Michal ZimmermannPieces of knowledge from the world of GIS.

GRASS: Big Buffers Made Easy

Recently I’ve written about struggling with fairly complex geometries in PostGIS. Lesson learned from the last time was to use more smaller geometries instead of several really huge. You can obtain the small ones from the big by cutting it with a grid.

A supervisor of a project I’ve been working on came up with a task that totally buried the previous process in a blink of an eye: Give me the buffer (diffed with original geometries) that is smoothed on the outer bounds so there are no edges shorter than 10 cm. I sighed. Then, I cursed. Then, I gave it a try with PostGIS. Achieving this goal involves these steps:

Two of those four are rather problematic with PostGIS: line smoothing and diffing the original geometries (I didn’t get to the last one, so it might be 3 of 4 as well).

Hello, I’m GRASS

I haven’t used GRASS for ages and even back then I didn’t get to know it much, but it saved the day for me this time.

grass -text path/to/mapset -c

v.in.ogr input="PG:host=localhost dbname=db user=postgres password=postgres" output=ilot_050 layer=ilot_2015_050 snap=-1 --overwrite
# turn the snapping off, I don't want the input changed in any way, even though it is not topologically valid
v.in.ogr input="PG:host=localhost dbname=db user=postgres password=postgres" output=lollipops_050 layer=lollipops.lollipops_2015_050_tmp snap=-1 --overwrite
v.in.ogr input="PG:host=localhost dbname=db user=postgres password=postgres" output=holes_050 layer=phase_3.holes_050 snap=-1 --overwrite
v.db.addcolumn map=ilot_050 columns="id_0 int"
v.db.update map=ilot_050 column=id_0 value=1

# dissolve didn't work without a column specified, dunno why
v.dissolve input=ilot_050 column=id_0 output=ilot_050_dissolve --overwrite
v.buffer input=ilot_050_dissolve output=ilot_050_buffer distance=20 --overwrite

# v.out and v.in routine used just because I didn't get the way attributes work in GRASS, would do it differently next time
v.out.ogr input=ilot_050_buffer output=ilot_050_buffer format=ESRI_Shapefile --overwrite
v.in.ogr input=ilot_050_buffer output=ilot_050_buffer snap=-1 --overwrite
v.overlay ainput=ilot_050_buffer binput=holes_050 operator=or output=combined_050_01 snap=-1 --overwrite

# tried v.patch to combine the three layers, it gave some strange results in the final overlay
v.overlay ainput=combined_050_01 binput=lollipops_050 operator=or output=combined_050_02 snap=-1 --overwrite
v.out.ogr input=combined_050_02 output=combined_050 format=ESRI_Shapefile --overwrite
v.in.ogr input=combined_050 output=combined_050_in snap=-1 --overwrite
v.db.addcolumn map=combined_050_in columns="id_1 int"
v.db.update map=combined_050_in column=id_1 value=1
v.dissolve input=combined_050_in column=id_1 output=combined_050_dissolve --overwrite

# get rid of < 10cm edges
v.generalize input=combined_050_dissolve output=combined_050_gen method=reduction threshold=0.1 --overwrite
v.out.ogr input=combined_050_gen output=combined_050_gen format=ESRI_Shapefile --overwrite
v.in.ogr input=combined_050_gen output=combined_050_gen snap=-1 --overwrite
v.overlay ainput=combined_050_gen binput=ilot_050 operator=not snap=1e-05 --overwrite output=ilot_050_diff
v.out.postgis input=ilot_050_diff output="PG:dbname=db user=postgres password=postgres" output_layer=onf3.buffer_050_diff options="GEOMETRY_NAME=wkb_geometry,SRID=2154" --overwrite
v.in.ogr input="PG:host=localhost dbname=ign user=postgres password=postgres" output=buffer_050 layer=onf3.buffer_050_diff snap=-1 --overwrite
v.in.ogr input="PG:host=localhost dbname=ign user=postgres password=postgres" output=grid layer=grid snap=-1 --overwrite
v.db.connect -d map=buffer_050

# instead of v.out and v.in routine
db.connect driver=sqlite database='$GISDBASE/$LOCATION_NAME/$MAPSET/sqlite.db'
v.db.addtable map=buffer_050
v.overlay ainput=buffer_050 binput=grid operator=and output=buffer_050_grid snap=-1 --overwrite
v.out.postgis input=buffer_050_grid output="PG:dbname=ign user=postgres password=postgres" output_layer=onf3.buffer_050_diff_grid options="GEOMETRY_NAME=wkb_geometry,SRID=2154" --overwrite

It is damn fast compared to PostGIS. It can be automated. It can be parametrized. It is robust. It is great!

Lesson learned

The more I work with big data, the more I get used to not seeing them. That’s kind of a twist after crafting maps at university.