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About our Research - From InfoVis 1999 to Geovisual Analytics 2008

I was invited to Linkoping University as professor in information visualization (InfoVis) in Sept 1999. I joined a new department focusing on visualization at Campus Norrköping managed by also new professor Anders Ynnerman.

Graphics History

InfoVis 1999-2013

Information Visualization (InfoVis) had become the hottest topic within the visualization research community in this late 90's. (see historical graphics table).  The focus of this new discipline was on effective and user-validated ways of presenting and interacting with data and creates an internal representation of the information in the mind of the user.  “Data” in this context was abstract, spatial, continuous, textual, multi-dimensional and often non‑spatial in the sense that there is no a priori mapping of the data into three‑dimensions. Mapping non-spatial data through to timely, quality decisions was a major challenge. InfoVis had an essential role to play, providing new powerful tools such as parallel coordinates and table lens to help us to better understand multivariate data.

  • InfoVis is the use of interactive, visual representations of abstract data and to use perception to amplify cognition...
  • It is the process of forming a mental model of data, thereby supporting insight into that data;

SmartDoc Medical

Smart Documents 1999-2013

We received research funding from the European Commission for two projects: CONTENTS (1999-2001)  – “Components Technology exercised on NT systems” – 2.8MECU and SMARTDOC (2001-2003) – ”Collaboratories” – 1.6MECU.

SmartDoc (CONTENTS for medical visualization) is the first implementation of Storytelling and integrates interactive and collaborative visualization into reports in MS Word format. The normal contents of a report, text and images, are extended with interactive 2D/3D visualization, image, analysis and decision support. Data and bookmarks are integrated into the document structure, which make the SmartDoc just as easy to handle as a traditional document. The reader is given a more active role and can interact with the embedded data in order to gain a better understanding of the report’s contents. The author prepares visualization bookmarks, i.e. stores certain visualization parameters that can be used at any time in order to highlight a specific view that is being described in the text. SmartDoc hyperlinks are special document components that enable access to bookmarks within the embedded application component. Using hyperlinks, a SmartDoc can contain “guided Flooding SmartDocreading paths.” The author uses hyperlinks to define a certain reading order and can prepare a report intended for different groups of readers.

Example of SmartDoc published papers:

Jern: “Smart Documents with ActiveX 3D Data Visualization Components”, reviewed article in “Digital Media: The Future”, Vince J. A., R. A. Earnshaw (Eds), Springer Verlag March 2000, ISBN 1-85233-246-8.

Jern: “Collaborative Visual Data Navigation on the Web”, Invited Keynote Lecture to IV 2000, Proceedings  IEEE International Conference on Information Visualisation, London, IEEE Computer Science Press, July 2000. ISBN: 0-7695-0743-3

Jern: “Smart Documents for Web-Enabled Collaboration”, 140-162, Published in “Digital Content Creation”, Vince J. A. and R. A. Earnshaw (Eds) Springer Verlag, June 2001. ISBN 1-85233-379-0.

Jern:  “Visual Data Navigators Collaboratories – True Interactive Visualization for the Web”, reviewed article in ”Intelligent Agents for Mobile and Virtual Media ", pages 28-46, Springer-Verlag London UK,  May 2002.  ISBN 1-85233-556-4

Jern, Palmberg, Ranlöf: "Visual Data Navigators - Collaboratories", Invited Paper to Computer Graphics International 2002 (CGI2002), International Conference, July 2002, Bradford, UK, Published in “Advances in Modelling, Animation, and Rendering”, Vince J. A. and R. A. Earnshaw (Eds) Springer Verlag  June 2002, ISBN 1-85233-6544


Statistical Visualization and Visual Analytics 2002-2008 based on GAV .NET Framework

In 2004, we introduced our first statistical customized visualization compo­nent, GeoWizard, for interactive exploration of social sci­ence statistical data accessed via the Internet from SCB’s database. The multi-dimensional nature of statistical data calls for cre­ative integrated InfoVis and GeoVis methods (the first era of geovisual analytics).  Ensuring that dynamically resizeable multiple views does not become a mess is far from a trivial programming task. We demonstrated that a dynamically linked view model can efficiently, quickly and easily be developed using Mi­crosoft’s Visual Studio .NET tools. The familiar Windows GUI of .NET based applications most likely represent an appropriate interaction method for the novice end user.

We also introduced and promoted our first use of a lay­ered component-based approach to the development and engineering of applications (GAV). Customizable and scalable high-level application and functional components were designed and developed from low-level atomic compo­nents. We used the .NET Framework and OpenViz Particles, a low-level visualization component framework. We believe that using a layered component approach can potentially provide better scalability and more customizable exploratory infovis and geovis components. Interoperabil­ity with SCB’s databases is achieved through a request for statistical data in a SCB dynamic HTML form connected to the SCB server. Selected data is returned as an Excel file that is imported into GeoWizard.

A key objective was seeking to improve the communica­tion and the dissemination of results to the authorities de­pending on statistical data. We have shown the possibility of deploying interactive infovis and geovis. The main bar­rier in using such innovative technology can be determined as an acceptance problem. Because it is not easy to con­vince people to change their way of thinking and working strategies, new technologies often fail to be introduced to a wide number of users (which should not be misunderstood as acceptance problems in introducing tools). For real profit in using the interactive parallel coordinates view, one has to understand the discovery process as an integral part of the analysis work.


National Center for Visual Analytics (NCVA) is a Swedish national resource funded 2007 through financial support from the Swedish Knowledge Foundation's (KK-Stiftelsen) Visualization Program including VINNOVA, SSF, ISA and Vårdalstiftelsen and our industrial and government research partners. NCVA will help to spread applied Geovisual Analytics technology Geovisual Analytics.png into educational and research organizations.

"Geovisual Analytics technology with integrated Storytelling applied to large statistical data" represents one of our major contribution to the world of statistics including OECD, SCB, Eurostat, European Commission, IMF etc  - See this 2009 BBC acknowledgement:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8130554.stm.

Other important research projects include "Visual Analytics for Mobile Communication Networks" ANROSS Mobile in collaboration with Ericsson Research funded by VINNOVA and a Wallenberg project (VISE) Vise related to Education in geovisual analytics represent latest research projects.

                                                                                           Professor Mikael Jern


Applied research will be carried out by NCVA in the context of a number of applications, drawn from diverse areas associated with the activities of our partners, showing the generality of the underlying framework. Each of these applications can also be seen as a demonstrator of the technology. In this work, we will follow a ‘science-to-solutions’ approach to address the entire research, development and deployment process. The strong engagement by industry and public service partners that depend on state-of-the-art Geovisual Analytics tools will guarantee that users will be involved from the start and will participate in the definition of the applied research agenda. The partners will, in turn, gain access to front line research, prototypes and components for integrating new and innovative Geovisual Analytics tools.

Below are six examples of our applied research in Geovisual Analytics developed and verified in close collaboration with our partners SCB, Ericsson Research, SMHI and Göteborg Stad:


Summary NCVA SlideFigure: Example of recognized and published research projects at NCVA - GAV Flash Applikationer.png


The NCVA History


The original NCVA research group in August 2008.

NCVA research group 2008From left Dr. Ho Van Quan, Civ. Ing. Tobias Åström,    Dr. Sara Johansson, Dr. Patrik Lundblad, Dr. Jimmy Johansson and in the back Prof. Mikael Jern who is the manager for NCVA.













NComVA founders

In May 2010, a spin-off company NComVA AB was created by Prof. Jern together with Tobias Åström, Dr Patrik Lundblad and Dr Ho Van Quan.

NComVA was acquired by the business intelligence company QlikTech in May 2013. http://businessintelligence.com/bi-news/qliktech-bolsters-advanced-visualization-with-acquisition-of-ncomva/

NCVA continues its applied research and present advanced geovisual analytics and information visualization software technology for education and research usage.  








Research and Commercial Background of Prof Mikael Jern


inkjet plotterDuring 1971-1980, he worked with his mentor Professor Hertz at the University of Lund. Together they invented the Color Graphics System based on the first ink jet plotter for raster based visualisation software in the world.

The generation of a colour picture is done in two steps. First a picture entirely consisting of numbers is designed. The computer works with logical ones and zeros instead of physical droplets, where the ones correspond to droplets on the paper. The raster coded picture is stored on a magnetic tape, which in the second step is read by the Color Plotter, The raster information on the tape is then transformed into a colour picture.





In 1981 he founded UNIRAS Aps to address the industry with a more general-purpose raster graphics software approach. UNIRAS A/S, UNIRAS Ltd and UNIRAS Inc became world-leading suppliers of Visual Data Analysis and Presentation graphics software for scientists and engineers with a revenue exceeding $25 million in 1987. UNIRAS was also a supplier of raster software to IBM, Tectronix and Versatec. When Advanced Visual Systems (AVS) acquired UNIRAS in 1993, he was appointed to the position of AVS Fellow to recognize his contributions to the evolution of AVS. Prof Jern is committed to graphics standards and was the project leader in a joint UNIRAS-IBM project to develop the standard graphics software system (GKS) for IBM in Hursley UK. He has been a member in various graphics metafile committees supporting CGM, GKS etc. He has coordinated several large EC funded projects INDEX, NOVICE, CONTENTS, SmartDoc and MUSIC in the domain of knowledge-based information visualization and result in large academic and industry network. These projects developed innovative Web based visualization technology based on both VRML and downloadable Web components. CONTENTS and SmartDoc are early novel EC research projects to create dynamic visualization documents (see publications below).

Mikael with the ink jet plotter 1974



He has also consulted with the EC Commission as a technical expert in visualization. He has published more than 200 technical papers and several books in visual computing and visualization application areas and has been a frequently invited keynote speaker at international conferences. At SIGGRAPH 93, he was elected "pioneer of computer graphics" based on his ground breaking research together with professor Hertz in raster graphics. In Sept 1999, he returned to academic research and was appointed professor at Linkoping University, Sweden to continue his research now with focus on geovisual analytics and storytelling - completed a recognized EC-funded visual flood forecasting system (MUSIC) in collaboration with University of Bologna. In 2007, he founded NCVA (Swedish National Center for Visual Analytics) with financial support from the Swedish Knowledge Foundation (VINNOVA) and commercial partners Unilever Research Port Sunlight, Ericsson Research, Statistics Sweden, SMHI, SCB, etc. and in close collaboration with OECD created awareness and interest for advanced geovisual analytics in the statistics domain. This achievement resulted in an honourable invitation by OECD to become an “associate” member, domain expert and supplier of strategic Web visualization tools to OECD.

In 2010, NCVA introduced innovative technique for Statistics Publishing on the Web with an objective to deliver interactive visualization to educators and their students to get informed and at the same time participate in increasing the knowledge on how life is lived and can be improved. This project VISE was funded by the Marcus och Amalia Wallenbergs Minnesfond and today VISE2 continues to be funded through Norrköping Kommun.

Based on NCVA's successful research in geovisual analytics applied to statistics data, a spinoff company NComVA AB was established in May 2010 together with his PhD students (Patrik, Tobias and Quan see above). NComVA became a world leader in advanced statistics visualization with many international and national statistical organizations  (EUROSTAT, OECD, IMF, IEA, ISTAT, SCB, SKL, Pensionsmyndigheten, Boverket, MSB, LÖF, SFI and many regional and municipality organisations)  the Statistics eXplorer and Publisher products. In 2012, with financial support from VINNOVA Forska&Väx and Tillväxtverket NComVA enters the visual business intelligence market as a technology partner to QlickView. In May 2013, NComVA was acquired by Qlik.

Mikael still gives invited presentations at international conferences about Statistical Visualisation and Storytelling (Europe 2020, NTTS, Nordic Statistics, VINNOVA Big Data, iDays Open Data, etc.)

In 2007, the Swedish Museum of Science created and published his life story based on a collection of interviews available at http://www.tekniskamuseet.se/download/18.6aa228912529fe96108000123/12_Mikael+_Jern.pdf

He has long experience in “Big Data and Open Data” issues and implementations collaborating with leading edge users at OECD, EUROSTAT, SCB, IMF, Swedish government and Regional Swedish organizations.


Page manager: mikael.jern@liu.se
Last updated: 2015-03-22