Big Data Comes Alive with Animation

Jerry Finn Data Stories

Our colleagues at Vizzuality commented that the interactive visualization they did with us was such a piece of art it could be displayed in Madrid’s Prado Art Museum. I disagree. Everyone knows that Madrid’s modern art museum is the Reina Sofia and BBVA’s and Vizzuality’s work is absolutely modern.

In 2015 we decided in collaboration with our friends at Vizzuality to demonstrate the power of big data, in particular BBVA’s dataset on bankcard transactions. The team had 5.4 million transactions from July through August of 2014 to work with. The amount of information about tourism gathered by traditional methods, such as surveys, pales in comparison to the information BBVA has available. Other modern techniques, such as information gathered from mobile phones produce more copious data, but they lack what people really care about: How money is spent.

Visually the most striking aspect is the animated map where the user can watch spending rise and fall throughout the summer in an hour-by-hour time series. Vizzuality loaded the dataset into CartoDB, which allows the user to jump around in time on the animation and click on various filter options to get a more refined picture, such as just tourists from a particular country of origin or zeroing in on one province of Spain.

While animation is a great way to intuitively understand data, the user can examine hard numbers on custom charts to answer more concrete questions. The user interface has four other tabs that allow the investigation of tourist trajectories, local statistics, industry-sector trends, and foreign versus domestic spending, all with drill-down capability that can give subtotals by a variety of criteria.

Tourist trajectories

Tourist trajectories

Americans love Madrid

For example, if someone is working in a tourist-related industry, it would be interesting to know that Barcelona receives more revenue than any other region at 23% percent of the total spent by tourists. But the Balearic Islands and southern Mediterranean coast may want to pay more attention as they receive more as a percentage of their income from tourists than other provinces.

At 18%, the French make up the greatest share of foreign tourist spending in Spain, followed closely by the British. But if a business happens to be in Madrid it would want to target other clients, as Americans spend most in this particular region, and businesses in the Balearics should note that they would cater mostly to the British. That does not mean anyone should ignore Chinese tourists. In aggregate, they are not the most frequent customers, but per capita they are the biggest spenders.

Tourism weight

Tourism weight

Someone from the fashion industry would be happy to know that their industry is the leader in receiving tourist business, capturing 29% of their spending, unless they happen to be in a province more popular with hungry Americans or boozy British where they spend most of their time in restaurants and bars, allocating 28% and 21% of their total expenditure in this sector. Not surprisingly these Anglo-Saxon types spend more money than other nationalities on Fridays and Saturdays.

Anonymized and aggregated data

A user can even drill down to the time of day and type of business for any particular nationality. Despite this dizzying array of detail, none of the information can be traced to any individual. BBVA anonymizes and then aggregates the data in way that ensures confidentiality but can still be used for insightful statistical analysis. Our Head of Urban Analytics Juan Murillo explains:

BBVA aligns itself with the philosophy of Open Data, and BBVA is a leading financial institution in utilizing this type of data to improve management in the private and public sector.

In this spirit, we have worked with various institutions, such as INE, Segittur, SECTUR and Madrid’s city government, helping them gain insight into economic activity and knowing better how to manage infrastructure for the needs of the tourist industry. But the use of BBVA data is not limited to pretty pictures and tourism. We have published a series of technical papers opening new applications, including more timely macroeconomic analysis. Big data applications for card transactions continue to grow inside and outside of BBVA, even if every project is not as flashy as the animation we did with Vizzuality.