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What’s New with Advanced Mapping and Geolocation Intelligence in SAP BI Reporting? Q&A with Dr. Berg on Changes in WebI and Design Studio

July 29, 2015

Changes introduced with the latest version of SAP BI tools include new location intelligence, geospatial integration, and visualization technologies.  What is the latest on SAP Design Studio and Web Intelligence mapping features, and how can you optimize new features for your own interactive reports? 

BI Expert authors Dr. Bjarne Berg and Brandon Lucaciu, along with their Comerit colleague Rob Frye took readers' questions on geomapping with the latest versions of SAP Design Studio and WebI, and topics such as:

  • What is new in the mapping features and what are prime use cases for Design Studio and WebI? 
  • How are ESRI, Google maps, and other location data sources now supported?
  • How can we optimize geolocation for mobile views?
  • What is new in visualizing locations and advanced mapping features?
  • How is mapping data integrated with BW, SAP HANA, and other data sources?
  • What skills and preparation do we need to make use of these new mapping features?
Live Blog Geomapping in SAP Design Studio & WebI: Live July 29 1pmEDT



M.S. Hein, BI Expert: Welcome to today’s SAPinsider Q&A! Joining us are BI Expert author and BI 2015 speaker Dr. Bjarne Berg, along with BI Expert author Brandon Lucaciu, and their Comerit colleague Rob Frye.  Dr. Berg and Brandon are also the authors of a recent BI Expert article on mapping with Design Studio.

Dr. Berg, Brandon, and Rob, thanks for joining us today! We have lots of questions from our readers already submitted, so we’ll let you get to those now.


Brandon Lucaciu, Comerit: Welcome everyone! Thank you for joining us. We look forward to answering your questions!


Rob Frye, Comerit: Good afternoon everyone! We're looking forward to the chance to answer your questions. Thanks for joining us today!


Comment From Matthew

What is new for mapping in 1.5, and where do you see other geolocation features being used in Design Studio reporting?

Rob Frye: Mapping itself is a new component of Design Studio in version 1.5 and features the ability to visualize geolocation data from different regions and locations. You can use various data sources and different data granularity to map your information. You can use those selections in your maps to drill down to other components.

Great question!


Comment From Ken

What are key use cases for mapping with Design Studio vs. WebI?

Brandon Lucaciu: Design Studio applications/dashboards are typically a top level view of the data. They try to see an overview and they generally don’t get to the low level details. You can use mapping inside of Design Studio to look at higher levels, such as state and county level. Then you can go into WebI and look at a more granular region level or even down to the individual locations and points.
We have a few videos on our YouTube channel that shows how you can look at different levels of the data and how each tool has its benefits with working with maps. The one video that I recommend the most can be found here.


Comment From Guest

How many layers can the Design Studio mapping component support?

Rob Frye: The map currently supports 10 different layers. Each layer can have a different data source attached to it and can be composed of any combination of shapes, points and graphs.


Comment From Christian CS

Can we use Google Maps instead of Esri or other provider maps?

Rob Frye: In short, yes, you can use Google Maps.
By changing the base layer within Design Studio, you can use google maps. However, this requires some API registration and access in order to get that working perfectly. If you just want to use Google Maps instead of worrying about changing and configuring the base map, SAP has developed a Google Maps SDK, which can be quite easily implemented.
There are other technologies out there, such as open source maps and Pitney Bowes spatial technology, that utilize Google Maps as the basemap for any geolocation data.


Comment From Javier C

With the Google Maps included in the SDK sample provided by SAP, we need a license, right?

Rob Frye: All you'll need is the API key from within Google Developer Network to get started. In other words, you can use that for your proof of concept work, but you'll need a full license to roll this out on an enterprise level. Thanks for the question!


Comment From Travis

Good Afternoon! In our organization, we have aircraft that sales people are responsible for based on territories. These aircraft change territories often and we are looking for a mapping technology that will show aircraft counts within a given territory, based on SAP CRM data. Do you think the WebI solution or the Design Studio solution is best?

Brandon Lucaciu: Great question, Travis! I believe Design Studio would probably accomplish what you need the best. It can give you a lot of different views of the data. It seems like you may have custom regions/territories that need to be mapped and with a GIS program: you can create any shape file to be used within Design Studio. Having 10 layers to use, that should be enough to give you the insights you need.

Comment From Travis

So we would need a separate program or extension to display our data? Our data set shows the states, countries, etc., where an aircraft is located.

Brandon Lucaciu: The basemap within Design Studio should be able to recognize your geographic data, being state and countries. If you want some custom regions, you would need the GIS program. You can look this up online and see if something like what you need has already been developed. The map is inside of Design Studio, so as long as you can get the shape file for what you need, you should be good to go.


Comment From Jean Cristian

Good afternoon. I would like to develop custom maps that are connected with a  universe and that lack geolocation but do include divisions of the business. Any suggestions?

Brandon Lucaciu: I presume your divisions have some sort of location-based piece to them. If not, you can create a shape file using a GIS program and assign a division name to each. These division names will assign to those shapes and the map will have those boundaries based on those values. So even though you don't have a geographic aspect to the data, it will still recognize that you have something in your data that can communicate with your shape file/map.


Comment From Syed Amin

What would be the difference between Pitney Bowes Mapping Technology and Cmap, which is also a third-party maps add on to Web Intelligence and Dashboard tools?

Rob Frye: While I haven't had the opportunity to explore Cmap, based on a very brief assessment of what they have available, I can tell you that it looks like the Pitney Bowes solution is heavily focused on geolocation, where the Cmap solution appears to be focused on concept mapping. In other words, it looks like Cmap has a primary goal of allowing you to build information flows between concepts.

Pitney Bowes also has the ability to connect to data sources around the world that feature many spatial features. These can include demographic, retail, insurance, and general location data, which can then be combined with your existing data to enrich your analysis. Most data today has a spatial aspect to it and this mapping technology that Pitney Bowes offers can provide deeper analysis and help you visualize the data in whole new way.

That's a great question! Just bear in mind that this answer is a best guess based on some quick research around Cmap.


Comment From Guest

Does this geolocation information include Google Maps data?

Berg: The basemap in Design Studio utilizes an open source map. If you want to change the basemap to Google Maps or Bing or anything else, you have that ability. There is an SDK built by SAP for Design Studio that utilizes Google Maps as the underlying map. Some tools, such as what Pitney Bowes provides, utilizes Google Maps as its basemap, and can be interchangeable with Bing or other maps as well.


Comment From Javier C

I see that in the geomap standard component provided in 1.5 we can change the basemap URL (by default it is Do you know which other we can use? Could changing the source have an impact on the functionality?

Rob Frye: If you have Esri, Google Maps, Bing Maps, etc., you can use them. Just bear in mind that you will need the required licensing for each of those projects in order to use them. Since the source just controls the base layer, the only impact to your functionality will be the look (and possibly accuracy) of the map layer. The only difference will be how your shapefile will work with the background map layer. That's a good question!


Comment From Jean Cristian

You can download the maps developed in Argis Esri and use Web Intelligence or Design Studio?

Rob Frye: You can use those maps in Design Studio 1.5, but not in the current version of WebI. That functionality is planned to be added in WebI 4.2, so hopefully we'll have that by the end of the year... :) Great question.


Comment From Guest

WebI doesn't have any map components in earlier versions. Is there any plan to introduce that in near future?

Rob Frye: Mapping functionality is planned for integration with Webi version 4.2. SAP is stating that this is targeted for release near the end of the year, so we hope to see that feature soon.


Comment From Judy Wang

Can you comment more on 4.2 maps? Is it going to be Esri maps, and will it support printing?

Rob Frye: Yes, Esri mapping is planned for integration into WebI with platform version 4.2. As far as printing goes, I highly suspect that it will be available in a WYSIWYG fashion. Great question.


Comment From Jean Cristian

Is there a map solution in Web Intelligence that is not limited to SAP BI?  SAP BI works only on mobile devices. I need a solution to run in web browser.

Rob Frye: This is a really interesting question. Pitney Bowes and Integeo have the capability of integrating with WebI 4.0 or 4.1, please see the following demo videos that we created.

With the release of BI 4.2, there is a planned enhancement for WebI which will feature an updated extension mechanism for geospatial capabilities and integration with Esri.
Additional options for integration between SAP BusinessObjects BIand Esri geospatial services include: Galigeo BI for Location Analytics for SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence and Integeo Map Intelligence for SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence. Thanks for the excellent question!


Comment From Guest

With Design Studio, what have you seen as the limitations of mapping capabilities? Any issues with performance or user experience?

Berg: Geographic hierarchies don’t currently work well within the tool. You can use pieces of that hierarchy, such as state, but you can use the entire hierarchy to drill down.

Zooming in to the map only works to a certain point. Once you get down to almost street level, the underlying basemap disappears and you are just shown the data points. You can only have 10 layers in the map. For most, this is not a really big limitation; however, some may need more than 10 to accomplish their goal.

Comment From Guest

What does Pitney Bowes have that isn’t already implemented within the BusinessObjects toolset?

Berg: Their WebI integration provides a seamless mapping layer that allows you to slice, dice and analyze data down to the street level to get a deeper look into the data. You can attach nearly any data source to the mapping technology and use any geographic dimension, such as address, zip, latitude and longitude. This mapping functionality can also be implemented within Design Studio and Lumira as well as being a stand-alone product. You can create heat maps, trade diagrams, surface densities, point clusters and more based on your data.

They also have the ability to connect to data sources around the world that feature many spatial features. These can include demographic, retail, insurance and general location data. These data products can be combined with existing data to enrich your analysis. Most data today has a spatial aspect to it and this mapping technology that Pitney Bowes offers can provide deeper analysis and help you visualize the data in whole new way.


Comment From Ken

How is mapping data integrated with BW, SAP HANA, and other data sources? What skills and preparation do we need to use these new mapping features?

Brandon Lucaciu: That's an interesting question. As long as latitude and longitude are present in the dataset, then not much preparation is required. If adding shapes and customized content to the maps is the goal, then some knowledge of JSON and SDK development would be helpful. However, many shape files are already available and can be easily created. Pitney Bowes helped us tremendously with that, giving us any shape file we want, whether this is something typical such as counties, states, or zip codes, but also custom boundaries such as regions and even buildings. Thanks for your question, Ken!


Comment From Guest

What is the difference between the different layer types (i.e. shapes, points, and graphs)?

Brandon Lucaciu: Shapes are used for regions such as state, county and zip. When you want to get an exact location using latitude and longitude, you would use points. If you have exact locations and you want to compare different locations’ sales or any other measure, you can use graphs/charts to create somewhat of a bubble at each point. The size of the bubble will be changed given the value of the measure.


Comment From Ana

Are you finding that business is requesting this ability to visualize geolocation data? Or that BI/reporting teams are the drivers here?

Brandon Lucaciu: Many of them do want to see geolocation data especially since SAP is pushing that functionality. However, many people don't realize that about 80% of data that has a geospatial element to it. It can be a great help to the business to see mapping information, and even if they don't realize their need for it, once you create something, it will blow them away, I'm sure!


Comment From Guest

How are geohierarchies now recognized in Design Studio?

Berg: The maps that are native to DS 1.5 are not compatible with geohierarchies at the moment, but there are SDKs available that facilitate their deployment.

The Open Source Map SDK is a popular choice to achieve this goal. Hopefully Design Studio will be able to recognize and utilize geohierarchies natively, in the near future. We know that Lumira already has that ability, so it should just be a matter of time before Design Studio sees that functionality implemented.


Comment From Javier C

When I try to change the basemap URL to "" I get the error: "The map URL could not be resolved; check validity of URL" So then which URL should I use?  
Another question: Is there another URL like the one provided in DS 1.5, ( that we can use for free?

Brandon Lucaciu: Basemaps can be found on the Google Developer Network. The Google Maps need a parameter attached to them, to know exactly what they should show. I don't know an exact URL off the top of my head, but I've had maps in there before using Google that showed smaller areas such as New York. There should be some other maps out there, but we have found the open source map that is included in Design Studio to be sufficient for most project requirements.


Comment From Matthew

What are the differences between the mapping in Lumira and Design Studio?

Rob Frye: That’s a great question. Lumira is focused on simplicity. It is meant to be an end-user tool and it does that quite well.
You can use or create geographic hierarchies that allow you to drill down to different levels such as state and county.
These are built in to the tool and provide a nice navigation into more granular data. However, you can only assign one data set to the map and having custom regions requires some extra development.
In Design Studio, you can assign each layer a completely different data source. It has similar looks when it comes to the visualizations; however, you have the ability to change the basemap and control what regions are going to be displayed.
Design Studio has a few more advanced features than Lumira and rightfully so, since it is geared towards authors and developers.


Comment From Guest

How can we optimize geolocation for mobile views? Can both Design Studio and WebI support high-quality mobile performance?

Rob Frye: Both Design Studio and WebI are optimized for developing mobile reports, and the mapping integration will work well with either. In order for it to be optimized, data must be aggregated at the highest level possible before inserting it into a map.
SAP HANA and Esri interoperability offers columnar storage architecture which eliminates the need to create spatial indexes, tessellation, or other optimization practices. This promotes real-time spatial processing via high-performance algorithms that process huge amounts of spatial data through SAP HANA.
Design Studio and Lumira can both directly connect to HANA, and they also offer mobile report consumption.


Comment From Javier C

Currently I have an issue with the JavaScript command "centerMap" that, according to the SAP support, will be solved with SP2 — meaning in October. In the future, will there be a way to implement fixes more quickly, like SAP Notes, and not wait until a SPS release?

Brandon Lucaciu: I would honestly love that because it would make things a lot easier. In some cases, they have put notes out that help fix certain configuration issues. But the way Design Studio is installed, on client and server, I doubt they would have small patches here and there. This is why they stick with the Service Pack method. So even though I would love for quicker fixes, I understand why SAP doesn't do the small patches.


Comment From Guest

Can the underlying basemap be changed when the application is being used?

Berg: There is some code that allows you to change the basemap when a layer is clicked on or navigated to. If some of your users like Google Maps and others like Bing, you can add a button that when clicked, changes the basemap.


Comment From Jean Cristian

Will the SAP Dashboard solution improve issues related to maps in version 4.2? You can create any custom map?

Rob Frye: If you're talking about SAP Crystal Dashboards (Xcelsius), yes, you can create custom maps using Adobe Flash tools. But as SAP has been continually improving Design Studio, I wouldn't expect much more in the way of enhancement for Dashboards. SAP has stated plainly that Design Studio will be the premiere dashboarding application moving forward. Thanks for the excellent question!


Comment From Guest

What are differences between how Esri integration is supported in WebI vs. DesignStudio vs. Lumira?

Brandon Lucaciu: Esri maps are currently already implemented in Lumira and can be configured and used today.
Design Studio utilizes open source maps for its mapping component.
If you have access to Esri, you can use their basemaps in Design Studio. WebI does not have Esri implemented currently, but SAP has mentioned that as part of the 4.2 release — which will hopefully come out late this year — will implement the Esri maps into Web Intelligence. More than likely it will be a simpler version, such as what is in Lumira currently, and probably will not have the full Esri functionality.


Comment From Jean Cristian

Aiming at a presentation of the solution and tool capability for the customer, can you recommend a site with examples available?

Rob Frye: You can find some demos of the mapping technology integration on our YouTube channel. You can also contact for more information.


Comment From Sampath

Is this mapping feature useful for WebI users?

Brandon Lucaciu: You’d be surprised how useful mapping is within Web Intelligence. WebI is meant to be a more granular/detailed view of data. We created a video using Pitney Bowes mapping technology to show the interoperability between Design Studio and WebI and how you can take a deeper dive into the data using WebI. That video can be found here. It goes through a use case of a food store coming to North Carolina and trying to find the perfect location to place their new store. When we look at the map in WebI, we can view granular level detail, down to the street, and view it alongside the functionality already in WebI.


Comment From Ana

You mentioned that example of a food chain trying to determine its next store location. Do you have any other interesting use case examples? Maybe something surprising that you might not have thought mapping technology would have been helpful for?

Brandon Lucaciu: There are two that I found quite interesting:
One would be looking a person’s commute throughout a certain amount of time and determining their insurance risk based on their average speed, driving habits, and the region they are in. Seeing a heat map of where traffic is typically, and how his route adjusts to that traffic is really cool.
And restaurants can use tweets to determine sentiment, which locations are doing well, and how customers are enjoying their experiences — some really cool and interesting options for mapping (we have a few demos on our YouTube channel).


Comment From M.S. Hein
I have a quick question to add: Where can customers get the geospatial data to use with their data?

Brandon Lucaciu: There are a lot of resources online and you can look at census data and other government outlets to retrieve data sources. We utilized Pitney Bowes extensively since they have large data banks of data covering any industry and demographic. They also already put data into HANA and made it very easy for us to integrate spatial information into our existing data.


Comment From Jean Cristian

Thank you for the answers and help.


M.S. Hein:  Thanks to everyone for some great questions!

For more from Dr. Berg and the Comerit team, I also invite you to view   Dr. Berg and Brandon Lucaciu’s most recent Design Studio blog and their in-depth BI Expert articles Integrating External Maps and Other Objects into BusinessObjects Design Studio and SAP HANA Performance Monitoring Using Design Studio.

And if any of you have any additional questions for our panel of BI experts, you can contact Dr. Berg, Brandon, or Rob at


Brandon Lucaciu: Thank you everyone! A lot of interesting questions. We enjoyed answering them and I hope everyone has a great afternoon :)


Rob Frye: Thanks so much for all the interest. Good luck with your mapping efforts, and we look forward to working with you all soon. Have a great afternoon!


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