Mapping Toolbox

Key Features

  • Vector and raster data import and export
  • Custom raster map retrieval from Web Map Service (WMS) servers
  • Web map display with dynamic base maps from OpenStreetMap and other sources
  • 2D and 3D map display, customization, and interaction
  • Digital terrain and elevation model analysis functions
  • Geometric geodesy functions, including 2D and 3D coordinate transformations and more than 65 map projections

Mapping Toolbox and MATLAB enable you to develop customized solutions to geospatial problems such as predicting weather patterns, modeling the movement of glacial land masses, or finding optimal locations for wind turbines. With function-level access to all key features in the toolbox and the high-level MATLAB language, you can develop innovative algorithms and automate your workflow for repetitive tasks.

Blue Marble image courtesy of NASA-JPL/Caltech
Blue Marble image courtesy of NASA-JPL/Caltech

Geographic Data Import and Export

Mapping Toolbox imports a wide range of GIS and geospatial file formats, enabling you to read both vector and raster data into the MATLAB environment. The toolbox helps you reduce access time and improve memory usage by providing functionality for specific file types to read a portion of a file and downsample data prior to use. The toolbox supports georeferenced imagery and other raster data grids, including orthoimagery, geolocated satellite swaths, digital terrain elevation models, and various global data grids.

Mapping Toolbox also exports data to a number of file formats, enabling you to share data with applications such as Google Earth™ and ArcGIS®. Using the toolbox with MATLAB or Image Processing Toolbox™ provides access to additional file formats.

File formats and data products supported by Mapping Toolbox include:

  • Raster file formats, such as GeoTIFF, USGS DEM, DEM, DTED, Arc ASCII Grid, GTOPO30, ETOPO, and worldfile
  • Vector file formats, such as ESRI® shapefiles, KML, GPX, VMAP0, and GSHHS
  • Selected data products, such as AVHRR and EGM96

Relevant data formats supported by MATLAB include:

  • Image file formats, such as TIFF, JPEG, PNG, and JPEG2000
  • Scientific data formats, such as NetCDF, HDF5, HDF4, HDF-EOS, and multiband files (BIP, BIL, BSQ)
  • Network data access through OPeNDAP URL address

Relevant image file formats supported by Image Processing Toolbox include:

  • NITF and HDR

2D and 3D Map Displays

Mapping Toolbox provides visualization functions and an app for producing customized 2D and 3D map displays. The map displays can be simple or sophisticated, and can be tuned to your application. You can readily combine raster and vector data sets of different scales in the same display. For example, you can display images and data grids in their correct positions—regardless of resolution or area covered—and then overlay vector map features.

With the visualization functions in the toolbox, you can:

  • Create 2D map displays with raster and vector data
  • Create 3D map displays with customized lighting, shading and perspective
  • Create contour maps from raster and geolocated grid data
  • Create thematic maps, drape imagery over 3D surfaces, and display maps as images
Map display of eastern Massachusetts town borders and hydrology with a scale ruler.
Map display of eastern Massachusetts town borders and hydrology with a scale ruler, north arrow, and an inset map of the northeast United States. Image courtesy of Office of Geographic and Environmental Information (MassGIS).

Map displays can be defined, customized, and annotated in a variety of ways. You can:

  • Use latitude-longitude coordinates or one of many projected coordinate systems
  • Choose from more than 65 map projections in the cylindrical, conic, and azimuthal classes
  • Customize map properties, such as latitude and longitude limits and origin
  • Add a scale ruler, north arrow, contour labels, and legends
  • Display point data as scatter, quiver, stem, and symbol-based features
  • Control map marker symbols, colors, and line styles
  • Vary transparency of polygons and raster data grids
  • Apply colormaps suitable to contour lines, filled contours, terrain and bathymetric grids, and political maps

Plotting a 3D Dome as a Mesh Over a Globe
Combining a 3D feature in a system of coordinates with a globe display.

Function-level access to map display capabilities in the toolbox enables automatic creation of frequently used map displays. For example, you can use batch mode processing to examine a geospatial time-series data set and create an animated display that shows how the data changes over time. Functionality in MATLAB enables you to save animated map figures to a movie or GIF file.

Web Mapping

Create Web Map Displays

A web map is an interactive, dynamic map display that uses basemaps from Web-based data sources to give your data a visually rich contextual background. With Mapping Toolbox, you can create web map displays from sources such as OpenStreetMap, ESRI ArcGIS Online, MapQuest, and many WMS servers. You can pan across the map, zoom in/out to view higher/lower resolution basemap data, specify the geographic region to view, and more. You can create overlays of markers and lines with related attribute data such as names and colors. Web map displays enable simple map creation using high resolution base maps without having to load the entire dataset into MATLAB.

Web map display using Blue Marble WMS Layer.
Web map display using Blue Marble WMS Layer. Data courtesy of NASA-JPL/Caltech.

Access Web Map Service (WMS) Servers

With Mapping Toolbox, you can locate and download map data as image tiles from WMS servers. Many government and commercial organizations, such as NASA, ESA, USGS, NOAA, ESRI, and Microsoft adhere to the WMS protocol for rendering, reprojecting, and serving georeferenced data sets over the Internet. Mapping Toolbox enables you to access elevation, oceanography, weather, satellite imagery, and many other raster data sets in MATLAB.

To assist with identifying WMS data layers that are appropriate to your application, the toolbox provides a prequalified database of WMS servers and layers that enables you to search for an appropriate data set by layer name, server name, location, or other terms. The toolbox provides functions and classes that enable you to define a custom map request and retrieve a map directly into MATLAB for processing.

Collapse of the Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctica, over a 3-month period.
Collapse of the Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctica, over a 3-month period. Original coastline segmented using Image Processing Toolbox. Images courtesy of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.

Terrain and Elevation Analysis

Mapping Toolbox supports the visualization and analysis of 3D data, such as digital terrain, bathymetry, and other gridded-data products. It provides functions to visualize terrain data and add annotations such as contour lines. You can control lighting, shading, colormaps, and other aspects of the display. The MATLAB graphics environment enables you to reposition the figure camera interactively and programmatically to view your data from different perspectives.

The toolbox also provides functions to calculate gradient, slope, aspect, line-of-sight visibility, and viewsheds. You can use these functions in applications such as the placement of communication towers, where you need to calculate the direct line-of-sight from many vantage points to determine the optimal location.

You can also use Mapping Toolbox with Simulink 3D Animation™ to create a virtual reality world from elevation data; you can then couple the terrain data with analysis provided by other products. For example, you can use Aerospace Blockset™ with your virtual world to perform tasks such as visualizing flight paths over geographic data sets.

A composite 3D map of San Francisco created with functions in Mapping Toolbox.
A composite 3D map of San Francisco created with functions in Mapping Toolbox. DEM data and orthoimage courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey.

Geometric Geodesy and Map Projections

Geometric Geodesy

With geometric geodesy features in Mapping Toolbox, you can perform geodetic calculations that account for the curvature of Earth and other planetary bodies. You can find the surface area of arbitrary polygons or quadrangles on spheres and ellipsoids, calculate the intersections of geometric objects, compute the distance between points on a sphere or ellipsoid, and find the overlapping area between polygons. Navigation functionality enables you to perform tasks such as calculating and correcting for wind and current vectors based on heading and air or ground speed.

Weather data on top of satellite imagery for the continental United States.
Weather data on top of satellite imagery for the continental United States. Image Processing Toolbox is used to segment the primary storm from national weather data, and geodetic calculations are made using Mapping Toolbox to find the area of the storm. Data courtesy of NOAA, as retrieved via the Iowa Environmental Mesonet WMS Server, and NASA-JPL/Caltech.

Map Projections

Mapping Toolbox contains more than 65 of the most popular and important map projections for displaying the curved surface of planetary bodies on a 2D map display. They include equal-area, equidistant, conformal, and hybrid projections in the cylindrical, conic, and azimuthal classes. The toolbox also supports projections in the PROJ.4 library and the UTM/UPS systems. Many projections support both spherical and ellipsoidal models of Earth and other bodies.

With the toolbox, you can apply forward and inverse projections to transform positions and direction angles or azimuths between geographic and projected coordinate reference systems. Raster and image data displays can be projected in map visualizations to match the coordinate systems of other data sets. You can also explore the properties of your projection by trimming the data to a particular latitude-longitude extent, calculating distortion parameters at a point, or visualizing map distortions as Tissot Indicatrices or scale-distortion contours.

Mercator, Mollweide, and sinusoidal projections
Mercator, Mollweide, and sinusoidal projections (clockwise from top). Images courtesy NASA-JPL/Caltech.

Data Representation and Transformations

Vector Data Representation

With Mapping Toolbox, you can work with vector data as X-Y or latitude-longitude vectors or as objects where other metadata can be maintained and organized. In both cases, the toolbox provides functionality to help you manipulate the data, including splitting, merging, and reordering data points. It also provides functionality to interpolate between waypoints and increase the sample density of your data with several interpolation techniques.

Using Mapping Toolbox to import multiple geographic file formats for display.
Overlay of vector data for Concord, Massachusetts. Data courtesy of Office of Geographic and Environmental Information (MassGIS).

Coordinate Transformations

Mapping Toolbox provides a variety of coordinate transformations for the common system conversions required when combining data from multiple sources. You can perform 3D geometric computations in the near-earth environment and transform point locations between 3D geodetic, geocentric, local east-north-up (ENU), local north-east-down (NED), and local spherical systems. These transformations include core functionality, over which 3D datum transformations (Helmert and Bursa-Wolfe) can be implemented, for example, to combine data referenced to WGS84 with legacy maps based on older datums.

Geographic Data Utilities

Many functions are available to work with raster, image, and other grid-based data. You can modify spatial resolution, convert pixel indices to map coordinates, and extrapolate irregularly sampled data points into a grid. Other Mapping Toolbox utility functions enable you to perform unit and angle conversions, wrap longitude and azimuth angles, and format angle and distance strings.

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Introduction to Geodesy with MATLAB

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