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Publication numberUS20050137994 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/036,057
Publication dateJun 23, 2005
Filing dateJan 18, 2005
Priority dateJun 5, 2000
Also published asUS6868410, US20020188581
Publication number036057, 11036057, US 2005/0137994 A1, US 2005/137994 A1, US 20050137994 A1, US 20050137994A1, US 2005137994 A1, US 2005137994A1, US-A1-20050137994, US-A1-2005137994, US2005/0137994A1, US2005/137994A1, US20050137994 A1, US20050137994A1, US2005137994 A1, US2005137994A1
InventorsStephen Fortin, Scott Petronis, Arthur Berrill, Justinian Barota, Brian Allen, George Moon
Original AssigneeFortin Stephen E., Scott Petronis, Berrill Arthur R., Justinian Barota, Allen Brian R., George Moon
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
High-performance location management platform
US 20050137994 A1
Abstract
An apparatus and method for rapid translation of geographic latitude and longitude into any of a number of application-specific location designations or location classifications, including street address, nearest intersection, PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) zone, telephone rate zone, franchise zone, or other geographic, administrative, governmental or commercial division of territory. The speed of translation meets call-setup requirements for call-processing applications such as PSAP determination, and meets caller response expectations for caller queries such as the location of the nearest commercial establishment of a given type. To complete its translation process in a timely manner, a memory-stored spatial database is used to eliminate mass-storage accesses during operation, a spatial indexing scheme such as an R-tree over the spatial database is used to locate a caller within a specific rectangular area, and an optimized set of point-in-polygon algorithms is used to narrow the caller's location to a specific zone identified in the database. Additional validation processing is supplied to verify intersections or street addresses returned for a given latitude and longitude. Automatic conversion of latitude-longitude into coordinates in different map projection systems is provided. The memory-stored database is built in a compact and optimized form from a relational spatial database as required. The R-tree spatial indexing of the memory-stored database allows for substantially unlimited scalability of database size without degradation of response time. Maximum performance for database retrievals is assured by isolating the retrieval process from all updating and maintenance processes. Hot update of the in-memory database is provided without degradation of response time.
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Claims(2)
1. An apparatus to determine, within an acceptable time of setup of a wireless telephone call, a classification of a geographic point, comprising:
a computer system in turn comprising one or more mass storage subsystems, one or more main memory subsystems, one or more interconnected processors, and one or more connections to a telephone network;
a first database stored in one or more of the mass storage subsystems and containing a set of all classifications used, wherein each member of the set identifies a distinct classification of a geographical area and its geographical boundaries;
a second database stored in one or more of the main memory subsystems and containing all information from the first database necessary to determine the classification of a geographic point using the geographic point's coordinates;
a retrieval program, operating within one or more of the processors, whereby the geographic point's classification is found within the second database and retrieved for use.
2-84. (canceled)
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/209,460, filed Jun. 5, 2000 (Attorney Docket No. 87711.104700) and U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/270,919, filed Feb. 22, 2001 (Attorney Docket No. 87711.128400).

FIELD OF INVENTION

This invention relates generally to real-time systems for location determination, and more specifically to real-time telephony systems for location and zone determination.

DEFINITIONS

Geocoding, also called “forward geocoding”, is the assignment of a geographic latitude and longitude or other geographic coordinates to an identified location, zone, or address.

“Reverse geocoding” is the determination of an identifier for a location, zone, or address using a geographic latitude and longitude or other geographic coordinates.

“Point-in-polygon processing” refers to the execution of software to determine whether or not a given point lies within the boundary, on the boundary, or outside of a given closed polygon.

“Polygon-in-polygon processing” refers to the execution of software to determine whether or not a given closed polygon: 1) lies within the boundary of a second given closed polygon, 2) lies outside of the second given closed polygon, 3) overlaps the second given closed polygon. Subcases exist when the two polygons are in contact at points or along edges.

  • CBB—Campus-Based Billing
  • GLSB—Geographic Location Services Broker
  • HLR—Home Location Register
  • LBB—Location-Based Billing
  • LMP—Location Management Platform
  • MBR—Minimum Bounding Rectangle
  • MER—Minimum Enclosing Rectangle (synonym for MBR)
  • MPC—Mobile Positioning Center
  • MSC—Mobile Switching Center
  • PDE—Position Detection Equipment
  • PSAP—Public Safety Answering Point
  • SCP—Service Control Point
  • VLR—Visitor Location Register
DISCUSSION OF PRIOR ART

The operation of wireless communication systems entails the translation of latitude and longitude information (“lat-long”) into specific physical, geographic, and administrative terms. In a first example, telephone calls must be billed according to the caller's location or zone. Such a location or zone must be quickly and accurately determined from a lat-long during call setup or closure. In a second example, wireless callers may need to know what landmark is near them, for purposes of navigation. In these and other applications, the process of mapping a given lat-long to some division of territory or some known landmark must be done quickly, accurately, and at relatively low cost.

While the problem appears straightforward, a simple database system for determining a landmark or zone from a latitude and longitude can turn out to be very large and slow in response. The granularity of the map is a major factor in sizing such a database. The U.S. federally-mandated E911 initiative will require location resolution to approximately 100 meters. If the provider of services wishes to determine a location on a continent to within 100 meters, a map of a 5000 by 5000 kilometer area would require the classification of 2.5 billion separate areas.

A second major factor in the database sizing is the irregularity of shape of the zones being used. Normally a zone is defined as a polygon, which requires the identification of all the vertices of the polygon. If a zone requires 100 vertices for its definition, each vertex must be stored in the database in some form as part of the zone. In the continental example, zones of about 10 by 10 kilometers would require listing about 25 million vertices.

Another critical problem is the determination of whether or not a given point lies within a given polygon on a map. This problem is soluble but computationally difficult, requiring significant time for a computed solution. The time required can exceed the time available during a call.

Underlying all of these problems are the general problems of availability, stability, and reliability of the system solving them. Any solution to the problems of database size and performance must meet stringent telephony system requirements in these areas.

Forward geocoding is the translation of a named address, location or zone into a latitude and longitude. Reverse geocoding is the opposite process. U.S. Pat. No. 5,991,739 (Cupps et al.) teaches the use of forward geocoding to determine an appropriate franchise zone in an Internet commerce application. U.S. Pat. No. 5,978,747 (Craport et al.), which also uses forward geocoding, uses polygon-in-polygon processing and a plurality measure to decide whether or not one region is inside another. U.S. Pat. No. 5,961,572 (Craport et al.), which also uses forward geocoding, uses point-in-polygon processing and a plurality measure to decide whether or not a point is inside a region. U.S. Pat. No. 5,796,634 (Craport et al.), which also uses forward geocoding, uses point-in-polygon processing and a plurality measure to decide whether or not a region associated with a point is inside another region. None of the Cupps and Craport patents address any requirement for response times consistent with telephone call processing. All of these patents teach the use of forward geocoding, that is, the translation of a given address or named location to a latitude and longitude or other coordinate system. None of them teach the use of reverse geocoding, which translates from latitude and longitude into a named address, location or zone. None of them provides any means of determining rapidly how a location's latitude and longitude translate to the everyday referents, such as geographic zones, landmarks, street addresses, road names or buildings, which people and automated processes use to convey different kinds of meaning.

To summarize, the problems faced in determining location or zone from a latitude and longitude require fast, accurate, inexpensive and reliable methods and equipment. Such solutions are not currently available.

SUMMARY

The invention accomplishes the rapid translation of geographic latitude and longitude into any of a number of application-specific location designations or location classifications. These designations and classifications include street address, nearest intersection, PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) zone, telephone rate zone, franchise zone, or other geographic, administrative, governmental or commercial division of territory. The speed of translation meets call-setup requirements for call-processing applications such as PSAP determination, and meets caller response expectations for caller queries such as the location of the nearest commercial establishment of a given type. To complete its translation process in a timely manner, the invention uses a memory-stored spatial database to eliminate mass-storage accesses during operations, a spatial indexing scheme such as an R-tree over the spatial database to locate a caller within a specific rectangular area, and an optimized set of point-in-polygon algorithms to narrow the caller's location to a specific zone identified in the database. Additional validation processing is supplied to verify intersections or street addresses returned for a given latitude and longitude. Automatic conversion of latitude-longitude into coordinates in different map projection systems is provided.

The invention's memory-stored database is built in a compact and optimized form from a persistent spatial database as required. The compact R-tree spatial indexing of the memory-stored database allows for substantially unlimited scalability of database size without degradation of response time. The invention insures maximum performance of its database retrievals by isolating the retrieval process from all updating and maintenance processes. Hot update of the in-memory database can be provided without degradation of response time.

DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows the determination of a franchise zone for a mobile telephone call.

FIG. 2 a shows the initial stage of location determination (GLSB) for a caller in a neighborhood.

FIG. 2 b shows the stage of street address reverse geocoding for a caller in a neighborhood.

FIG. 2 c shows the stage of street address forward geocoding for a caller in a neighborhood.

FIG. 3 a shows geographic areas, and a point to be located, in the nest of minimum enclosing rectangles (MERs) as defined in an R-tree index.

FIG. 3 b shows geographic areas, and a point to be located, in the lowest level of minimum enclosing rectangles (MERs) as defined in an R-tree index.

FIG. 3 c shows the structure of the R-tree index for the MERs and geographic areas in FIGS. 4 a and 4 b.

FIG. 4 a shows a detailed subset of the geographic areas in FIGS. 4 a and 4 b, and a point to be located among the areas using point-in-polygon processing.

FIG. 4 b shows an expanded and highlighted set of the geographic areas in FIG. 4 a, and a point to be located among them using point-in-polygon processing.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF INVENTION

Applications

The invention's applications are a suite of computer programs that operate as a Location Management Platform program, or LMP, in a wireless telephony system. The invention provides multiple services, including E911 service, location-based call billing, 411 franchise zone location, and GLSB, or the Geographic Location Services Broker, for determining accurate street addresses.

The E911 Application

The first application is E911, for emergency services. E911 service is mandated by the FCC to determine the caller's location and send out emergency services to that location. In Phase 1 of the mandate, the location must be specified in terms of the cell of origin, or in effect the area around the cell tower where the call originated. In Phase 2, the location must be specified within 250 feet.

When a caller makes an E911 call, one approach is to have the network communicate with the cellphone through three or more cell towers. Position determining equipment, or PDB, uses the inputs from the towers to triangulate to determine the originating position of the call. Some cellphones carry a global positioning system (GPS) unit inside the phone. Such phones use three or more satellites to triangulate the call's originating position. Often a combination of tower and GPS sources will be used to satisfy the E911 mandates. The PDE resolves its inputs into a location expressed as a latitude and longitude, or lat-long, for the call's originating point.

In a matter of milliseconds, the call is routed through several different components within the network. An HLR, or home location register, determines the caller's home telephone number. A VLR, or variable location register, processes roaming callers by assigning a temporary telephone number to the calling phone. An SCP, or service control point, manages call routing and billing. An MPC, or mobile positioning center, determines the originating position of the call.

The SCP communicates with the MPC to retrieve the position information and forward it to the E911 dispatcher. The invention is a module integrated with the MPC information, and is called a Location Management Platform, or LMP. During the interval of milliseconds allotted to call processing during call setup, the invention determines what public safety answering point, or PSAP, should be notified on the caller's behalf. The invention's ability to determine the correct PSAP within a few milliseconds makes the invention commercially and statutorily acceptable in support of the E911 application.

The LBB and CBB Applications

A second application is location-based billing, or LBB, for mobile telephone service. Using the same PDE inputs as for the E911 application, the invention determines the rate zone for the calling point. This allows cellular service providers to organize customized billing zones for its customers, such as a circle of ten-kilometer radius around a customer's home and another such circle around the same customer's place of work. Calls from within either area would be billable at a lower rate than calls from outside both areas.

The same method is usable for irregularly-shaped areas such as college campuses. In this context the application is called campus-based billing (CBB). Students on campus using the invention's capabilities can make calls on that campus with reduced rates. The sole difference between LBB/CBB and E911 is the use of telephone rate zones instead of PSAP areas. The response time requirement of less than one second still applies, since the rate determination is made as a part of call setup. In either case, the ability to offer location- and campus-based billing enhances the attractiveness and capabilities of a wireless or cellular phone service provider's offerings.

The 411 Application

A third application is the selection of franchise zones to assist a mobile caller. This application extends the 411 Directory Assistance application to select a specific commercial establishment for a caller without requiring the caller to contact Directory Assistance and receive inadequate information or no information at all. In this application, a commercial firm with franchise locations defines the zone of call dispatching for each franchise in an area. A call to a common number for that firm is then routed to a franchise based on the originating point of the call.

See FIG. 1 for an example. A coffee-shop chain such as Starbuck's might have a large shop franchise 401 on a major city street 450, and a smaller shop franchise 402 within a shopping mall 410 not far away. In this situation, the chain wishes to direct callers outside the mall to shop 401, and callers inside the mall to shop 402. The chain establishes a franchise zone 401 z for shop 401, and a franchise zone 402 z, nested inside zone 401 z, for shop 402. A caller specifies a general number for Starbuck's. If the caller is inside zone 401 z but outside zone 402 z, the invention routes the call to shop 401. If the caller is inside zone 402 z, the invention routes the call to shop 402. As before, the response time requirement of less than one second still applies, since the franchise selection is made as a part of call setup.

To summarize these three applications: the invention assumes a mobile call that includes positioning data such as latitude and longitude to give point or polygon coordinates for the call's point of origin. For the E911 and 411 applications, the invention enables connection of such a call to a service provider selected geographically for calls made from that point or polygon. The caller enters a general number, not the number of any one area, and then the invention and the call-handling equipment connect the caller to the number of the appropriate geographical service provider. For the LBB or CBB call, the caller's location serves to identify a rate class within which the call is to be billed. Using the invention's capabilities for call setup, many more such applications are possible.

The GLSB Application

The invention's fourth application, Geographic Location Services Brokering, or GLSB, provides a World Wide Web-related caller service instead of a call setup service. Many commercial establishments using the World Wide Web for commerce have no ready access to latitude and longitude data, and no convenient way to use it. Instead, they rely on a caller's use of address information to determine a ZIP code, a city block, or other location information useful to the Website. For a mobile caller, however, such address information is not available on a reliable basis.

When the mobile caller is equipped with a Web-enabled wireless phone, having the address nearest the phone itself is especially advantageous. The Web-enabled wireless phone can be used to access Websites, displaying information formatted to fit the phone's handheld display. A caller can access a hotel, restaurant, auto rental or other commercial Website, enter the phone's location on a Web page form displayed by the site, and transmit the caller's current address to the Website as data. The Website then looks up the provided address to determine which zone it falls in, and returns the location of the appropriate facility nearest to the caller, along with information concerning that facility. The invention provides this capability through the GLSB, in effect, enabling the wireless Web to operate with location information.

A simple example of the GLSB application is its use to determine a nearest address, access a hotel-chain Website, enter the nearest address on the hotel chain's form displayed by the Web browser, and get back the address of the nearest hotel from that chain, together with directions. The invention's contribution to this process is the furnishing of the street address nearest to the point of origin of the call.

The invention determines the nearest street address using the following process. First, the PDE passes the latitude and longitude to the invention. The invention uses the latitude and longitude to look up a set of zones in a spatial database containing address information. Each zone found contains a range of streets and street intersection coordinates for an area.

FIG. 2 a shows an example of a residential neighborhood, with caller location 550, streets 511, 512, 513, and houses 560 having house numbers 560 n between streets 514 and 515. Using point-in-polygon processing, the invention selects area 501 z containing caller location 550, and having vertex coordinates such as 501 p and 501 q. As shown in FIG. 2 b, the invention applies well-known coordinate geometry rules to determine the street 512 closest to the point of the call. Based on the distance of the point of the call from the two nearest street intersections of the street selected, the invention retrieves the coordinates of the two intersections. The invention assumes linear distribution of addresses 521 and 522 for the left and right sides of the street respectively, selects the right or left set based on the single-axis nearness of location 550 to reference points 501 p and 501 q, and interpolates a candidate street address 561 c for the caller's location. This completes the reverse geocoding step: determining a trial street address from a latitude and longitude. FIG. 2 b shows that the candidate building number 1215 was selected.

To validate the candidate address, the invention then uses the spatial database's address information to try to find the address calculated. See FIG. 2 c. The spatial database does not contain latitudes and longitudes for all addresses, so an estimation process must be used. If the candidate address is found exactly as estimated, the invention furnishes the address to the caller for use with the Web features of the phone. In the example, the candidate address was not found. In this case, the invention compares the candidate address to all addresses retrieved from the database to try to find the closest match. In this case, the nearest actual building number to 1215 is found at building 561 n. The building number there is 1217, and the invention selects for the address location of the caller.

The invention adjusts house or building numbers to match most closely what exists on the street, adds directionals if appropriate, and corrects spelling of the street name. The resulting address is then furnished to the caller for use with the Web features of the phone. In effect, the invention has reverse-geocoded the supplied latitude and longitude to get a candidate address, and then forward-geocoded an actual address to develop a match for the caller.

With its multiple accesses to the database, the GLSB application is designed to complete its processing and return results to the caller within several seconds of receiving the request for address determination. This matches well the level of expected Web browser response time, and is therefore within reasonable caller expectation.

An alternative embodiment of the GLSB application makes the address determination whenever the caller requests an address form fill-in on a Web phone, and posts the address information directly into the browser form. The advent of XML, the extended markup language now in wide use on the World Wide Web, facilitates such automatic transfers of data.

Additional embodiments of the GLSB application embed the entire process of interpreting and forwarding location information in the underlying protocols of the wireless phone system. Under both IS-41 and GSM standards, current wireless systems continually exchange information between phone and cell tower concerning the phone's location, primarily so that a mobile station can determine when it has crossed from one registration area to another, and change its registration. This process is event-driven, by the receipt of a new serving MSC (Mobile Switching Center) identifier by the mobile station. In the additional embodiments, the mobile station is enhanced to poll the LMP periodically to obtain interpreted location information as described for GLSB. The interpreted location information is then passed to the active MSC for use and distribution. The incorporation of already-interpreted location information in this continual process makes the Web-enabled wireless phone a tool for unprecedented access to services and connections with other Web users.

Here is an example of such an embodiment. A commercial firm maintains a security perimeter around a facility, with guards stationed at known points and moving along planned tours of watch. Using Web-based wireless phones, any guard or supervisor can maintain up-to-the-second awareness of the position and status of any other guard.

Following the same model, a social example enables a group engaged in a common search or exploration of an area to maintain constant contact without calls. This is especially useful in a search-and-rescue scenario, when individuals must fan out through a wide area to locate a victim or a desired object. It is also especially useful in forest fire-fighting, where team coordination often consumes the time and attention of fire fighters. The use of a Web-based system to identify continuously the whereabouts of all members of the team allows the front-line team members to devote all their attention to their work. A coordinator or dispatcher can use a wireless Web phone to locate each team member, call team members to direct movement, and direct resources accurately to members who urgently need them in isolated places. The use of a good geographic database in fighting a forest fire would allow a dispatcher, for example, to examine the phone's display, see the marks corresponding to individuals and teams of workers, and call a fire fighter to say, “There's a team on the ridge above you, about 50 yards straight up the incline. Work toward them.”

Performance

The speed of the invention arises out of its coordinated use of high-performance software and hardware techniques to convert the latitude and longitude sent by the PDE into the correct PSAP code, rate zone, or other classification. These techniques include the use of a high-performance spatial index, optimized point-in-polygon and polygon-in-polygon processing, a spatial database stored in high-speed computer memory, and the use of isolation levels in the database to prevent conflicts between fast database retrievals and processor-intensive database maintenance tasks.

The Spatial Index

The first technique is the use of a spatial database with a spatial index, to enable high-speed lookups of data based on latitude and longitude, and even elevation if provided. The spatial database is made up of an index tree and a set of leaf nodes on that tree which contain the data classified by the index. The index tree is in the form of an R-tree, well-known to those skilled in the art of spatial database software.

The R-tree is defined in the software literature. See R-Trees: A Dynamic Index Structure for Spatial Searching, by Antonin Guttman, published in ACM SIGMOD 1984. Briefly, the R-tree is a height-balanced index tree structure similar to a B-tree (also widely known in software literature), made up of index nodes and leaf nodes. Index records are grouped in the nodes of the tree. Each node in the R-tree contains a set of from 2 to 50 index records. In the R-tree's index nodes, each index record contains two coordinate pairs representing opposite corners of what is called a Minimum Enclosing Rectangle, or MER, for a geographic area. The MER is the smallest rectangle, aligned with the coordinate system used in the index, which will enclose (circumscribe) a given geographic area. The geographic area identified in an index entry of the R-tree is the MER containing all of the MERs in the nodes below that node. In the R-tree's leaf nodes, each index record contains a pointer to a polygon definition of a known geographic area such as a ZIP code or an area code.

R-trees are not restricted to two-dimensional spatial definitions. Through the use of three-dimensional coordinates in each index entry, an R-tree may define a minimum enclosing rectangular parallelepiped, defining the limits of a three-dimensional form. This concept generalizes to N dimensions. Consequently the invention's R-tree may optionally store limited geographic elevation data to discriminate between calls originating at different elevations at the same latitude and longitude. An example of such a call would originate in a high-rise building. Assuming that the PDE can provide the necessary coordinates, the invention can return elevation (or floor) data as well as zone or geographic location.

The advantages of R-trees are well-known in the art. Given a pair of coordinates, such as latitude and longitude, an R-tree can return a set of candidate geographic areas with very few probes of the index. Since the invention's index is stored in main memory, the cost of each such probe is on the order of microseconds. This cost does not contribute significantly to the invention's response time delay.

The spatial database index may also take a form derived from the R-tree, such as an R+ tree, an R* tree, a Hilbert R-tree, or an X-tree, all of which represent variations on the basic R-tree structure. The R-tree's characteristics are sufficient for definition of the invention, but different embodiments of the invention may use any similar index forms such as one or more of those listed above. Each method has its own advantages, which can be applied as appropriate. R+ trees offer reduced overlap of minimum enclosing rectangles. R* (R-star) trees offer improved storage (memory) utilization and robustness in processing poor data distributions. Hilbert R-trees offer further improved storage (memory) utilization. X-trees offer improved performance in processing higher-dimensional data. The following references detail the differences among these forms:

Guttman A.: ‘R-trees: A Dynamic Index Structure for Spatial Searching’, Proc. ACM SIGMOD Int. Conf. on Management of Data, Boston, Mass., 1984, pp. 47-57; Sellis T., Roussopoulos N., Faloutsos C.: ‘The R+-Tree: A Dynamic Index for Multi-Dimensional ‘Objects’, Proc. 13th Int. Conf. on Very Large Databases, Brighton, England, 1987, pp 507-518; C. Faloutsos and S. Roseman: ‘Fractals for secondary key retrieval.’ Eighth ACM SIGACT-SIGMOD-SIGART Symposium on Principles of Database Systems (PODS), pages 247-252, March 1989; N. Beckmann, H. -P. Kriegel, R. Schneider, and B. Seeger: ‘The r*-tree: an efficient and robust access method for points and rectangles.’ ACM SIGMOD, pages 322-331, May 1990; Ibrahim Kamel and Christos Faloutsos: ‘Hilbert r-tree: an improved r-tree using fractals’ pp 500-509, Proc. 20th Int. Conf. on Very Large Databases, Santiago, Chile, 1994; and Stefan Berchtold, Daniel A. Keim, and Hans-Peter Krieger: ‘The X-tree: An Index Structure for High-Dimensional Data’ Proc. 22nd Int. Conf. on Very Large Databases, Brighton, England, 1996, pp 406-415.

To give an overview of the spatial indexing process with an R-tree, the input area's MER is determined at the outset. Then the incoming area's MER is compared to the MERs in the index, and a set of candidate geographic areas are found wherever the input MER overlaps with an MER in the index. Comparing one MER to another is a simple set of numeric operations on the four corners of each MER. If there is no overlap, then there is no possible crossing, and the invention immediately returns a negative result. If there is overlap of the incoming MER and a database MER, the algorithm checks the overlapping area to see if it is smaller than either of the MERs involved. If the overlapped area is smaller, the algorithm restricts the area of analysis to the overlapped area only. Next, the invention's point-in-polygon or polygon-in-polygon processing determines the relationship between the actual incoming area and the relevant portions of the geographic areas defined in the spatial database. If an intersection with a contour from the database does fall between adjacent points defined for the input, then a crossing has been found, and the input area overlaps with the area found in the database.

Here is a detailed example of R-tree spatial index processing. See FIG. 3 a, which is adapted from the original Guttman paper. The minimum enclosing rectangles are shown as rectangles which overlap and nest within each other. The geographic zones are shown as the irregular polygonal shapes inside the lowest-level rectangles. The root record of the R-tree index contains the largest MERs 201 and 202, each one containing a set of smaller MERs. MER 201 contains MERs 211, 212 and 213. MER 202 contains MERs 214 and 215. In turn, MER 211 contains MERs 221, 222 and 223, each of which contains only a geographic zone. MERs 224, 225, 226, 227, 228, 229, 230, 301, 302, and 303 also contain only geographic zones. A single area may have separate parts, as in MER 230.

In FIG. 3 a, a point 310 is shown as the input point for which the geographic zone is to be found. To determine the geographic zone for point 310, the lookup process begins at the root of the R-tree with MERs 201 and 202. By comparing the coordinates for points 201 p and 201 q to those for point 310, the process determines that point 310 is within MER 201. Likewise, by comparing the coordinates for points 202 p and 202 q to those for point 310, the process determines that point 310 is within MER 202 as well. The process then descends to the next level of the index tree, in which all MERs within the MER 201 branch and all MERs within the MER 202 branch are stored. Checking MERs in these two branches of the index tree results in finding that point 310 appears only in MER 212. The process then descends to the next level of the index tree to retrieve only the MERs in MER 212, namely MERs 224, 301, 302 and 303. Point 310 is found to be within all four. Since all of these MERs contain only geographical areas defined as polygons, the process shifts from the index selection and retrieval to the point-in-polygon determination.

In an alternative view of the process, FIG. 3 c diagrams the descent from the root node 51 of the R-tree 50. Note that nodes 53, 54, 56, 57, and 58 are not accessed, and no areas are accessed from the leaf nodes except for areas 224 a, 301 a, 302 a, and 303 a.

The process illustrated is for far fewer nodes overall than any real case. In a real situation, root node 51 would have up to 50 nodes directly beneath it, and the same would hold true for each node at subsequent lower levels of the tree. Even with tens of thousands of nodes, the descent of such a “bushy” tree would normally require very few MER comparisons. If it is assumed that each node contains 30 MERs, only one or two nodes on each level of the index tree would be accessed. An R-tree index supporting a seven-million-polygon spatial database with 30 MERs per node would require five levels of index, so that in general the MERs in about ten nodes would require comparison with the input point.

The advantages of the R-tree become even more evident once the MER screening has eliminated most of the database's geographical areas from the screening process. So far, the example process has required only rapid point-MER comparisons for MERs 201, 202, 211, 212, 213, 214, and 215. Lengthier point-in-polygon processing is required only for geographic areas 224 a, 301 a, 302 a, and 303 a within MER 212. See FIG. 3 b, which shows the same areas as in FIG. 3 a, with the higher-level MERs removed, and the geographic areas identified. The R-tree's leaf nodes contain the detailed polygon data for shapes within the MERs. In a real-world database, only a handful of geographic areas would require point-in-polygon processing, just as in the example.

Point-in-Polygon and Polygon-in-Polygon Processing

The second technique used to make the invention work faster is optimized point-in-polygon or polygon-in-polygon processing. This processing determines the relationship between an incoming latitude and longitude or area, and one or more specific, defined, geographic areas in the spatial database. In the polygon-in-polygon case, the input is not a single point, but an area, defined as a polygon of points.

For the point-in-polygon processing, see FIG. 4 a. The method used by the invention is an application of Jordan's Theorem, which states that a closed contour in a Euclidean plane divides the plane into two separate areas (call them an “outside” and an “inside”). A point can be determined to be inside or outside of a closed contour by 1) extending a line (ray) straight out from the point past the outermost reach of the contour, 2) counting the crossings the extending line makes with the contour, 3) calling all points with an odd number of such crossings “inside” the contour, and 4) calling all points with an even number of such crossings “outside” the contour. In the present example, point 310 is in the MER box 301 for area 301 a. Extend a horizontal line 320 from point 310 to either left or right. Define box Bp, essentially a narrow neighborhood to either side of the horizontal line 320, to restrict the number of points of the area contour which must be compared versus line 320. Box Bp defines edge segments Ip1A, Ip1B, Ip2A, Ip2B, and Ip2C, each containing a small number of polygon points for the areas in question. To find whether point 310 is inside or outside area 301 a, count intersections 311, 312 of line 320 with the edge segments Ip1A and Ip1B of area 301 a, going to the left only. Counting stops once the edge of MER 301 has been passed (clearly, no further points of area 301 a can exist beyond this point). If the count is even, point 310 is outside area 301 a. If the count is odd, point 310 is inside area 301 a. Here the count is even, so point 310 is outside area 301 a.

With area 303 a, Ip2A doesn't intersect both sides of box Bp, so it is not counted as crossing line 320. Ip2B and Ip2C do intersect line 320, giving an even value (2) for the intersection count, and therefore showing point 310 to be outside area 303 a. With area 302 a, Ip1B and Ip2B both intersect with line 320, and Ip2A is again ignored, but only one direction (left or right) is considered from point 310. Whether the direction chosen is left or right, the count proves to be 1 (odd), showing that point 310 is inside area 302 a.

Area 224 a, which is too large to include in FIG. 4 a, is also listed under MER 224, which is in MER 212. See FIG. 4 b, which shows the four areas, 301, 302, 303 and 224, all of which require point-in-polygon analysis for point 310. By the same process as for areas 301, 302, and 303, point 310 is shown to be outside area 224 a.

Note that there is no need to extend line 320 beyond the candidate MERs in either direction. This treatment, as it operates in the invention, covers both point-in-polygon and polygon-in-polygon, and treats all boundary cases correctly. Special cases, such as how to define a crossing when a ray touches a contour in one point that may be a vertex or a point of tangency, require some additional processing, but do not substantially change the impact of the method used. Boundary points are special cases, each requiring definition of rules to ensure consistent behavior of the algorithm. The processing performed is topologically correct.

The polygon-in-polygon case treats adjacent points from the input polygon one by one, and uses point-in-polygon processing to determine whether the adjacent points are both inside, both outside, or straddling the contour of the area being compared to the input.

The Memory-Stored Database

The third technique used in the invention for fast response times is the storage and management of the entire spatial index in high-speed memory, to remove all mass storage access overhead from the lookup process. The spatial database itself is stored on mass storage devices as a relational (and spatial) database, using a commercial database management system (DBMS). The direct use of a commercial DBMS presents two problems which the invention overcomes.

The first DBMS problem is access time. The spatial database is stored and maintained by the DBMS on disk-type mass storage. Retrieval of index and data records from mass storage is time-consuming, and requires constant attention to database tuning to insure the optimum access time. The invention solves this problem by the use of a transformation program which converts the disk-stored form of the database into a more compact, memory-stored form which requires no disk-access software operation. This form of the database is loaded onto a single system. From there it provides immediate memory access to all spatial index nodes and records, and to all spatial data required. Any and all network latency inherent in many DBMSs is eliminated. In this way the tens to hundreds of milliseconds required to retrieve one node shrink to tens to hundreds of microseconds, a thousandfold increase in speed.

The invention preserves and amplifies this speed advantage by implementing the processing of spatial predicates in its queries against the memory-stored data. Spatial predicates are language constructs designed for querying spatial databases to determine the relationships between geometric shapes. A typical set of spatial predicates in OpenGIS SQL are:

Equals(g1, g2) Returns a value of 1 for TRUE, 0 for FALSE, and −1 for
UNKNOWN. TRUE if g1 and g2 are equal.
Disjoint(g1, g2) Returns a value of 1 for TRUE, 0 for FALSE, and −1 for
UNKNOWN. TRUE if the intersection of g1 and g2 is empty.
Touches(g1, g2) Returns a value of 1 for TRUE, 0 for FALSE, and −1 for
UNKNOWN. TRUE if the only points in common between g1 and g2
lie in the union of the boundaries of g1 and g2.
Within(g1, g2) Returns a value of 1 for TRUE, 0 for FALSE, and −1 for
UNKNOWN. TRUE if g1 is completely contained in g2.
Overlaps(g1, g2) Returns a value of 1 for TRUE, 0 for FALSE, and −1 for
UNKNOWN. TRUE if the intersection of g1 and g2 results in
a value of the same dimension as g1 and g2 that is different
from both g1 and g2.
Crosses(g1, g2) Returns a value of 1 for TRUE, 0 for FALSE, and −1 for
UNKNOWN. TRUE if the intersection of g1 and g2 results in
a value whose dimension is less than the maximum dimension
of g1 and g2 and the intersection value includes points interior
to both g1 and g2, and the intersection value is not equal to
either g1 or g2.
Intersects(g1, Returns a value of 1 for TRUE, 0 for FALSE, and −1 for
g2) UNKNOWN. This is a convenience predicate: TRUE if the
intersection of g1 and g2 is not empty. Intersects(g1, g2) implies
Not (Disjoint(g1, g2))
Contains(g1, g2) Returns a value of 1 for TRUE, 0 for FALSE, and −1 for
UNKNOWN. This is a convenience predicate: TRUE if g2 is
completely contained in g1. Contains(g1, g2) implies
Within(g2, g1)

The second DBMS problem is the negative effect on retrieval performance which occurs whenever the database is undergoing extensive updating or backup. Even with the best of tuning, database maintenance consumes a major part of a system's processing resources. If retrievals for location determination happen to occur during database updating, they can suffer significant delays. The DBMS cure for this is to add more retrieval processing resources, which significantly increases the cost of the system. The invention avoids this problem by isolating the retrieval process to its own memory-stored form of the spatial database, while DBMS maintenance goes on in the disk-stored form of the database. The DBMS processing overhead for database maintenance is therefore isolated to parts of the system not involved in the online retrieval process.

The net result of these database improvements is sub-second response time for its queries during operation.

Database Isolation Levels

The fourth technique used in the invention to sustain fast response times is the use of isolation levels in the spatial database to allow high-speed retrieval of information from the spatial database to continue unaffected while sections of that database are undergoing updating. At intervals, the memory-stored form of the database must be updated. The invention accomplishes this without significant performance penalty on retrievals by 1) isolating a segment of the index tree with that segment's underlying data being updated, 2) creating a new version of just the updated portion of the tree and data, and 3) switching the retrievals to the new version of that portion at one time. The space used by the old version can then be freed for further use in updating. Since this can be done for subtrees of the database, the entire database need not be fully replicated in memory in both an old and a new version. In this manner the invention avoids penalizing the retrieval process during updating.

Scalability

Out of the combination of all these performance-related innovations, the invention derives an added major advantage in its architecture: it is scalable to support the use of any size of spatial database using latitude, longitude and limited elevation. The compaction of the spatial database into its index nodes and leaf nodes in memory strips out all DBMS-required overhead information. The use of MERs and R-tree design also reduce the incremental database space requirements dramatically. These factors allow the disk-stored DBMS level of the database to be nearly any size desired, while the growth rate of the memory-stored level remains relatively small. Only the information essential to the retrieval operation is stored in memory, in a compact form.

As the database size scales up, R-tree spatial indexing sustains high performance. Even when the database size requires the addition of a tier of index records, the memory-based traversal of the added tier of records adds very little cost to the overall access.

For example, see Table 1 below, titled R-Tree Space Calculations. These calculations show that a database of seven million two-dimensional geographical areas of a maximum size of 100 kilometers each, stored as 100-point polygons with an R-tree index, can be stored in full in about two gigabytes of memory. Simple, well-known compression techniques are applied in this estimate, and reduce the overall size significantly, thereby allowing the storage and retrieval of larger numbers of more-complex shapes in the same range of memory. Further use of compression, such as an assumed coordinate baseline on a smaller-than-global scale, can reduce the memory need still more. Main memory sizes in the 2-gigabyte range are easily configured in current computer systems.

TABLE 1
Index # of Index
Node Nodes at
R-Tree Space Calculations Level Level
Number of data recs (leaf nodes)   7000000 1 233334
Maximum index records per node     50 2  7778
Bytes per R-tree index MER*      8 3   260
Bytes per R-tree index pointer      8 4    9
Bytes per R-tree index node (ovhd)     16 5    0
Bytes per R-tree leaf node (ovhd)     16 6    0
Index node occupancy     60% 7    0
Mean polygon points per area     100 8    0
Overall area scale (km)     100 9    0
Total 241382
Index records per node     30
Bytes per R-tree index node     496
Number of index nodes   241382
Index node space  119725472  114.18 MB
Bytes per leaf node 269 (from compression calculations
in Table 2)
Leaf node space 1883000000 1795.77 MB
Total Database Space 2002725472 1909.95 MB
(Leaves and Index)

If multiple sets of zone and location information are required for the same geographic area, the invention's system can be “layered”, installing one system for each distinct class of areas and data content. For example, given a state or province, one system would contain the spatial data and index for PSAPs, and another system would contain the spatial data and index for rate zones and similar information. Such splitting allows wider system coverage than if all spatial index and data content of all types had to be stored in a single system.

Conclusions, Ramifications, and Scope of Invention

From the above descriptions, figures and narratives, the invention's advantages in supplying spatial area and location identifiers from latitude and longitude inputs should be clear. The invention is easily scalable to databases encompassing continental and global areas without significant impact on system architecture, and without significant degradation of response time. The use of memory-based spatial-index software technology takes advantage of the technology curve of growing memory sizes and capacities and increased memory speeds, thereby amplifying the invention's scalability and insuring its continued high performance. The isolation of the memory-stored database from its relational source database protects the performance of the invention while maintaining its flexibility in handling diverse sources of data and varying database management requirements.

Although the description, operation and illustrative material above contain many specificities, these specificities should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention but as merely providing illustrations and examples of some of the preferred embodiments of this invention.

Thus the scope of the invention should be determined by the appended claims and their legal equivalents, rather than by the examples given above.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification706/45, 706/20, 379/211.02
International ClassificationH04L29/08
Cooperative ClassificationY10S707/99944, G06F17/30241, H04L67/18, H04L67/16, H04L69/329
European ClassificationG06F17/30L, H04L29/08A7, H04L29/08N17, H04L29/08N15