The other day I got a link to an interesting post published by Uber, which has caught our attention here at Cybertec:
The idea behind geo-fencing is to provide information about an area to users. Somebody might want to find a taxi near a certain location, or somebody might simply want to order a Pizza from a nearby restaurant.

According to the blog post Uber has solved this problem using some hand-made GO code. Uber’s implementation: 95% <5ms.
Another Blog also had an eye on it:

Of course, to a team of PostgreSQL professionals, 5 ms is quite a lot so we tried to do better than that.

Beating Uber’s geo-fencing query? Here is how it works!

The first thing we need to compete is some test data. Some nice data can be found here:

Then the data can be loaded with psql nicely:

\set content `cat nyc_census_2010_tracts.geojson`

CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE geojson (data jsonb);
INSERT INTO geojson VALUES (:'content');

CREATE TABLE census_tracts (
    id          serial   primary key,
    ntaname     text,
    boroname    text,
    shape       geometry);

INSERT INTO census_tracts (ntaname, boroname, shape) SELECT
FROM geojson, LATERAL jsonb_array_elements(data->'features') geom;

The data can already be queried. The following query does what Uber tries to achieve:


            FROM            census_tracts

            WHERE          ST_Contains(shape, ST_Point(-73.9590, 40.7830));

However, to be fair:
The sample set is not big enough yet. To increase the amount of data roughly to the size of Uber’s database, the following SQL can do the job:

CREATE TABLE tracts_100k (LIKE census_tracts INCLUDING ALL);

INSERT INTO tracts_100k (ntaname, boroname, shape)
            SELECT ntaname || ' ' || offs::text, boroname || ' ' || offs::text,
                        ST_Translate(shape, offs, 0)
            FROM census_tracts,
                        LATERAL generate_series(0,360,360/50) offs;

Checking latency

After applying some nice indexing we can already see, how well our query behaves:



            client      int,         
            tx_no       int,
            time        int, 
            file_no     int, 
            time_epoch  int, 
            time_us     int
SERVER files
OPTIONS (filename '/home/user/code/gis-build/gofence-profiling/nyc/pgbench_log.7665',
            format 'text', delimiter ' ');

SELECT percentile_disc(ARRAY[0.5,0.95,0.99])
                        WITHIN GROUP (ORDER BY ROUND(time/1000.,3)) latency_ms
FROM  geobench;

The results are very promising. Our version of the geo-fencing query is around 40 times faster than the Uber one. Clearly, Uber should consider using PostgreSQL instead of custom code. Given the fact that we invested around 30 minutes to get this done, even developing the business logic is faster with PostgreSQL.

Photo (c) Uber