- August 30, 2011
We’ve been working on a brand new API that will rock your world. It’s our Geo API, which allows developers to access disparate geo-related data sources through one API with a unified schema. It’s pretty sweet, if we do say so ourselves.
Our geo data comes from open sources like Geonames, the National Climatic Data Center, and the American Community Survey from the US Census Bureau as well as licensed sources like Locationary and Foursquare. Also, because we recognized that geo data need not be constrained by the traditional notions of geo data, we’ve also included geo-located Wikipedia articles amongst the sources. In fact, any data set that can be tied to a location can ultimately be added to the Infochimps Geo API. We will continue to add additional data sources in the near future and are totally happy to hear your suggestions if you’ve got ‘em!
With this API, we’ve tried to address some of the biggest developer pain points in working with geo data:
- Difficulty in integrating several different APIs into one unified app
- Lack of ability to display all results when zoomed out to a large radius
- Limitation of only being able to use lat/long
We’ve addressed each of the above issues with our new Geo API using the Infochimps Simple Schema, Summarizer and multiple Geolocator options.
The Infochimps Simple Schema
Working with APIs is often challenging because of the many varied ways API providers organize and deliver data. With Infochimps Simple Schema (ICSS), no matter what the original source, data is organized and arranged into a unified schema. Because the schemas are consistent, integrating data from multiple sources can be done more quickly and easily – saving developers loads of time and effort. The ICSS provides a complete, expressive description of a collection of related data and all associated assets. It is what The Dude would describe as tying the room together, only in this case it ties our data together, making relationships and connections between disparate data sources, crystal clear.
As Liam Dayan, Founder & CEO of the development firm createCORE, says “We’re glad to be working with Infochimps — their stuff is making it possible to put some backburner projects back on the near-term roadmap because of how much less work they’ll be.”
Ever tried to see something like all the coffee shops in Austin using Google Maps or Yelp? We bet you’ll often find the map drastically changing as you zoom in and out, showing you different results from one view to another. The issue of how to handle the huge deluge of data that happens when zoomed out to a large radius is a tough one.
To solve this problem, the Infochimps Geo API provides palatable groupings of results through its Summarizer feature. For example, there are over 100,000 schools in the United States. To display these results on a single map would be impractical and not very useful. So, in this case, the Summarizer organizes these schools as 100 easily display groups that are organized into intelligent clusters. Upon zooming further, these groups are continually updated until it makes sense to display the results individually. Now, you really can map out “everything”. Sweet!
Multiple Geolocator Options
Geo data is typically organized by latitude and longitude, but the Infochimps Geo API recognizes that these query predicates may not always be available. In addition to standard geographic locators like street address, bounding box, latitude/longitude, any dimension that can be mapped back to a location can also be used to query. So, you want to know the weather near a Foursquare venue? Just ask the API that exact question and get an answer right away.
Ben Hughes, Co-founder & Director of Technology of Nabewise, explains: “Allowing me to easily query things in ways that the original designer didn’t intend them to be queried is very useful.”
Our goal in developing the Geo API was to make working with geographic data joyful for developers. We will continue to add more data sources and locators to the Geo API, as well as to their other APIs. Check out the Infochimps Geo API for complete documentation, query examples and more to help you get started.
P.S. We let a small group of users in on this new API a few weeks ago. Want to get the inside scoop on the newest projects we’re working on? Join the Howler Project, our ongoing alpha & beta testing program.