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Point Pattern Analysis in an ArcGIS Environment

Point Pattern Analysis in an ArcGIS Environment

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Point Pattern Analysis in an ArcGIS Environment
Point Pattern Analysis in an ArcGIS Environment

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Published by: api-3788255 on Oct 19, 2008
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Point Pattern Analysis in an ArcGIS Environment
Jared Aldstadt and Arthur Getis
San Diego State University

For a number of years in the Departments of Geography at San Diego State University and the University of Illinois, we have been working on the development of software for a variety of ESDA routines, especially in the field of spatial association. These software programs make it possible to easily apply such analytical devices as nearest neighbor, general pattern, and local statistics. We have called our routine Point Pattern

Analysis (PPA), but the actual product is constantly in flux as we attempt to make the approach as user

friendly and comprehensive as we can. Those who have worked on the programs over the years include Marc Armstrong (Iowa), Laura Hungerford (Illinois), DongMei Chen (Queens), Lauren Scott (ESRI), and the authors.

Currently we are adapting some of the materials of PPA for use in an ArcGIS environment. We use Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) to create a visual representation of several PPA routines. We are now in a position to demonstrate the use of certain local statistics in a fully functioning, uncoupled system. In this paper we demonstrate our approach on the local G statistic (Ord and Getis 1995). We should point out that one of our recent endeavors is to create a user-friendly approach to the new O statistic (Ord and Getis 2001), a spatial statistic designed to describe local clustering in a non-stationary setting.

To better understand what it is that we are attempting to do, we call attention to our on-line
software materials, which represent an earlier approach to 14 different ESDA tools with documentation. It
can be seen at:ht t p : / / xe r xe s. sp h. umi c h. e d u:2 0 0 0 / c gi -b i n/c gi -t c l -e xa mp l e s/ ge ne r i c / p p a / p p a . c gi.
Building on that work, Lauren Scott recently included in an ArcView 3.2 environment several of these
routines. We used these successfully in exercises assigned for social science students and young faculty in

CSISS workshops on pattern analysis the last two summers. Now, we are moving further along by
translating these routines into the ArcGIS environment.

Thus far PPA has been used in about a dozen published research projects. In addition,S p a c e S ta t, the well-known spatial econometrics package, andS A GE, a British ESDA package, have a few of the PPA statistics included. Just recently,Clu st e rS e e r, from BioMedware, the health-related software company, has adopted our approach for certain cluster analyses.


ArcGIS is the latest version of Environmental Research Systems Institute's (ESRI) suite of GIS products.
ArcGIS is designed as a scalable system for geographic data creation, management, and analysis. ESRI
products have a large user base. The ESRI website states that there are over 1 million ESRI software users
worldwide, and that 50,000 university students receive instruction utilizing ESRI products every year (ESRI

In previous versions, ESRI's desktop GIS, ArcView, and its enterprise level GIS, ArcInfo, were
very different in terms of the primary geographic data model and user interface. In ArcGIS, however, all of
the products use the same data model, GUI interface, and development environment (Limp 2001). In
addition to ArcView and ArcInfo, there is a medium sized version of ArcGIS called ArcEditor. Each
variety of ArcGIS consists of several individual applications that provide a set of functionality. ArcMap is
a primary component of all three versions and is the interface for data display and analysis. An analysis
tool developed for ArcMap can be used in all versions of ArcGIS.

ArcObjects and VBA

The development platform for the ArcGIS applications is called ArcObjects. ArcObjects is built using
Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM) and can be embedded and extended using any COM
compliant language. Visual Basic and Visual C++ are COM compliant languages that can be used to
extend existing ArcGIS applications or write stand-alone applications that utilize ArcObjects components.
This method of development generally requires that the developer first becomes a competent Visual Basic
or Visual C++ developer in order to exploit ArcObjects.

An easier way to extend ArcGIS is to use VBA, which is embedded in the ArcMap application. VBA is a scripting language that allows the developer to use the existing framework of ArcMap and add functionality through the creation of custom tools, menus, and modules (Zeller 2001).

The primary advantage of using VBA to develop spatial analysis tools for ArcMap is ease of
development. The integrated development environment (IDE) allows the programmer to design, code, and
debug within a common environment. Building GUI interfaces is simplified with a drag and drop control
toolbox. Easy integration with common Windows features such as context help, Windows help files, and
file access dialogs allow custom tools to have the same look and feel as larger applications. As with all
scripting languages, the primary drawback of VBA is slow execution compared to compiled code. This
may be especially important in developing computationally intensive statistical analysis tools.

PPA version 1.0

The package is written in the C programming language and includes a variety of pattern analysis routines. There are both DOS and UNIX versions of the program. A screenshot of the DOS version of the program running in Windows is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: A screenshot of the PPA menu.
There are several limitations that the PPA users face when analyzing their data. PPA accepts input
as an ASCII file in three columns: x coordinate, y coordinate, and value at the point. The output is saved to

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