A new design of high-performance large-scale GIS computing at a finer spatial granularity: A case study of spatial join with spark for sustainability

Feng Zhang, Jingwei Zhou, Renyi Liu, Zhenhong Du, Xinyue Ye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Sustainability research faces many challenges as respective environmental, urban and regional contexts are experiencing rapid changes at an unprecedented spatial granularity level, which involves growing massive data and the need for spatial relationship detection at a faster pace. Spatial join is a fundamental method for making data more informative with respect to spatial relations. The dramatic growth of data volumes has led to increased focus on high-performance large-scale spatial join. In this paper, we present Spatial Join with Spark (SJS), a proposed high-performance algorithm, that uses a simple, but efficient, uniform spatial grid to partition datasets and joins the partitions with the built-in join transformation of Spark. SJS utilizes the distributed in-memory iterative computation of Spark, then introduces a calculation-evaluating model and in-memory spatial repartition technology, which optimize the initial partition by evaluating the calculation amount of local join algorithms without any disk access. We compare four in-memory spatial join algorithms in SJS for further performance improvement. Based on extensive experiments with real-world data, we conclude that SJS outperforms the Spark and MapReduce implementations of earlier spatial join approaches. This study demonstrates that it is promising to leverage high-performance computing for large-scale spatial join analysis. The availability of large-sized geo-referenced datasets along with the high-performance computing technology can raise great opportunities for sustainability research on whether and how these new trends in data and technology can be utilized to help detect the associated trends and patterns in the human-environment dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number926
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 10 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


  • Parallel computing
  • Performance
  • Spark
  • Spatial join


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