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Geohash: What and Why

Geohash is a public domain geocode system based on the Morton Z-order curve.

Critical Feature: Proximity search with prefix property; Geohashing guarantees the longer a shared prefix between two hashes the closer they are.

Feature: Arbitrarily precise cells; longer strings are more precise; shorter strings are less precise.

Caveat: However, two areas can be close together but have entirely different Geohashes; this is due to how the geohash algorithm segments latitude/longitude coordinates into buckets. To solve this you can query neighboring buckets as well.

Encoding a latitude, longitude pair to a string geohash is a three step process:

  1. Quantize latitude and longitude to 32-bit integers
  2. Bit-interleave integers to produce 64-bit value (the integer geohash)
  3. Base32 encode (with custom alphabet) to produce string geohash

Example common flow of getting Geohash from Address:

  1. Address → Google Geocoding Service → [Latitude, Longitude]
  2. [Latitude, Longitude] → Geohash function → encoded base32 string

Filter data by proximity

  1. Given [Latitude, Longitude, Proximity]
  2. Approximate a cell containing the search area (approximate bounding)
    • Lat/lon: the given lat/lon is bounding circle center and proximity is approximated by bounding circle radius
    • Geohash: the given lat/lon is located inside calculated geohash (but not centered) and proximity is approximated by either
      1. reducing precision (widens bounding area)
      2. generating neighbor bounding areas
  3. Search
    • Lat/lon: calculate and search within bounding circle [latitudeMin, latitudeMax, longitudeMin, longitudeMax]
    • Geohash: search where geohash starts with bounding precision and (optionally) neighboring bounding precisions

References on Geohash

Geohash in Code

Other geocode systems

Uber H3: Hexagonal hierarchical geospatial indexing system

Example flow of search by radius:

  1. Given [Latitude, Longitude, SearchRadius]
  2. Calculate grid disk (array of h3Indexes)
    • Calculate grid disk of radius based on average cell edge length
    • Calculate grid disk based on the search area
  3. Search for indexes between the minimum and maximum grid disk h3Indexes


References on H3

Minimum bounding rectangle

In computational geometry, the minimum bounding rectangle (MBR), also known as bounding box (BBOX) or envelope, is given a set of 2-dimensional objects: min(x), max(x), min(y), max(y).