Introduction to feature analysis

Feature analysis

What is feature analysis?

Feature analysis is the process of using the spatial analysis service to perform server-side geometric and analytic operations on feature data. To access the service, you can use ArcGIS tools or APIs to execute different types of analyses. For example, you can find features, merge or overlay features, calculate feature statistics, or find patterns and relationships in feature data. The operation you use depends on the type of problem you are trying to solve.

Feature analysis can help solve many different types of problems. For example, you can use it to:

  • Understand where features are or where multiple features exist.
  • Measure sizes, shapes, and distributions of features.
  • Analyze relationships and interactions between features.
  • Detect and quantify patterns and relationships between features.
  • Make predictions based on existing or theoretical patterns and relationships.

To learn more about spatial analysis concepts and use cases, go to the following resources:

To perform feature analysis, you typically provide your feature data as input, execute a service operation, and then visualize and evaluate the results in a map. The feature data can be any collection of features that have a common type of geometry and set of attributes. Learn more about data input requirements in How to perform feature analysis.

Types of feature analysis

Feature analysis operations for the spatial analysis service are grouped by the type of problems they solve and the type of feature data returned.

To learn more, click on the categories below:

Find dataSelects a subset of features using a SQL or spatial query.FindExistingLocations, DeriveNewLocations, ExtractFeaturesA new feature collection or hosted feature layer. find existing locations
Finds existing polygons that match a SQL query.
Combine dataCombines or joins features from two or more feature datasets.Merge, Overlay, Join, DissolveA new feature collection or hosted feature layer. dissolve boundaries
Dissolves polygons from two input feature datasets.
Summarize dataAggregates or summarizes feature data and creates statistics.Aggregate points, Summarize nearby, Summarize within, Summarize center and dispersionA new feature collection or hosted feature layer. aggregate points
Aggregate points into polygons.
Analyze patternsIdentifies spatial patterns and relationships in feature data.Find hot spots, Find outliers, Find point clusters, Find similar locations, Calculate density, Interpolate pointsA new feature collection or hosted feature layer. find hot spots
Find hot spots based on attribute values
Calculate geometriesPerforms geometric calculations on existing features or can create new feature data.Create buffers, Create centroids, Generate tessellations,A new feature collection or hosted feature layer. create buffers
Generate and merge buffers around features.

Why use feature analysis?

You use feature analysis when you want to perform a server-side process on feature data. Feature data contains a collection of features, and each feature contains a geometry and set of attributes. This is different from geometry analysis which only involves processing geometries on the client-side. To see a comparison, go to Geometry vs feature analysis.

Below are reasons to use feature analysis and the spatial analysis service:

Large datasets

The spatial analysis service is designed to process large amounts of feature data. You can use the service to process thousands of features stored in a hosted feature layer or formatted as a feature collection (JSON). All of the processing occurs in the ArcGIS cloud infrastructure and is optimized for your organization.

Learn more about supported data formats in Prepare feature data.

Hosted data

To perform an analysis, you can use a hosted feature layer as input for the service operation. Using a hosted feature layer is the preferred way to perform an analysis on large datasets because the spatial analysis service can easily access the data and execute calculations in the ArcGIS cloud. The results of an operation can also be stored in ArcGIS as a hosted feature layer. This makes it easy to manage and access the results after an operation is complete.

Learn more about how to use hosted feature layers in Data hosting.

Long transactions

To help with processing large amounts of feature data, the spatial analysis service supports job requests. These are long transactions that make it easier to manage long transactions that are computationally intensive and have long durations.

Learn more about managing job requests in Perform the analysis - ArcGIS REST API.

Manage results

When an analysis is complete, the spatial analysis service can return the results as a hosted feature layer which is automatically stored in ArcGIS. Each feature layer has an item page that you can use to interactively manage the access permissions of the data. The item permissions can be set to private, a group, your organization, or to everyone (public). Storing the results as a hosted feature layer also makes it easy to access with ArcGIS tools and APIs for further visual analyses and evaluation.

Learn more about accessing and managing hosted feature layers in Data hosting.


To access the spatial analysis service there are a number of ArcGIS APIs you can use. This includes the ArcGIS API for Python, ArcGIS REST JS, and ArcGIS API for JavaScript. Client APIs make it easy to implement authentication, access the service, and manage the job requests for each transaction. You can also access the service directly with the ArcGIS REST API.

To learn how to access the spatial analysis service with APIs, go to How to perform a feature analysis.

Software and tools

You can also perform feature analyses interactively with ArcGIS tools such as Map Viewer and ArcGIS Pro. These tools provide an interface to access the spatial analysis service and execute different operations. As a developer, using these tools is a helpful way to learn about the different types of operations you can perform, the different parameters that can be used, and how changing the parameters affects the analysis results.





Spatial analysis service

Process spatial datasets to discover relationships and patterns.

API support

Full supportPartial supportNo support
  • 1. Access with geoprocessing task
  • 2. Access via ArcGIS REST JS


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