What is temporal data?

Temporal data can be added as a layer in ArcMap or ArcGlobe using the Tracking Analyst extension. This data includes time and date information for geographic locations, which allows you to track real-time and previously documented observations. These observations can be discrete, such as lightning strikes, or continuous, such as trucking routes and flight paths.

There are several ways to add temporal data to your map as a tracking layer. Once a tracking layer has been added to your map, you can use the enhanced capabilities of Tracking Analyst to analyze and visualize your data in unique ways based on the temporal values in the data. For example, you can draw track lines to show the path of an object through time or use time windows to play back your data showing only a subset of the data at any given time.

Learn more about temporal symbology options available in Tracking Analyst

Data sources

The Tracking Analyst extension accepts stored temporal data, or fixed-time data, as well as real-time data, from several sources.

Fixed-time sources

Real-time sources


Tracking Server

Geodatabase feature classes

Locally connected GPS

Learn more about real-time data sources and structures

Data structures

Tracking Analyst accepts the following data structures from both real-time and fixed-time sources:

Learn more about simple and complex temporal events

Date and time formats

Any data used in Tracking Analyst must contain date and/or time information in a time stamp. Tracking Analyst supports a wide variety of time and date formats, which are partially dependent on Windows-based date and time formats. The Add Temporal Data Wizard allows you to select different locales and choose from several Windows-based time and date formats for each locale. This allows Tracking Analyst to extract time and date information contained in text fields in many different regional formats. Time and date formats that are stored in a field of type date can be automatically detected by Tracking Analyst. If your data contains both the date and time information, they must be contained in a single field to be used in Tracking Analyst.

Tracking Analyst supports dates from January 1, 4713 BC to December 31, 9999 AD. The architecture of Tracking Analyst supports milliseconds, but there are some limitations to adding data with this level of precision. Milliseconds are only supported for real-time data, not for fixed-time tracking data.

The track identifier field

Whether you are working with simple or complex temporal events, the concept of the track identifier field, or Track ID field, is extremely important in Tracking Analyst. A Track ID field is not necessary for all tracking layers, but it can enhance Tracking Analyst's capabilities if your tracking data contains several tracked objects.

The Track ID field must contain data values that uniquely identify individual objects in your data. The Track ID can be used to group different observations of the same object for display and analysis purposes. For example, if you are tracking several delivery trucks, assigning a unique Track ID to each truck allows you to monitor each truck's route individually. Special symbology options exist that utilize the Track ID. For example, track lines would allow you to connect each truck's positions throughout the day and re-create its delivery route, similar to connecting the dots.

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Published 6/8/2010