MapTable for interactive decision support

Type: Hardware and Software

Project Phase: Initiation, Planning and Design

Purpose: Allowing for interactive modelling with a group (eg. stakeholder meetings) on digital design tables

Requirements: Knowledge on modelling tool that is applied on MapTable

Relevant Software: Compatible modelling tools


The term MapTable refers to both hardware and software that function as a design and decision-support tool. The MapTable hardware consists of a large, potable touch-screen design table  that can be used as an instrument in spatial planning processes. MapTable software is an umbrella term for software that is suitable for use together with a digital design table. MapTables can be used for interactive design processes with stakeholders, and can assist in visualising potential problems and solutions. This tool page focuses on explaining the MapTable concept and software, including spatial databases and models that can predict impacts of designs of construction works for these projects.

 Read more



The purpose of MapTable is to help identify and quickly evaluate design alternatives in an interactive setting, for instance during a meeting or workshop. The concept was designed for an interactive setting, where multiple stakeholders with different backgrounds jointly brainstorm to come up with alternative solutions and out-of-the-box ideas. In such a setting, quick evaluation of alternatives can support the interactive design process and decision-making on an integrated solution. During a meeting or workshop all participants are encouraged to take part in the design process to achieve the best possible alternative. It serves as a useful communication tool for involving stakeholders.


The MapTable concept is applicable in a wide range of projects. The concept, as it was developed, aims at projects related to hydrodynamics, morphology and ecology and their interrelations. An interactive tool developed for the MapTable concept can visualise geographic changes in, for example, a coastal zone, an estuary or a river bed. Within a very short time (a few minutes at most), a first estimate of the effects on various design aspects is delivered. New insights or ideas can thus be quickly evaluated and results presented on the spot. The interactive tool is based on simple but robust models that allow for quick evaluation of different design alternatives. Making use of simple models is both an advantage (quick, interactive) and a drawback (less accurate). Results of a session are preferably verified with more detailed models and further analysis before final decisions are made.


To apply the MapTable concept one requires three basic inputs:
a) a set of routines (i.e. Matlab routines);
b) a database of local conditions and
c) a predictive model.

Together it forms a tool application. It needs to be well prepared, linked and tested before it can be used in an interactive design session. This tool page is developed for decision-makers and discussion leaders to support the use of the MapTable concept in their projects. Therefore we assume that a tool application is available and can be used directly in an interactive session. Tips and tricks for developers to modify an existing tool application or develop a new tool application are provided briefly hereafter.

Building with Nature interest

Within a Building with Nature development it is always a challenge to bring different parties and knowledge fields together, to develop new ideas in cooperation with multiple stakeholders with various backgrounds and to synthesise group ideas. The BwN approach aims to come up with eco-friendly and eco-dynamic developments and designs. Stakeholders are invited to become part of the design process, where visualisations can assist to clarify the BwN concepts, stimulate communication and gain attention from additional stakeholders as well as the broader public.


Project phases

The MapTable concept can in principle be applied in all project phases:
I. Initiation phase: to develop and evaluate alternative visions on a project area.
II. Planning & design phase: to develop and evaluate alternative solutions for a well defined problem.
III. Construction phase: to evaluate alternative construction methods.
IV. Operation & Maintenance phase: to evaluate alternative maintenance methods.

However, a specific tool can be designed for a specific project phase and might therefore not be directly applicable in a different phase.


How to Use

Various skills and background knowledge are required depending on the chosen setting and purpose. For the MapTable concept a Graphical User Interface (GUI) -layer was developed to guide the user through the tool. The GUI-layer enables the user to change input parameters for each tool and model so that various design alternatives can be evaluated. For a good interpretation of the results, the user should have basic knowledge of the different fields called upon in the tool. To setup a new model application within an existing tool for a different geographical location, an experienced specialist is needed. In case the tool is used in a workshop or during a stakeholder meeting, a facilitator is required with basic skills in hydrodynamics and morphology to translate and interpret results for the group.

 Read more


Experience with the tool applications has shown several important aspects to be considered when 1) using a tool application i.e. in a workshop setting and 2) developing a new tool application. In this section a brief overview is given of a) the required skills and capacities and b) of the process steps when using or developing a tool application.

This page is primarily written for users of MapTable tool applications. Basic directions are provided to use a tool application as a means for communication in an interactive design session.
For cases where existing tool applications cannot be used or have to be modified, tips and tricks for a developer are provided.



To run an interactive design session you need:
a) MapTable software;
b) a database of local conditions (depends on the tool);
c) a predictive model.
All these requirements need to be well prepared, linked and tested. Such combination is suitable to study one specific design issue at one location.

Using a tool application in a workshop setting or developing a new tool application, requires basic skills and capacities of the user or user group. The requirements depend largely on the preferred level of adaptation of the tool application. A case can be developed based on:

  1. current tool applications, where no adaptation of the tool application is required;
  2. current tool applications in a different geographical setting, where the existing tool application will be adapted to meet the new geographical settings; and
  3. a new tool application.

Important note. Cases and tool applications can be developed to address a specific problem for a specific geographical area. Prior to a workshop, these tool applications have to be modified or developed. Modification of a tool application or the development of a new tool application, including adequate testing, might take a significant amount of time.

Requirements are listed below. Listed requirements for level 1 case development are also required for levels 2 and 3, and requirements for level 2 are also required for level 3 case development.

Table 1. Required skills and capacity

Case development

Required capacity

1. Existing tool existing geographical location

Basic knowledge of hydrology, morphology and ecology
Modelling experience
Basic experience with contracting in a marine environment

2. Existing tool, different geographical location

Hydrodynamic modeling experience

3. New tool development

Programmer with experience with MatLab, Python, JavaScript, XML

Table 2. Technical requirements

Case development

Required software

Required hardware

1. Existing tool application, existing geographical location

Web browser, GoogleEarth plug-in

Computer with internet connection (for GoogleEarth)
visualiser (i.e. beamer, screen)

2. Existing tool application, different geographical location

Hydrodynamic model (Delft3D, SOBEK, ...), MatLab •• , OpenEarth Tools
Pythonxy (for testing)


3. New tool

MatLab •• , OpenEarth Tools, Pythonxy (for developing)


 for some model packages a license might be required
•• or these software packages a license is required

Phased plan process

Essential before application

To start the process one shall define the design challenge as clear as possible, and the goal shall be set with a clear ambition. Then it can be determined which tool can be used to help solve the facing challenges.
You might conclude that an existing tool is not ready for your location, or that there is no existing tool you can use. Please then follow the steps explained in the next section. The same sequence is used as above to describe the cases.

Existing tool application, existing geographical location.

The following approach is followed after the tool is developed and applicable for the geographical area of interest and is used as a means for communication in an interactive workshop setting with the various stakeholders. The presented steps are followed in the interactive workshop setting.

Step 1.
Start with a kick-off meeting where all stakeholders are present. During this kick-off meeting the problem analysis should be presented and the aim of the session be made clear. A demonstration of the MapTable tool will familiarise the participants with the tool and indicate what input is required of the participants.
When the participants are familiar with the tool, a draft inventory of requirements and wishes regarding the final result can be made. During this step the meeting should agree when design requirements are met (i.e. maximum allowed ecological impact is met when the impact is everywhere below a value of ‘3’); this might lead to a required small adaptation of the tool settings on the spot.

Step 2.
In a second step the stakeholders start brainstorming on possible solutions and intervention concepts. Alternative solutions should be discussed. The result of this step is a set of viable alternatives where all stakeholders agree upon and to be assessed/evaluated using the MapTable tool application.

Step 3.
The resulting alternatives will now be modeled and evaluated with MapTable. This again will probably lead to small changes in the alternatives. The results will be discussed with the stakeholders and the best solution chosen. This can be done with the use of the selection method as defined in step 1.

Step 4.
For the final solution a detailed design can now be made and carried forward. When required more detailed models can be used to determine the effects with more accuracy. The results of the MapTable tool applications can be used as input for the detailed designmodels.

Existing tool application, different geographical location.

When the project can be studied by using an existing tool, but the geographical location of your project has not been modelled, the tool has to be adapted. Basically, this will mean that the spatial data obtained from other sources (e.g. models) needs to be developed for this model. These steps you shall be followed prior to a workshop can be given. One shall be aware that these steps might consume a significant amount of time.

Step 1.
Develop a hydrodynamic numerical model for the area of interest. Validate and calibrate the model.

Step 2.
Develop the hydrodynamic and morphological database. Hereto documentation as provided here (link where to?) can be used.

Step 3.
Develop an ecological (response) database. Hereto documentation as provided here (link where to?) can be used.

Step 4
Adjust the user settings in the tool as required. Some response settings might have to be changed to meet the conditions.

New tool application.

In case no existing tool applications is suitable for application on the case studied, a new tool application can be developed following the MapTable concept, in such a way that it is still compatible with the general MapTable concept.

To develop a new tool application, the developer needs to have experience with the programming tools as listed above. For the MapTable concept a flexible interface (a GUI) was designed such that in principle any other tool can be plugged in. To develop your own tool you can follow the following steps:

Step 1.
Define the required result and user input. What result should the tool provide? What switches and controls should be available to the user?

Step 2.
Define the physical processes and determine how they interact. Develop a workflow and determine the required modules. Check what existing modules from existing MapTable tool applications can be used.

Step 3.
Develop the tools and draft the required databases. A step-by-step approach to fill the databases is provided here (link where to?); this should not be completed at this moment yet (???).

Step 4.
Test the tool and draft databases. This might result in required changes. Upon completion the databases can be filled and completed and the tool can be used as described in the other step-by-step approaches.


Practical Applications

  1. Interactive tool for coastal intervention - Holland Coast
  2. Interactive River tool
  3. Interactive Dredge Planning tool
  4. Interactive O&M tool

 Read more



 Read more

Suggestions for further reading about MapTable software:

  • Dongen, B. van (2009). Audit MapTable 2.0. In opdracht van Deltares. 
  • EcoShape (2012), Interactive Dredging Tool, tutorial. Dordrecht (the Netherlands) - in preparation
  • EcoShape (2012), Setup Interactive Dredging Tool, guideline. Dordrecht (the Netherlands) - in preparation
  • Werf ten Bosch (2009), J. van de. MapTable 2.0 Help, gebruikershandleiding en technische documentatie bij MapTable versie 2.0. Meander Advies en Onderzoek. (In Dutch)