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3D Hexbins - a powerful visualisation technique

Nick Veitch

23 November 2018

Planwisely is always looking for innovative ways to make it easier to visualise data. Our data scientists have recently been exploring 3D hexbins for visualising a variety of our datasets.

3D what?

‘3D Hexagonal binning’ is an aggregation technique which is extremely useful for visualising and simplifying the structure of large datasets with a significant number of data points. Whether you have spatial or non-spatial data, hexbins can be used to highlight data patterns.

Nicholas Lewin-Koh wrote a good overview on hexagonal binning, for those of you who are interested in reading up on their underlying principles and theory.

Visualising 3D Hexbins

To give you an idea of hexbins in practice, we will explore two different applications within Planwisely:

1. Crash Stats

VicRoads biennially produce a Crash Stats data set incorporating the road crash figures for the last 12 years for anyone interested in better understanding road safety trends in Victoria. Planwisely users can now visualise these 17,000 accident records either as individual accidents or using 3D hexbins. These ‘hexbins’ make it very easy to instantly identify key accident hotspots, while still allowing users to access specific info for deeper analysis.

The video below shows a pan of Melbourne’s South-East, moving toward the CBD. Through this visualisation you can clearly and instantaneously identify the problematic intersections and conflict areas in the CBD where congestion is an issue.

Source - Crash Stats Victoria, VicRoads, accessed 24/01/2018

Here’s a snapshot of the raw data which underpins the hexbins. Each ‘point’ represents an accident in the dataset. Planwisely users can view critical details about each accident; date, time of day, road and weather conditions, and number of people/vehicles involved.

Crash Stats Victoria

Source - Crash Stats Victoria, VicRoads, accessed 24/01/2018

2. Population Growth

3D hexbins are also a terrific way to visualise population growth in Australian cities. This map pinpoints major growth areas over a five-year period (between the 2011 and 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census). What’s really cool about hexbins here, is that they can be easily applied to show future growth areas - valuable information for city planners indeed!

Source - Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census 2011 and Census 2016

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