Dash Plotly Map + Graph Part2: Linking Map & Graph and deploying to Heroku

by on under tutorial
7 minute read

This is a follow-up post to a previous post where I started developing a Dash application where a user could select links on a map and that would select the data to display in a plot. That post was more or less written in a day, and I didn’t get to linking the map and graph, so this post explains how I developed that, and then how I deployed the app to Heroku.

Linking Map Data to Updating Graph Data

In order to link the lines on the map to the data for the plot, we need to have a field that links the two together. The Dash Getting Started Guide shows how to use @app.callback(Output(), [Input()]) to decorate functions in order to provide interactivity by linking different elements of the app. In order to determine what data a map provided in its callback function I set up something similar to this basic interactivity example:

    Output('click-data', 'children'),
    [Input('map', 'clickData')])
def display_click_data(clickData):
    return json.dumps(clickData, indent=2)

Which produced the following output:

  "points": [
      "lat": 43.6464730064524,
      "curveNumber": 2,
      "lon": -79.4037543398975,
      "pointNumber": 28,
      "customdata": 'w'

Initially I didn’t know how curveNumber was generated, so I thought to use customData, which is a parameter you can set when creating the lines. However it led to some interesting bugfixing, because customData is designed to assign data to each point create on the scatterMapbox it assumes what is being passed to it is a list, which strings are in Python. I eventually figured out a Pythonic workaround, but wasn’t pleased at the idea of duplicating an id for each point of every line.

Using curveNumber

Chris explained the origin of the curveNumber id, that it is an index created in order of line creation. So when iterating over the geometries to create lines, I create a crossover table:

crossover_df = pandas.DataFrame(columns=['segment_id',

for curve_number, row in enumerate(map_data.itertuples()):
    geojson = json.loads(row.geojson)
    lats, lons = get_lat_lon(geojson)
    crossover_df = crossover_df.append({'segment_id':row.segment_id,

And then create the update_graph() callback function that uses the curveNumber to find the right segment_id and then filter the data dataframe by segment_id. This filtered dataframe is passed to the plotly Scatter graph. Pitfall alert, note that data = [stuff], if the data passed to the figure is not an array, your graph will fail silently

    Output('travel-time-graph', 'figure'),
    [Input('bluetooth-map', 'clickData')])
def update_graph(segment):
    row = crossover_df[crossover_df['curveNumber']==segment['points'][0]['curveNumber']]
    segment_id = row.segment_id.iloc[0]
    filtered_data = weekday_avg[weekday_avg['segment_id'] ==  segment_id]
    title = crossover_df[crossover_df['segment_id']==segment_id]['segment_name'].iloc[0]
    data = [go.Scatter(x=filtered_data['Time'],
    layout = dict(title = 'Average Weekday Travel Times <br>' +title,
                  xaxis = dict(title="Time of Day"),
                  yaxis = dict(title="Travel Time (s)"))
    return {'data':data, 'layout':layout}

Deploying to Heroku

Heroku is a handy Platform as a Service provider, which allows you to run simple-to-complex python web-apps for free on their infrastructure. The Dash Deployment Guide includes instructions on passing secret keys to the app. (this sentence is a month old and was left hanging, I’m still a little puzzled by what I was trying to communicate)

Transferring Data

Since the data was hosted in a local database, we need to send it up to the cloud. It may be possible to store data to be served in flat files within the project folder (projects can be up to 500MB in size, including dependencies), this has not yet been tested. Instead I used Heroku Postgres:

Heroku Postgres

Data can also be stored in a PostgreSQL database (max 10k total rows in the free tier). Importing data is a surprising pain. It’s untested whether pg_restore or psql \COPY work, you can use heroku pg:backups:restore, but your dump file has to be hosted in the cloud somewhere…

I used the following procedure:

  1. Dump the DDL and insert scripts using pg_dump -d bigdata -h host.ip -t schema.table -F p -O --inserts > dump.sql
  2. Restore to heroku using psql postgres://heroku:postgres:5432/URI -f dump.sql. (These two commands can probably be piped together).
  3. For geographic data use pgsql2shp -h host.ip bigdata schema.table, this dumps a shp “file” in the working directory.
  4. Upload geographic data by piping shp2pgsql to psql like shp2pgsql -D -I -s 4326 -S table.shp schema.table | psql postgres://heroku:postgres:5432/URI. Because geographic data previously uploaded to the RDS via shp2pgsql involves sequences… Note: all int data was converted to double precision and had to be converted back.

Connecting to Heroku Postgres

Heroku has a DATABASE_URL environment variable that plays nicely with psycopg2. I set up the following logic so that the application would connect to the database whether it was running locally or on Heroku, all without revealing credentials!

from psycopg2 import connect

database_url = os.getenv("DATABASE_URL")
if database_url is not None:
    con = connect(database_url)
    import configparser
    CONFIG = configparser.ConfigParser()
    dbset = CONFIG['DBSETTINGS']
    con = connect(**dbset)

Adding other necessary files

  1. Create a requirements.txt file with pip freeze > requirements.txt. If you’re not using a virtual environment, or if you virtualenv has gotten a little bloated, open this file up and delete every package that isn’t listed in the imports of your python file.
  2. Create a Procfile and put web: gunicorn app:server in it.

Create a heroku app

  1. Login to heroku and create a new app
  2. Connecting that app to your Github repo is really the least painful technique. Do that if you can.
  3. If you want to expend more effort. Check out the Getting Started with Python Instructions

Summary of Hiccoughs

  1. data = [data] in Dash
  2. transferring data to Heroku Postgres\
  3. ints turn into doubles when transforming postgis data data to shapefiles.
  4. properly labelling lines in Dash.


Check out the full page dashboard here

dash, plotly, python, visualization, heroku, postgresql