Appendix III: Tools for Visual Analysis of Spatio- Temporal Data Developed at the Fraunhofer Institute AIS

In this appendix, we present the history of the development of CommonGIS - a software system for interactive visual analysis of spatially and temporally referenced data - and give an overview of its functionality. The roots of our approach to building interactive systems for visual data analysis originate from the software system IRIS (Information Retrieval Intelligent System), which was developed for Windows in the early 1990s (Andrienko and Andrienko, 1997). IRIS was implemented in C++. IRIS realised several innovative ideas:

  1. The concept of interactive maps that change their appearance in real time upon activation of interactive manipulators by the user.
  2. A knowledge-based approach to the automated selection of map symbolism depending on the characteristics of the data and the user's needs.

The development of IRIS was continued by applying the Java programming language and environment designed for the Internet. IRIS, renamed Descartes, became one of the first interactive mapping systems available on the Internet (Andrienko and Andrienko, 1999). As early as September 1996, it was included in the list of the Top 1% Web applets and top ten Web applets by the independent Java Applet Rating Service ( In Descartes, we implemented dynamic linking between maps and statistical graphic displays (brushing).

In 1998-2001, further development continued within the framework of ESPRIT Project 28983 called CommonGIS (Andrienko et al. 2003), which was proposed and coordinated by AIS. In the course of the project, the software was renamed CommonGIS.

CommonGIS is unique among both commercial and research software systems as being composed of well-integrated tools, which can complement and enhance each other, thus allowing sophisticated analyses. The system includes various methods for cartographic visualisation; non-spatial graphs; tools for querying, search, and classification; and computation enhanced visual techniques. A common feature of all the tools is their high user interactivity, which is essential for exploratory data analysis.

The main features of CommonGIS are the following:

  1. A variety of interactive mapping techniques, statistical graphic displays, and computational methods.
  2. Comprehensive tools for analysis of spatial time series, including animated maps, and time-aware map visualisations.
  3. Novel information visualisation tools (dynamic query tools, a table lens, parallel-coordinates plots, etc.).
  4. Tools for interactive multicriteria decision-making and sensitivity analysis for individuals and small groups of decision makers, supporting various styles of and procedures for informed decision-making.
  5. A possibility to complement interactive visual data analysis with mathematical methods of statistics and data mining.
  6. A prototype of intelligent user guidance that helps users to follow problem- solving scenarios and utilise all tools for selected data-analysis and decision-making problems.
  7. Space-time cube display for analysis of spatio-temporal events.
  8. Tools for interactive aggregation of raster data, tightly coupled to dynamic visualisation of the results.

The system integrates all visualisation techniques via multiple mechanisms of coordination and linking: dynamic highlighting and selection, queries, synchronised zooming etc.

A commercial version of the CommonGIS software has been released by SPADE, the spatial decision support department of the AIS Fraunhofer Institute; see for details. Universities and schools can order free licences from the same site for research and educational use.


1. Andrienko, G., Andrienko, N.: Intelligent cartographic visualization for supporting
data exploration in the IRIS system. Programming and Computer Software
23(5), 268-282 (1997)

2. Andrienko, G., Andrienko, N.: IRIS: a tool to support data analysis with maps.
In: Interoperating Geographic Information Systems, ed. by Goodchild, M.,
Egenhofer, M., Fegeas, R., Kottman, C. (Kluwer, Boston 1999) pp. 221-234

3. Andrienko, G., Andrienko, N., Voss, H.: GIS for everyone: the CommonGIS
project and beyond. In: Maps and the Internet, ed. by Peterson, M. (Elsevier,
Amsterdam 2003) pp. 131-146