There a two major problems that all web-services that try to plot loads of POIs on a map face at a certain point in their product development life cycle.
- Designing a dynamic GUI that is intuitive and does not create the usual clusters of overlapping POI flags that you can’t navigate properly
- Keeping the performance on a level that renders even thousands of POIs fast enough
To visualize the problem a little more here is a selection of websites that suffer from the problem of too many information being plotted on a map.
The above are all very well known services and some do better than others to deal with the complex problem of plotting the geocoded output of their databases on the map of choice.
Now for some of the use cases one ‘old’ way of trying to deal with the problem of immanent clusters is to limit the number by zoom level and radius. That works well in some cases but fails completely in others.
Especially for the browsing user this solution has a lot of shortcomings as it will not allow you to browse via the map – the much preferred version of navigating geo-centric content – but only gives you a very limited selection of plotted POIs once you have decided for a very specific local region.
Apart from the GUI centric limitations of the above examples you will face quite a challenge when you try to plot all available POIs on a map on a minimal zoom level. Imagine you would want to plot all restaurants of the Google Maps business database on a map. A quick search returns 137,416,682 matches for restaurant in the United States – try mapping all of them at once – see my point?
Now why am I bragging about this? Well cause I’ve recently been introduced to a service that does solve the above dilemma in a very efficient and easy to navigate way.
The service is called Geocubes – and is the product of a Berlin based German company called skilldeal AG.
This is how the interface looks like and you can have a play on their demo web page here geocubes (mind that the geo-points plotted on the map are random for this demo purpose)
There is however a live implementation of the service life on a German website that allows their users to map, plot and share running routes with other fellow runners. Go check it out here. Jogmap.de
I’ve asked them a couple of questions so you can learn a little more about the company and the service.
Question: Can you describe what Geocubes is in two sentences or less? (ideally in a way everybody will understand)
geocubes is an innovative SaaS solution for maps. geocubes clusters
geo-referenced data on the map into squares, improves the performance of
the website and presents geo-points well structured on the map.
Question: Can you tell me what you do at Geocubes?
My name is Ronny Koch and I am the developer of geocubes.
Question: How many people do work on Geocubes/in your company?
Currently six people work on geocubes. They work in different areas like
Development, Marketing, Sales etc.
Question: Where is your company located?
Our company is called skilldeal AG and is located in Berlin, Germany.
Question: In a typical work day, how much time do you spend programming, meeting, eating, designing, guessing and so on…?
My typical work day consists of 8 hours programming, 30 minutes for
meeting and one hour for eating. Designing is not entirely my favorite.
Question: When did you get started with Geocubes, and how did the initial idea get to live?
I started developing of geocubes in May 2008. The actual idea came us in
a customer project for a big sports community in January 2008.
Question: How do you think this software/solution could be applied to mobile devices?
We are thinking about making geocubes available for mobile devices.
Could be useful since geocubes is a realtime solution.
Question: What is the next BIG thing? Or where do you see Geocubes going?
Perhaps geocubes will help to change the search in the web. There should
be more map based search! But many large websites simply have the
problem to display there data on a map in a short time. Therefore we are
working on improving search options with geocubes.
Question: What’s your favorite geo-data website or product and why?
I think Google Maps already considered one of the best Geo products. I
hope that the Web changes more and more from the static radius search to
the map search. Of course geocubes is very supporting that.
Question: What was your biggest lesson learned working at Geocubes so far?
Good solutions take their time.
Question: What were the biggest challenges you face with Geocubes?
The biggest challenge was the performance of geocubes. Approx. 70% of
development time I put into the optimization of geocubes to make the
calculations even faster. It’s not so easy to cluster billions of
geo-points in a fraction of a second. Every millisecond was important
for me and I think that I’ve done it very well.
I guess I agree and thanks very much for your time!