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Real-time mapping

This is a reference architecture for visualizing real-time data with Mapbox. It implements and explains the solution described on the Real-time Mapping page.

It includes an election-based example where counties are updated live with voter participation data sent from a server. The data for this example is based on historic election participation and is animated using simulated poll-closing times.

Quick start

Add a valid Mapbox access token to your environment. Tokens can be added via your shell:

export REACT_APP_MAPBOX_TOKEN=<your Mapbox token>

Tokens can also be added to a .env file. See sample.env for an example of how to structure your .env file.

Once the environment is configured, install dependencies and start the application.

npm install
npm start

Your browser will open a page displaying a map of US counties. Over time, the counties change color as the server reports the number of votes cast in each county.

animation depicting voter participation rates in US counties as mock results roll in across the country



You need a recent version of Node.js. This architecture was developed with Node 12.8.

You need an active Mapbox account and access token.

Directory structure

The code for this project is organized in three top-level directories.

client/     -- web front-end that joins tiled geometry and real-time data from the server
server/     -- SSE server that emits mock voter turnout data over time
data/       -- script for data upload, county boundary data, and election participation data

Data architecture

Two sources of data need to be joined at runtime for the real-time visualization to work. One is the source geometry, which is served as tiles from Mapbox. The other is a sequence of real-time messages.

diagram showing server providing live data to a stack of map layers based on ids retrieved from the top map layer

The source geometry goes through a series of transformations before being tiled. We first make sure that it has the attributes we care about and then format it as a GeoJSON sequence. Once uploaded, the Tilesets API lets us further filter the data and limit what is served in our tiles to only what our application needs.

sequential diagram displaying source data, conversion to newline-delimited GeoJSON, using the tilesets API to upload a source and recipe, and publishing a tileset for use in Studio or a gl-js map

At runtime, the client joins tiled geometry to live data streamed from a server and styles it based on their real-time values.

In order to join the two sources of data, the geometry needs a property that matches the real-time data from the server. For this application, we store the county FIPS code as the feature ID to use for runtime joining.

The data join happens by setting the map's feature-state whenever new data is received from the server.

map.once("style.load", () => {
    subscription = electionData.subscribe(update => {
    if (update === RESET) {
        map.removeFeatureState({ source: "composite", sourceLayer: realtimeLayerID });
    } else {
        update.forEach(county => {
            const voteProportion = county.votes_total / county.population;
            if (county.geoid === "NA") {
            // Assign the `voteProportion` feature-state to the source feature
            // whose ID matches the county's geoid
                { source: "composite", sourceLayer: realtimeLayerID, id: county.geoid },
                { voteProportion }

An expression in the map's style object determines how the feature-state is interpreted as a visual on the map.

map.setPaintProperty(realtimeLayerID, "fill-color", [
    ["!=", ["feature-state", "voteProportion"], null],
    // if we have turnout information for a feature, use it to interpolate a color
        ["exponential", 2],
        // use the value of the `voteProportion` feature-state as an input
        ["feature-state", "voteProportion"],
        // color low turnout purple
        "rgba(127, 0, 200, 0.6)",
        // color high turnout bright green
        "rgba(0, 255, 80, 0.9)"
    // if there is no turnout information, use gray
    "rgba(127, 127, 127, 0.5)"

Because the state and the style work in conjunction, the visual map updates in real-time whenever new data is received from the server and assigned to a value in feature-state.

Diagram displaying a matching ID in tiled geometry and a real-time message being used by a renderer to style the geometry based on the value of the real-time message

Example process

Upload the sample data to your own Mapbox account

You can upload the US county geometry and use it within your own account by following the steps outlined in the data README.

A typical geometry feature follows. It has many properties, like STATE_NAME, that we can use in our tilesets recipe for deciding when and how to include data in our tileset. We use the GEOID as the feature id in our tileset, which lets us connect the tiled data to our real-time information about each county.

{"type": "Feature", "properties": {"STATEFP": "21", "COUNTYFP": "007", "COUNTYNS": "00516850", "AFFGEOID": "0500000US21007", "GEOID": "21007", "NAME": "Ballard", "LSAD": "06", "ALAND": 639387454, "AWATER": 69473325, "STATE_NAME": "Kentucky"}, "geometry": {"type": "Polygon", "coordinates": [...]}}

Modify the sample to use your own data

To tile your own geometry for real-time data joining, do the following:

1) Create a tileset

Use the Tilesets API to upload newline-delimited GeoJSON and publish a tileset.

2) Use the tileset in a map style

Define a new map style in Mapbox Studio and add the tileset as a source for a layer. Style it as desired for visibility and size across relevant zoom levels. The default appearance should be appropriate for a "no data available" state.

3) Use the style in the demo

Pass your style URL as a prop to the RealtimeMap to test out your data. If it uses 2018 FIPS codes for the data join, it should work with the existing application.

Using a custom front-end

To use a custom front-end, make sure you are loading a style with relevant source ids. Then configure the visuals and state updates based on your applications needs. The core tasks are adding a paint property that is controlled by feature state, subscribing to updates or polling for data about relevant features, and setting feature state on the map as real-time updates arrive.


For deployment, you will need access to a live data provider.

Map styles created with the Tilesets API and Mapbox Studio are production ready.

Built with

Mapbox APIs

Third-party libraries


This project was created by the Mapbox Solutions Architecture team.


The code for this project is licensed under the BSD 3-Clause License - see the LICENSE file for details.

For data licensing, see the README in the data/ folder.


Visualize real-time data with Mapbox







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