Many commercial products that combine multidimensional analysis (OLAP) and cartographic visualization (or GIS) capabilities offer Spatial OLAP functions. A Spatial OLAP tool can be defined as a visual platform built especially to support rapid and easy spatiotemporal analysis and exploration of data following a multidimensional approach comprised of aggregation levels available in cartographic displays as well as in tabular and diagram displays. An ideal Spatial OLAP technology must deal with spatial objects as an integrated part of the navigation and must offer capabilities to efficiently manage these spatial objects. Of all the available commercial solutions, only a few support all the capabilities required for efficient geospatial decision-support. It can be difficult for organizations to select the right tool for their needs without completing a deep analysis.
The more advanced solutions integrate the management of multidimensional and spatial data and they facilitate the deployment and the update of spatial data cubes. Functionalities such as automatic map creation, multimaps, spatial drill operators, and map pivots help enhance the knowledge discovery process and help the users to maintain their train of thoughts. Advanced solutions also support recognized and standardized spatial data formats thus simplifying the management of the spatial data and their updates. These solutions best fit in the geomatics domain, which exploits a huge spatial data production and update flow.
In the summer of 2007, the Industrial Research Chair in Geospatial Databases for Decision Support team from UniversitĂ© Laval (Quebec) conducted a study of commercial products supporting multidimensional analysis and cartographic visualization. The team established a number of evaluation criteria in order to distinguish commercial products that support full Spatial OLAP capabilities. The evaluation criteria are grouped in two categories: criteria related to the supported architecture and criteria related to the supported geospatial features. These evaluation criteria can be used by organizations to identify the product that will best suit their needs.