Many mobile and web applications need to help users find locations of – and information about – points of interest. Where are stores of a particular chain, or that carry a particular brand of product? What type of cuisine is available at nearby restaurants? How far is it to the nearest gas station or EV charging spot?
The problem is that most of the developers of these apps don’t have their own database containing this information, so they have to source it from somewhere.
Often, this “somewhere” is a Places API. So what exactly is this? And how does it work? We’re going to answer those questions, and in doing so, demonstrate how other options – like SafeGraph’s Places data – may be a better fit for your organization. Here, you’ll learn:
We’ll start with the basics of what a Places API is, and list some common POI providers on the market.
A Places API is a service that fetches information about points of interest in response to HTTP requests. It is usually used by mobile or web mapping applications to help people find nearby facilities and relevant information about them, such as operating hours and contact details.
A Places API is often used by application developers when they require some part of their app to provide information about places, such as a store locator or accommodations booking widget. The API allows the app to call this information from another company’s pre-existing database, rather than the developer having to collect, store, and manage this information themselves.
Think of a Places API as a library that a mobile or web application can quickly consult for information about points of interest when a user asks about them. A user can ask questions like:
Here’s a rough outline of how the Places API works:
SafeGraph’s Places data skips most of this process. It doesn’t need to be called for by a HTTPS request, and it doesn’t need an API key to access. The data can be delivered to your organization through a CSV file, or on common GIS or data management platforms like Esri, CARTO, Amazon Web Services, Snowflake, and Databricks Delta Sharing. Once it’s there, you can search through it or manipulate it pretty much any way you want.
While a Places API is a convenient way to fetch point of interest information for mobile and web applications, it’s not without its drawbacks. One major disadvantage is that it requires an application to repeatedly make requests to the API whenever it needs the relevant information. And there are fees associated with most of these requests. While these fees are typically small (usually about 3 cents per request at most), if an app is popular and issues a lot of requests from many different users, these fees can add up to an expensive amount fairly quickly.
With SafeGraph Places, you can get a bulk CSV download of points of interest data – including detailed attributes about each place, not just the locations themselves – without having to call the data piece-by-piece from an API. This has two advantages in this context. First, it means we can work with your organization to decide on one flat price for the data that gets you better value for money. So there’s no need to be nickel-and-dimed for the data based on how often you use it.
The other advantage is that your organization gets to keep the data it buys and has greater creative control over it. Want to create a map of local EV charging stations? Model the landscape of competing or complementary businesses near your company’s stores? Explore how many essential facilities are accessible to residential areas in a city? Some Places API developers don’t allow their data to be used for these kinds of applications. But you can use SafeGraph Places data for all of these things and more.
Places APIs are repositories from which applications can get locations of – and information on – various points of interest. But with how they’re built, it doesn’t always give the most relevant information for certain use cases. And with how they operate, their usage is often restricted, and they can rack up numerous transactions just to access the data – which can cost your organization a small fortune in fees.
In contrast, SafeGraph’s Places data is available for a flat negotiated price depending on what specific data your organization needs. It can be delivered to common GIS or data platforms, or given to your business as a CSV file – it’s all there right from the start, without having to call an API every time. And once your organization has the data, it’s free to put that data to work for several more use cases than many Places APIs allow.
Get in touch with us today to get a demo of what our Places dataset can do for your organization.