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Understanding the Sea of Data

, 9 Feb 2009
Technology’s ability to efficiently capture, store, and retrieve data is only part of the story. As our data warehouses grow, businesses’ needs for digesting and presenting that data in a consumable, understandable, and desirable way will also grow. Infragistics helps developers meet that need wit

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Targeting the Silverlight Platform

Silverlight is the ideal platform for developing effective, graphical Web 2.0 applications. The platform is perfect for bringing high-fidelity graphics to a Web browser, with the added benefit of a rich, client-side interaction model that brings a truly interactive experience to the end user.

Infragistics recognized that businesses needs are evolving and the ability to visualize data in a useful and interactive format for dashboards and KPI’s is becoming increasingly important. With that, Infragistics focused on a new product, NetAdvantage® for Silverlight Data Visualization, making business intelligence and data visualization capabilities available to all businesses and every budget. We think of this as bringing data visualization and business intelligence to the masses, high-priced server systems are no longer needed to bring these capabilities to end users.

Charts

As most of the world is focused on the economy, the emphasis on describing information very clearly in a line, bar or stock chart has become a goal of Web sites and newspapers alike in recent months. Charts help communicate large sets of data visually, usually to establish a relationship between data points through comparison and, especially, contrast. While the pie chart may be the most commonly seen chart type, simple line and bar charts are equally popular with users.

Figure 1 – Line Chart Comparing Data [Generated by NetAdvantage for Silverlight xamWebChart™]

There are infovis experts such as Stephen Few and Edward Tufte who argue against the use of simple line, pie, and bar charts due to the ink to information ratio. Certainly this argument holds true in certain scenarios, but sometimes a pie chart is what you need to communicate the data and make the visual impact for which you are looking. Sometimes, you want to watch the movie rather than read the book, and these Silverlight charts are extremely familiar and usually very easy-to-understand.

Figure 2 - Infragistics Bubble Chart with Dynamic Scaling and Zooming [Rendered by NetAdvantage for Silverlight xamWebChart and xamWebZoombar™]

Figure 3 - Infragistics Bar Chart [Rendered by NetAdvantage for Silverlight xamWebChart]

Using Silverlight, Infragistics is embracing Silverlight features for high-end, high performance Web-based data visualization experiences. NetAdvantage for Silverlight Data Visualization controls take maximum advantage of the Silverlight browser plug-in’s capabilities to dynamically react to the user (such as dragging the gauge needle within the browser), off-load what would ordinarily be server-side processing to the client, and minimize client-to-server network traffic leading to greater responsiveness and scalability.

The NetAdvantage for Silverlight Data Visualization product has nearly 30 chart types for almost every business need.

Learn more about the charts available in the NetAdvantage for Silverlight Data Visualization product, and download it now!

NetAdvantage for Silverlight Data Visualization
Silverlight Charting Control

Gauges and Dashboarding

When we think about digital dashboards – those fancy Web pages laden with various displays showing KPI (Key Performance Indicator) and metric data – we think of gauge controls, a heads-up display packed with critical information similar to an automobile or airplane dashboard. A gauge can come in multiple forms – it can be in a round radial form, a digital display of alphanumeric data, or a linear graph like a thermometer. Using these various ways of visually monitoring any activity, gauges; when used appropriately, can make an easy-to-relate-to dashboard that comes to life.

Figure 4 – Various Radial Gauge Styles [Rendered by NetAdvantage for Silverlight xamWebGauge™]

Figure 5 –Radial and Linear Gauge Styles [Rendered by NetAdvantage for Silverlight xamWebGauge™]

Using Silverlight, the concept of an interactive gauge becomes a reality. A gauge can stand alone on a page as an interactive information tool, not just a static display of a KPI. Infragistics has embraced and extended the capabilities of the Silverlight platform by taking advantage of Silverlight features like templating, data binding and storyboarding to empower developers to create more than expected.

Figure 6 – Interactive Radial Gauge [Rendered by NetAdvantage for Silverlight xamWebGauge]

If you think gauges spruce up your data visualization, see them online and download a free trial from our Web site:

NetAdvantage for Silverlight Data Visualization
Silverlight Gauge Controls

Geospatial Data with Maps

With the ever-increasing popularity of location-based services and mapping applications like Live Search Maps from Microsoft Corporation or Google™ Maps, users are beginning to expect analytics and business intelligence data presented in rich and interactive maps featuring advanced functionality such as panning, zooming, mouse-over effects and tooltips. The days or presenting regional sales data or population data in tabular grids are over!

Figure 7 – Colored Map of The United States [Rendered by NetAdvantage for Silverlight xamWebMap™]

Extensibly designed with events and properties that enable you to customize its more sophisticated behavior and options, the Silverlight xamWebMap control was modularly constructed around the following key components:

  • Map Layers
  • Navigational panes
  • Color Swatch panes
  • Scale panes

Figure 8 – Layered Regions showing European Countries [Rendered by NetAdvantage for Silverlight xamWebMap]

Maps in commonly-encountered Shapefile format can be displayed, including polygon-based (lots, states, countries), polyline-based (roads, rivers, transmission lines), and point-based (cities, points of interest) spatial data. The scenarios in which you can customize these maps are almost limitless, for example:

  • Layout of the legends, navigation pane, etc.
  • Color model of map elements (i.e., US states and counties)

Figure 9 – Chloropleth Map showing Global Oil Production [Rendered by NetAdvantage for Silverlight xamWebMap]

For more on mapping as it helps render your data visualizations in easy-to-understand terms, see our samples online and download a free trial of these controls from our Web site:

NetAdvantage for Silverlight Data Visualization
Silverlight Mapping Control

Visualizing Time Series Data

Displaying data along timelines enables users to quickly understand and visualize a sequence of events. These events may be historical events, steps in the narrative of some business process or workflow, project milestones, key frames in a video being edited, or a representation of any time-series data.

With the NetAdvantage for Silverlight xamWebTimeline™ control you can empower users to quickly understand and visualize a sequence of events. Each timeline is a series of sequential event elements which may be historical events, steps in the narrative of some business process, project milestones, key frames in a video, or a representation of any kind of time-series data. Control templates allow you to design timelines that have compelling styling and interactivity.

Figure 10 – Timeline comparing 2 discrete time-series [Rendered by NetAdvantage for Silverlight xamWebTimeline]

Users can select elements in the timeline to display a greater level of detail about that timeline element.

The NetAdvantage for Silverlight xamWebTimeline control allows you to:

  • Display chronological and sequential data in ways that allow your end user to dynamically select and compare timelines.
  • Expedite user learning by comparing familiar timelines with related, but unfamiliar, timelines; and isolating timeline elements to prioritize in the display.
  • Design how you would like the timeline elements to display greater detail on your user interface.

Figure 11 – Timeline used with Map as interactive analysis tool [Rendered by NetAdvantage for Silverlight xamWebTimeline and xamWebMap]

Accentuate your data visualizations with timelines, experience them online and download a free trial of these controls from our Web site:

NetAdvantage for Silverlight Data Visualization
Silverlight Timeline Control

Wrap Up

Visualizing information is important because we humans find ourselves today in a sea of information that threatens to drown us. Through the use of visualizations, we humans can more easily (and often better) harness this wealth of resources to put information readily at our fingertips. In addition to aiding our own understanding and analysis, visualizations communicate key information to others. The old adage that a picture is worth thousand words carries forward into the Information Age in how we break down, visualize, analyze, and understand all of the many data that are part of our lives today.

At Infragistics we can help you to manage those meandering masses of data by providing you with the tools and guidance you need to meet your organization’s ever-expanding needs for data visualization. We stand committed to continue building out our data visualization products to help you explore new ways to experience your data and support your decision-making needs. Please take some time to explore our products and get in touch with us if you have any questions.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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J. Ambrose Little
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