Understanding spatial search

November 4, 2008

So what is spatial search ?

In today’s context, where the Internet is the starting point for finding any information you need about anything in the world, and of course most of us use Google. The problem with traditional search is that it does not support or have information about the geographical dimension.

Why is spatial search important ?

This becomes extremely important when searching for something like “Guest houses in Bangalore”. Although the geographical location, in this case ‘Bangalore’ can be used as a part of search query term, the search engine does not interpret it as a geographical location.

So results for the search query – “Guest houses in Bangalore” will turn up documents with “Guest houses” and “Bangalore” and might not show up results with guest houses koramangala or indiranagar which are localities in Bangalore and also hence very apt results. This is because, the search engine does not have a relationship between these terms.

The other issue with traditional search in entities like homes is that the geographical information of these locations are not known, and hence they cannot be visualized on a map – which would be the most intuitive way to visualize these results.

While planning and architecting my100floors, we understood the need for Spatial search and helping users visualize home searches on maps. Moreover we felt that that searching for properties on maps was the intuitive way to find properties. In fact, we are the first to provide a map based search in India, cracking the problem of non-availability of geo-coded data.

The next post will talk about our implementation of Spatial search in, challenges we faced and a walk through of the user experience.

property_mapsearchmy100floors.com is currently in closed beta, leave your email address on the site and drop me a line here or on twitter and I will make sure that you get the invite.


6 Responses to “Understanding spatial search”

  1. Arjun Ram Says:

    Its good to see you guys explore this vertical. I believe that version 1 & 2 of the web addressed the text search problem. Now the problem is you have tons much data and the need to slice and dice that data.

    The three obvious filters that are actively being explored as part of the next version(s) of the web are geo-spatial, time and social connections.

    These filters will be applied to all services that we use to consume information.

    As for geo-spatial search while you point to some of the use cases, there are other vital ones that are missing .. apartments near zipcode, locate me using cell towers & then find things around me!

    But data quality & implementation will be vital.. It is exciting to see geo-spatial explored in India and i believe it will it explode in this part of the world if done right!

  2. Yes Arjun, agree with you on the other use cases that can be addressed in this vertical.
    Zipcode is something which has been cracked pretty well in the US, but in India, postal codes are not distributed properly and many places don’t even have postal codes. Again, as you pointed out, data quality is extremely important in these cases.
    Social connections is also very interesting, but I think a lot of options are already available here and with platforms like Open Social, FaceBook connect etc this should get sorted out.

  3. Arjun Ram Says:

    Social connections are available.. Filtering using social connections is just beginning to happen. Friendfeed has taken a crack at it but we are far from what is the ideal state. Connections today are very loose. Even though u and I are connected today we are not technical friends. Your political ideology or food habits might not the same as me. Achieving this is going to be a big step.

    We need something that is a combination of open id/addressbook & groups. A long way to go .. information filtering is an opportunity..

    As they say .. if news is important it will find me .. One can extend it to say if Information is important it will find me!

    Its fair to say this topic can be discussed for hours 😉 may be over a drink!

  4. Interesting thoughts, yes this can be discussed for hours I guess, alcohol as a social lubricant helps 🙂

  5. After reading through the article, I just feel that I need more information on the topic. Could you share some resources please?

  6. S Says:

    not sure if you are aware but I believe Siss Business Systems holds the patents for this

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