.initialize()
QgsApplication.processingRegistry().addProvider(QgsNativeAlgorithms())
feedback = QgsProcessingFeedback()

rivers = r'D:\Documents\Geodata\NaturalEarthData\Natural_Earth_quick_start\10m_physical\ne_10m_rivers_lake_centerlines.shp'
output = r'D:\Documents\Geodata\temp\danube3.shp'
expression = "name LIKE '%Danube%'"

danube = processing.run(
    'native:extractbyexpression',
    {'INPUT': rivers, 'EXPRESSION': expression, 'OUTPUT': output},
    feedback=feedback
    )['OUTPUT']

print(danube)

Easy Processing scripts comeback in QGIS 3.6

When QGIS 3.0 was release, I published a Processing script template for QGIS3. While the script template is nicely pythonic, it’s also pretty long and daunting for non-programmers. This fact didn’t go unnoticed and Nathan Woodrow in particular started to work on a QGIS enhancement proposal to improve the situation and make writing Processing scripts easier, while – at the same time – keeping in line with common Python styles.

While the previous template had 57 lines of code, the new template only has 26 lines – 50% less code, same functionality! (Actually, this template provides more functionality since it also tracks progress and ensures that the algorithm can be cancelled.)

from qgis.processing import alg
from qgis.core import QgsFeature, QgsFeatureSink

@alg(name="ex_new", label=alg.tr("Example script (new style)"), group="examplescripts", group_label=alg.tr("Example Scripts"))
@alg.input(type=alg.SOURCE, name="INPUT", label="Input layer")
@alg.input(type=alg.SINK, name="OUTPUT", label="Output layer")
def testalg(instance, parameters, context, feedback, inputs):
    """
    Description goes here. (Don't delete this! Removing this comment will cause errors.)
    """
    source = instance.parameterAsSource(parameters, "INPUT", context)

    (sink, dest_id) = instance.parameterAsSink(
        parameters, "OUTPUT", context,
        source.fields(), source.wkbType(), source.sourceCrs())

    total = 100.0 / source.featureCount() if source.featureCount() else 0
    features = source.getFeatures()
    for current, feature in enumerate(features):
        if feedback.isCanceled():
            break
        out_feature = QgsFeature(feature)
        sink.addFeature(out_feature, QgsFeatureSink.FastInsert)
        feedback.setProgress(int(current * total))

    return {"OUTPUT": dest_id}

The key improvement are the new decorators that turn an ordinary function (such as testalg in the template) into a Processing algorithm. Decorators start with @ and are written above a function definition. The @alg decorator declares that the following function is a Processing algorithm, defines its name and assigns it to an algorithm group. The @alg.input decorator creates an input parameter for the algorithm. Similarly, there is a @alg.output decorator for output parameters.

For a longer example script, check out the original QGIS enhancement proposal thread!

For now, this new way of writing Processing scripts is only supported by QGIS 3.6 but there are plans to back-port this improvement to 3.4 once it is more mature. So give it a try and report back!

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