You don’t need to learn Spatial SQL!

March 10, 2021

The backstory

I was listening to a podcast on location data the other day, and I had to stop because the folks on it were suggesting that everyone should learn spatial SQL. I am all about learning new things, but this one really made me laugh… nervously. Spatial SQL is a massive innovation, but has an incredibly high barrier to entry. Sadly, this means that many projects are either blocked or come at a very high development cost. We are here to change that.

The pain

We want you to be able to do your job without also learning a new one.

As anyone who has tried to learn spatial SQL can attest, it is not a simple undertaking. You will have access to a new — and incredibly powerful — suite of tools, but using these tools effectively requires significant domain expertise. This domain expertise is why spatial SQL can be so difficult: Imagine having a nice little query that you found on the internet that should do a very “simple” thing, like tell you the distance between apartments and public transportation stops in your hometown. Spatial SQL makes it easy, right? The tough truth is, it’s only easy when you are aware of and knowledgeable about the underlying concepts that power that simple thing. For spatial SQL, these concepts include things like coordinate reference systems, projections, SRIDs… even the curvature of the earth! If you don’t have a solid grasp of these things, you may end up measuring distances in decimal degrees (!?), calculating them as-the-crow-flies (which may work on a small scale, but can be particularly problematic if there’s a river in your hometown) or even giving up on your project altogether. ☹️ (And this is assuming you have the data in your database to begin with — a pretty ridiculous assumption for most people!)

Facing a deadline but lacking training in geography or GIS (for which there exist entire graduate degree programs), you may understandably turn to StackOverflow for help in running your spatial query, where you’ll find conversations like this. If you’re not already an expert, much of what is suggested here is impenetrable: UTM, CRS, WKID, ESRI??? On the one hand, learning spatial SQL is a great idea. But on the other, you have a job to do! We want you to be able to do your job without also learning a new one.

The solution

We’re writing a ton of code behind the scenes so that location data is as easy for you to use as other kinds of data.

At Iggy we want to make data about the world more accessible. It’s our core belief that if we can make using location data easier, you’ll use more of it. So we’re making a bet that we can leverage our domain expertise and product experience to build an even more accessible system so that you can leverage geographic data in your products, apps and models. We are building off an incredible foundation enabled by spatial SQL (and using a ton of it ourselves), but trying to lower the barriers to entry for you even more.

We’re writing a ton of code behind the scenes so that location data is as easy for you to use as other kinds of data— without all of the overhead of geospatial nuance. We started with a suite of APIs that provide context on what’s around you. Want to know what’s around that property you want to buy or that Airbnb you’ve been eyeing? Check out our Enrich APIs. Want to see how various neighborhoods compare in terms of quality of life? We’ve got that too in our Intelligence APIs. And did I mention you can do it all in about 4 lines of code (none of which entail a coordinate reference system, projection, SRID or a license for expensive software)?

We believe location data can be incredibly useful to you, and we’re building the tools and infrastructure to make it so. We’re just getting started and so have a lot more planned. As a sneak peak: want to find a place to buy a home near a lake where the likelihood of wildfire is low? Or identify the town with the most tree cover in a particular state? We’ve got a tool to help coming soon.

Tell us how you want to use Iggy here, and we’ll get you an API key. Or check out our docs. Feedback? We love that too. So go read a book, take a walk, focus on your NFTs… and don’t worry about learning spatial SQL! Iggy’s got you!

To the future! 🚀

Lindsay Pettingill, Co-founder and CEO

Thanks to Anne Cocos.