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GeoDNA - Encode latitude and longitude in a useful string format


require 'geodna'

geo = GeoDNA.encode( -41.288889, 174.777222, { :precision => 22 } )
puts geo

coords = GeoDNA.decode( geo )
puts coords
[ -41.288889, 174.777222 ]

or using an OO-style API

require 'geodna'

geo = -41.288889, 174.777222, { :precision => 22 } )
puts geo

coords = geo.coordinates
puts coords
[ -41.288889, 174.777222 ]




  • Simple API

Generally you just convert coordinates back and forth with simple function calls. There's an OO-style API too if you want to use it; it simply wraps the procedural API.

  • Fast

It's just basic space partitioning, really.


See the website for more information:

NEW: see an interactive demo of GeoDNA codes at

This is a Ruby version of the Python "geoprint" system that we developed a few years back at Action Without Borders.

Its purpose is to encode a latitude/longitude pair in a string format that can be used in text databases to locate items by proximity. For example, if Wellington, New Zealand has the GeoDNA(10) value of


(which it does), then you can chop characters off the end of that to expand the area around Wellington. You can easily tell if items are close together because (for the most part) their GeoDNA will have the same prefix. For example, Palmerston North, New Zealand, has a GeoDNA(10) code of


which has the same initial 7 characters.

The original implementation of this in Python was by Michel Pelletier.

This uses a concept that is very similar to Gustavo Niemeyer's geohash system ( ), but encodes the latitude and longitude in a way that is more conducive to stem-based searching (which is probably the a common use of these hashing systems).



You can represent a point on the surface of the earth using the GeoDNA::Point class. You can create an instance using either latitude and longitude:

point = latitude, longitude, options )

or using a GeoDNA code

point = code )

There is nothing internally different about points created using the two different constructors.



coordinates = point.coordinates

Returns [ latitude, longitude ] of the point.


new_point = point.add_vector( dy, dx )

Returns a new point object representing the original point with the deltas added. The deltas are always in degrees, and latitude comes first (which is the north-south axis, remember).


neighbours = point.neighbours

Returns an array of GeoDNA::Point objects representing the eight neighbouring GeoDNA codes of equal size.


distance = point.distance_in_km( code or point )

Returns the distance in km to the point represented by code.

neighbours_within_radius, reduced_neighbours_within_radius

neighbours = point.neighbours_within_radius( radius )
reduced    = point.reduced_neighbours_within_radius( radius )

These return the GeoDNA::Point objects representing all the GeoDNA codes within a radius of a given point. The results from neighbours_within_radius will all be of the same size as the given GeoDNA::Point. The results from reduced_neighbours_within_radius will be of any size greater than or equal to the size of the original point. If you wish to calculate all the GeoDNA codes within a given radius for the purpose of searching, you need to call the reduced_neighbours_within_radius method to get a minimal covering set of all GeoDNA codes, and then use those to perform your search.



code = GeoDNA.encode( latitude, longitude, options);

Returns a GeoDNA code (which is a string) for latitude, longitude. Possible options are:

  • radians => true/false

A true value means the latitude and longitude are in radians.

  • precision => Integer (defaults to 22)

number of characters in the GeoDNA code. Note that any more than 22 chars and you're kinda splitting hairs.


coordinates = GeoDNA.decode( code, options )

Returns the latitude and longitude encoded within a Geo::DNA code.

  • radians => true/false

If true, the values returned will be in radians.


neighbours = GeoDNA.neighbours( code );

Returns an array of the 8 GeoDNA codes representing boxes of equal size around the one represented by $code. This is very useful for proximity searching, because you can generate these GeoDNA codes, and then using only textual searching (eg. a SQL "LIKE" operator), you can locate any items within any of those boxes.

The precision (ie. string length) of the GeoDNA codes will be the same as code.


neighbours = GeoDNA.neighbours_within_radius( code, radius, options );

Returns a raw list of GeoDNA codes of a certain size contained within the radius (specified in kilometres) about the point represented by a code.

The size of the returned codes will either be specified in options, or will be the default (12).

  • precision => N If this is present, the returned GeoDNA codes will have this size.


neighbours = GeoDNA.reduce( neighbours )

Given an array of GeoDNA codes of arbitrary size (eg. as returned by the "neighbours_within_radius" function), this will return the minimal set of GeoDNA codes (of any sizes) that exactly cover the same area. This is important because it can massively reduce the number of comparisons you have to do in order to perform stem-matching, and more crucially, if you don't reduce the list, you can't perform stem matching.


box = GeoDNA.bounding_box( code );

This returns an array containing two arrays:

[ [ minimum latitude,  maximum latitude  ],
  [ minimum longitude, maximum longitude ],


  • Add conveniences to help you with prefix-based searching

At present you have to understand how this geometry works fairly well in order to get the most out of this module.

  • Bulletproofing

It's not particularly well-tested. And there is the boundary-problem in that two very close-by locations can have radically different GeoDNA codes if they are on different sides of a partition. This is not a problem if you use the neighbouring GeoDNA codes of your reference point to do proximity searching, but if you don't know how to do that, it will make life hard for you.


Please report bugs relevant to GeoDNA to info[at]


The github repository is at git://


Some other stuff.


Kyle Dawkins, info[at]


Copyright 2012 by Kyle Dawkins

This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Ruby itself.


Ruby port of GeoDNA library.



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