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CARTO (CartoDB) – The Geospatial Platform in the Cloud

Carto Webmap Example

An Overview of CARTO

One of the big issues today is that we don’t know how to use the growing demand for data to visualize and analyze. This is where CARTO comes in. CARTO is where data meets maps on the web.

Instead of using desktop GIS software, CARTO provides it all in the cloud. As long as you have an internet connection, you can access it with just a web browser.

The best part?

You don’t have to worry about updates, backups, or the need to set it up. Let’s take a closer look at this web mapping platform, formerly called CartoDB.

How Does Carto Work?

Behind the scenes, CARTO leverages PostgreSQL + PostGIS as a web service. That means you the user can have complete control of a fully managed database.

Developers build custom tools around CARTO’s APIs. Specifically, the two key APIs are the following:

  • SQL API – By using the SQL API, you can insert, update, and delete records with your tables using SQL statements.
  • MAPS API – The MAPS API gives you the capabilities to create maps using data hosted in your CARTO account.

Here is a simple architecture diagram for how CARTO works. Remember that PostgreSQL is an open-source object-relational database system. Then, PostGIS extends its capabilities for geographic objects.

Carto Architecture

5 Things We Like

Development in CARTO has been remarkable. Here is a list of what we like the most about it:

1. CartoFrames

These Python packages are like dynamic notebooks you can interactively update on-the-fly. It allows you to integrate data and maps from your CARTO account into your current environment.

Here’s an example of using Cartoframes.

Carto Cartoframes

2. Machine Learning

CARTO specializes in those types of projects where you dig deep into the data. In CARTO, it’s possible to embed machine learning by using SQL call statements.

By integrating CARTO with Databricks, you can transform big data into quantifiable solutions through machine learning models.

3. Geoenrichment

Geoenrichment is about enhancing your feature attributes by using location. For example, you can geoenrich your data streams based on points of interest, demographics, and financial information.


4. CARTO Builder®

Think of CARTO Builder® as a drag-and-drop web map meant for non-programmers. It allows you to create dashboards with spatial analysis tools, that you can share in minutes.

5. Solution Tools

If you need a set of tools that perform a specific function, then the CARTO platform can help. For example, tools include site selection, territory planning, and vehicle routing to help tackle business challenges.

How To Visualize Data

The power of CARTO as a platform is how it serves underlying data as tiled web maps. You get a high level of control for cartography with a display that’s smooth and pleasant to the eye.

CARTO for deck.gl is a powerful WebGL framework for large-scale datasets. But you can also build web maps using Google Maps and Mapbox GL.

Admittedly, it can be a bit of a steep learning curve. On top of SQL, you need basic skills in web programming languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Although CARTO is mostly tailored to programmers, you don’t need experience in web development for some of its solution-based web mapping functionality.

Carto Visualization

How Much Does CARTO Cost?

CARTO has a range of options for pricing. They have a generous free tier that gives you a trial for one full year.

Otherwise, the difference you pay is based on the number of datasets, map loads, and API access. It also sets a limit on the number of public and private maps.

In our web mapping platform analysis, CARTO is one of the leading web mapping platforms in the industry, today.

Today, companies like Mastercard, Vodafone, and JLL are using CARTO to power their online mapping and geospatial analysis.

READ MORE: 5 Best Web Mapping Platforms – The Battle of Web GIS