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Tiling Tools

Hierarchical Grid Systems & How They Implement Better Location Data Analysis

As part of Spectus’ platform toolkit, analysts are granted access to the Tiling Tool, also known as spatial indexing. Spatial indexing is mainly used to improve the performance of geospatial analyses making computations faster. Simply stated, this equips analysts and data science teams with a visual tool to isolate areas and analyze data sets on a map. Grid systems are critical to analyzing large spatial data sets, as they effectively partition areas of the Earth into identifiable grid cells. Using various industry-standard grid methodologies, analysis of one or many data sources can be more precisely targeted and more easily normalized. See it in action using Spectus’ Tiling Tool or read more about the available grid systems in Spectus.

What Are The Available Grid Systems In Spectus?

Spectus includes four distinct grid systems; Geohash, H3, S2, and Bing Tiles. Each has a unique purpose and allows data teams to accurately pinpoint areas of interest for analyzing geospatial datasets.

Using pre-configured areas where data had been collected reduces noise and speeds up analysis. It’s also used to collect data from a larger sample area outside an initial target area for further analysis.

Each grid system is available at different resolutions which returns more or less precision based on the use case. Spectus’ Tiling Tool used in conjunction with ready-to-use mobility data and POIs provides data science teams with a fast, dependable workflow for geospatial analysis.


Geohash is a string equivalent to a unique identifier that denotes a specific place on Earth. Essentially, the globe is divided into regions that each have a unique ID. These regions are rectangular, so precision is dictated by the resolution where each Geohash is recorded. At higher resolutions, you’ll find more depth and precision (longer strings which are more precise—think rectangles within rectangles) of each rectangular Geohash. Any location on the planet can be converted into a string using its latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates. This is a common grid system used across multiple datasets.



The H3 grid system was designed by Uber. Based on their business model and a need for optimizing ride sharing they developed H3 to visualize spatial data. Other analysts have adopted the hexagonal approach to the grid system for a more accurate analysis of large spatial data sets.

From an article on Uber Engineering: “H3 enables us to analyze geographic information to set dynamic prices and make other decisions on a city-wide level. We use H3 as the grid system for analysis and optimization throughout our marketplaces. H3 was designed for this purpose, and led us to make some choices such as using hexagonal, hierarchical indexes.”

H3 Uber Map Tiling Systems


Unlike other grid systems, the S2 geometry takes into account the three dimensional, close to spherical shape of the globe. The single coordinate system has a lower distortion compared to the true shape of the Earth. Because S2 is based on spherical projections, the cells more closely preserve the correct topology of the Earth. The advantage is a geographic database with no seams or singularities. The S2 library is used on Google Maps.

S2 Google Map Tiling

Bing Tiles

Bing Maps provides a world map that uses its own formulated grid system based on a more accurate flat map representation using the Mercator projection as a basis for their hierarchical grid system. The controversial use of a Mercator projection map far outweighs any scale distortion of landmasses the farther you travel from the equator.  North and South will always be represented as up and down respectively while East and West, straight side to side. Bing uses a system of quadkeys; two-dimensional tile XY coordinates are combined into one-dimensional strings. The number of characters of a quadkey equals the level of detail of the corresponding tile. A quadkey of any tile starts with the quadkey of its parent tile—the previous level of detail.

Bing Tile Quadkeys

Interactive Grid Tiles Web App

Apply a hierarchial grid system over the map to identify increasingly more precise areas of data sets for analysis. Using a coordinate system like Spectus’ Tiling Tools, data analysts can isolate mobility data, POIs, and other data in geographical areas for isolated analysis.

Start using Tiling Tools and other spatial data analysis tools today:

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