Beyond Squares & Points: Using free-form shapes to search Google Maps and other applications

Map showing examples of searching for travel information such as eateries and hotels using freeform shapesToday you can search for places using a square or a circle – or an existing boundary such as a city, but what about when you want to search for something that’s doesn’t fit in a square easily, e.g. searching for vacation rentals along the coast of North Carolina?

You can’t! So as a result you have to search city by city or include areas that outside the area you really want.

The solution: Searching with free-form shapes AKA polygons. In the old days, you needed specialized software to create boundary files, e.g. city or state boundary. Now you can create boundary files right from your Web browsers at sites like http://www.openstreetmap.org.  The next step is to make the functionality truly easy to use and embed it directly into Bing, MapQuest or Google Maps so that users can easily draw an oval or whatever shape they want and then find what they’re looking for.

Hopefully, SimpleGeo, a startup out of San Francisco will add that functionality to their service, so organizations can easily embed it in their applications.

And you should be able to do the same thing on your phone – but with your finger, just drag your finger on the screen to define the area you want to search.

The next step will be to embed the functionality into any of the many sites that help you find real places, e.g. Yelp, HomeAway, Air BNB, Realtor.com, etc…

Below are my favorite potential uses, what would yours be?

  1. Travel Information: Hotels, home rentals, eateries, etc… I rarely travel in a square or a Zip Code, I generally travel in a line and want to know what’s available along a stretch of area.
  2. Real Estate: Often times we want to search in specific pockets – not just by Zip code, e.g. around a specific school.
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One response to “Beyond Squares & Points: Using free-form shapes to search Google Maps and other applications

  1. Amazing Post, worth a read.always a big fan of linking to blogs like yours that I love but don’t often get a link back

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