Skip to Content

Analyze countries and continents

By Vitaliy Rudnytskiy

Analyze countries and continents with SAP HANA Geospatial at SAPPHIRENOW 2018.


You will learn

  • How to use SAP HANA to analyze data from Shapefiles

Step 1: ESRI shapefiles

Good news. You do not need to create all geographic or geodetic data manually! There are open data sets available. They are using one of many geospatial data formats.

One of the most used formats for geospatial data exchange is a Shapefile developed by ESRI.

Two of such Shapefiles have been preloaded into the instance of SAP HANA database you are connected to:

  1. "GEOTECH"."continent" with shapes of continents
  2. "GEOTECH"."cntry00" with shapes of countries

A preview of shapes of continents (using website):


A preview of shapes of countries:


Both of these tables contain a column "SHAPE" that stores geometries of all continents or countries, depending on a table. This column has ST_GEOMETRY datatype, which allows you to store any spatial data: points, strings, polygons, or their collections.

select "CNTRY_NAME",
 from "GEOTECH"."cntry00"
 order by 1;

You can see that some country shapes are single polygons, while others are collections of polygons. In the second case, it is because each island is a polygon.

Step 2: Round Earth vs. Planar projection

In the previous tutorial, you learned about SRID 4326 based on Round Earth model used by GPS. Geospatial data in tables that you will use in this tutorial are loaded using special SAP HANA’s SRID 1000004326, which is a planar 2D projection.


You can check geometry’s SRID using .ST_SRID() method.

select "CONTINENT",
 from "GEOTECH"."continent"
 order by 1;
SRID output

Some geospatial methods will not work with geometries on the Round Earth model, and can work only with geometries on planes. On the other hand, some measurements on Round Earth will give you more precise values than for geometries on planar projections.

The same method ST_SRID(srid), but with SRID numeric value as an argument, is used to do simple conversion between different Spatial Reference Systems that are using the same coordinates.

 from "GEOTECH"."continent"
 order by 1;
SRID conversion

Please note the way spatial methods are chained to define sequential execution of these methods.

Step 3: Find neighbouring countries

Based on loaded data, let’s find all countries sharing land boarders with Germany.

select country."CNTRY_NAME", neighbour."CNTRY_NAME",
country."SHAPE".ST_Intersection(neighbour."SHAPE") as "BORDER_SHAPE"
 from "GEOTECH"."cntry00" country
 join "GEOTECH"."cntry00" neighbour  on country."SHAPE".ST_Touches(neighbour."SHAPE") = 1
 where country."ISO_2DIGIT" = 'DE'
 order by 1,2;
neighbouring countries

What just happened?

  1. You joined data from two copies - country and neighbour - of the same "GEOTECH"."cntry00" table storing country geometries.
  2. You used ST_Touches() predicate to select only countries, which geometries have at least one shared point. For predicates the result equal 1 means True.
  3. For every two geometries that have a shared point you calculated an intersection using ST_Intersection() set method. This calculated a line string, that is a shared border between two countries.
  4. Intersections are returned in the WKB format. This output can be used to visualize the shape at site too. Copy the content of a cell the same way you copied GeoJSON content before, then go to site and choose Meta > Load WKB Hex Encoded String. Paste the content into the input field of a dialog box and click OK.
Step 4: Which countries have most neighbours?

As you could count from a result of the previous query, Germany has 9 land neighbours. Are there countries that have more?

select country.CNTRY_NAME as "country", count(neighbour.CNTRY_NAME) as "neighbours"
from "GEOTECH"."cntry00"  country
join "GEOTECH"."cntry00"  neighbour on country."SHAPE".ST_Touches(neighbour."SHAPE") = 1
group by country.CNTRY_NAME
order by "neighbours" desc, "country";
Biggest number of neighbours

What just happened?

  1. Same as in the previous step you used spatial predicate ST_Touches() to find all countries whose geometries have touch points.
  2. Then you used SQL group by to count all neighbours for each country.
  3. At the end you sorted the result by the number of neighbours.
Step 5: Transcontinental countries

Transcontinental countries or intercontinental states are countries located on more than one continent.

Please note that the query below is computationally intensive, and will take about one minute to execute.

select b."CNTRY_NAME", a."CONTINENT",
 b."SHAPE".ST_Intersection(a."SHAPE") as "CNTRY_CONTINENT"
from "GEOTECH"."continent" a
join "GEOTECH"."cntry00" b on b.shape.ST_Overlaps(a.shape) = 1
order by 1, 2;
Transcontinental countries

What just happened?

  1. This time you joined two tables - countries and continents - using spatial predicate .ST_Overlaps(). This predicate returns 1 (i.e. is True), when an intersection of a country shape with a given continent shape is a polygon, but Neither of the original geometries is a subset of the other. Therefore the join returns only transcontinental countries.
  2. The result of the query contains three columns: a name of a country, a name of a continent, and their spatial intersection.
  3. In this case the spatial intersection is a polygon, not string as in the previous example with shared borders.


There are some countries missing in the query output, like Turkey. Why? Upon closer investigation, you find that a continental border between Asia and Europe was not properly defined in the source file. As a result, not only Turkey, but also Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan are missing, although they are all transcontinental countries with parts in both Asia and Europe.

Updated 06/03/2018

Time to Complete

5 Min

Back to top