Geospatial data can be used in many different contexts. More and more, businesses and other organizations are finding creative ways to put it to work. One of the most basic types of geospatial data is point of interest (or POI) data, which provides details about physical places on Earth. Beyond mapping the Earth’s surface, POI data is being used in real estate, retail, finance, urban planning, and more to analyze growing neighborhoods and decide where to place facilities or which ventures to invest in.
But data-based work is often only as good as the quality of data that you start with. So how do you know if the POI data you’re getting from a provider is reliable? We’ll answer that question via the following sections:
First, we’ll discuss how to know if a POI data provider is going to supply you with quality data.
Not all data is created equal, and so not all geospatial data providers are equal either. To decide which company your business should source POI data from, there are a number of key questions surrounding data quality that your organization should ask:
Some other, more specific, data quality considerations your organization should think about include the following:
Data relevance is related to the question of why your business wants data and what it intends to use that data for. Before looking for data sources, your company should clearly define the questions it wants answered and the objectives it hopes to achieve via data. This makes it easier for your organization to narrow down which kinds of data will be useful, and which kinds will simply take up space and add noise.
The universe is changing all the time. That’s why a dataset’s age is often linked to its accuracy: the more time that has passed since the dataset was created or updated, the more likely it is that the data refers to states of reality that are no longer true. This could be as simple as a business changing its phone number or email address.
To compensate for this, SafeGraph reviews and updates its geospatial data every month. This gives our clients a more frequent data refresh cadence than most competitors, so they can have accurate data sooner and more often.
Data needs both volume and comprehensiveness to be useful. If a dataset doesn’t contain many records, then it’s not giving you information about very many items. Likewise, if records don’t have the appropriate details filled in, then you are missing out on important context for the data you do have.
SafeGraph’s POI dataset, Places, contains information on over 40 million points of interest. Not only that, it also contains some of the highest attribute fill rates in the industry for nearly 40 attributes. As an illustration, check out this visualization of our global POI data coverage by country.
Not all data providers allow their data to be used in the same way. Some specify that their data must only be used for an organization’s internal projects. Others allow their data to be used in a consumer-facing capacity, but only in very specific applications. So even if your company finds a POI provider with an abundance of quality data, that data may still not be very useful if there are too many restrictions on how it can be used.
POI data is typically organized into one or more tables. The rows in the table denote the number of different points of interest that the dataset covers. The columns, on the other hand, represent attributes: types of information that give additional context to the points of interest being covered.
As we mentioned, quality POI data will have a mix of both. On one hand, just listing a bunch of points of interest isn’t very helpful if there isn’t any supporting information that explains more about each place. On the other hand, complete in-depth details may not be all that useful if they only reference a small number of places.
Here are some common types of attributes that POI data distributors should have in their datasets:
Now that we’ve gone over some of the things you should seek out in POI data providers, where does your organization start looking? To give you a head start, here are 7 of the top distributors of point of interest data. We’ll tell you a bit about each one, including their strengths and weaknesses.
Best for: High-accuracy and frequently-refreshed POI data, including building footprint polygons
SafeGraph is one of the leading providers of geospatial data because it’s all we focus on. We have accurate data on over 40 million points of interest around the world, with some of the highest fill rates for nearly 40 attributes. In addition, nearly half of our POIs have the added precision of polygon-based building footprints and spatial hierarchy metadata. Our datasets are updated monthly, so your organization gets information that stays fresh.
Best for: Global POI coverage reinforced through first-party app verification
Foursquare has a unique way of updating and reinforcing its global POI data: its consumer-facing applications, Foursquare City Guide and Swarm. These apps allow users to “check in” at points of interest, and in doing so, contribute additions or corrections to Foursquare’s data. Of course, this is a voluntary process, so it doesn’t always result in increased precision or completeness in Foursquare’s datasets. Foursquare’s POI data also isn’t backed by polygon-based building footprints.
Best for: Coverage of many different types of POIs worldwide
Precisely is known more for its data management tools, but it has a portfolio of geospatial data as well. Its POI data has a pretty granular classification system, and is easy to combine with Precisely’s other geospatial datasets as well due to the PreciselyID standard of identifying locations. However, because of the way this standard works, Precisely’s POI data is somewhat prone to having duplicate entries. And despite having polygon-based building footprints to show exactly where POIs are, Precisely doesn’t have spatial hierarchy metadata to denote when certain distinct places are inside or a part of a larger place (e.g. a store inside a mall). Lastly, Precisely’s geospatial data is rather expensive.
Best for: Data on a very high number of POIs worldwide that’s easy to search and filter
HERE has a high volume of global POI data – over 120 million points of interest in over 100 countries and territories. But what makes it stand out is the number of options it has for searching, filtering, and sorting that data. For instance, it can find electric vehicle charging stations, a restaurant that serves a specific type of cuisine, or even a place along a planned travel route. The completeness of HERE’s POI data is somewhat lacking, though, as the company is focused more on navigation solutions than place information. The data can also get somewhat expensive to use if your organization goes beyond the free offerings.
Best for: Very wide global coverage of POIs with lots of descriptive attributes, fairly priced
Considered one of the pioneer companies of commercial GPS equipment, TomTom naturally has a database on points of interest. The database has global coverage and a wide array of well-documented descriptive attributes, all at reasonable prices. TomTom’s POI data only has limited completeness, though, as – like with HERE – TomTom’s focus is more on mapping and navigation tools than it is on data about specific points of interest. Another weakness in the data is that the latitude and longitude coordinates of places are based on street addresses, not the centroids of the actual buildings.
Best for: Comprehensive global POI coverage, including imagery and social sentiment
While it became world-famous because of its web search engine, Google has compiled a vast library of global geospatial data as well. Its Places API is regarded as one of the most complete collections of POI data in the world, including streetside imagery and traveler feedback. However, this data is only available through the API, and there are very strict terms on its use. It is also one of the most expensive options on the market.
Best for: Free geospatial data, if you have the coding and legal know-how to access and use it
OpenStreetMap is likely the most well-known open-source global geospatial database. It has become a popular source for POI data because it does not charge a licensing fee for use of its data. However, OSM’s licensing and non-standardized data formats can make the data somewhat complicated to collect and use. Also, because the data is contributed mainly by a small non-profit (the OpenStreetMap Foundation) and volunteers at non-routine times, its accuracy and consistency can be questionable.
The best providers of POI data have datasets that:
SafeGraph’s Places dataset checks all of those boxes. It contains over 40 million records, with accuracy backed by over 15 million polygon building footprints and high fill rates for over 40 attributes. We update Places monthly so your business gets newer and more precise data more often. And we deliver the exact data your company needs via CSV file, or through common GIS or data management software (Snowflake, Amazon S3, Databricks Delta Sharing, CARTO) so you’re ready to hit the ground running with it.