In the previous post, we — creatively ;-) — used MobilityDB to visualize stationary IOT sensor measurements.

This post covers the more obvious use case of visualizing trajectories. Thus bringing together the MobilityDB trajectories created in Detecting close encounters using MobilityDB 1.0 and visualization using Temporal Controller.

Like in the previous post, the valueAtTimestamp function does the heavy lifting. This time, we also apply it to the geometry time series column called trip:

SELECT mmsi,
    valueAtTimestamp(trip, '2017-05-07 08:55:40') geom,
    valueAtTimestamp(SOG, '2017-05-07 08:55:40') SOG
FROM "public"."ships"

Using this SQL query, we again set up a — not yet Temporal Controller-controlled — QueryLayer.

To configure Temporal Controller to update the timestamp in our SQL query, we again need to run the Python script from the previous post.

With this done, we are all set up to animate and explore the movement patterns in our dataset:

This post is part of a series. Read more about movement data in GIS.

Today’s post presents an experiment in modelling a common scenario in many IOT setups: time series of measurements at stationary sensors. The key idea I want to explore is to use MobilityDB’s temporal data types, in particular the tfloat_inst and tfloat_seq for instances and sequences of temporal float values, respectively.

For info on how to set up MobilityDB, please check my previous post.

Setting up our DB tables

As a toy example, let’s create two IOT devices (in table iot_devices) with three measurements each (in table iot_measurements) and join them to create the tfloat_seq (in table iot_joined):

CREATE TABLE iot_devices (
    id integer,
    geom geometry(Point, 4326)

INSERT INTO iot_devices (id, geom) VALUES
(1, ST_SetSRID(ST_MakePoint(1,1), 4326)),
(2, ST_SetSRID(ST_MakePoint(2,3), 4326));

CREATE TABLE iot_measurements (
    device_id integer,
    t timestamp,
    measurement float

INSERT INTO iot_measurements (device_id, t, measurement) VALUES
(1, '2022-10-01 12:00:00', 5.0),
(1, '2022-10-01 12:01:00', 6.0),
(1, '2022-10-01 12:02:00', 10.0),
(2, '2022-10-01 12:00:00', 9.0),
(2, '2022-10-01 12:01:00', 6.0),
(2, '2022-10-01 12:02:00', 1.5);

CREATE TABLE iot_joined AS
        tfloat_inst(m.measurement, m.t) ORDER BY t
    )) measurements
FROM iot_devices dev 
JOIN iot_measurements m
  ON = m.device_id
GROUP BY, dev.geom;

We can load the resulting layer in QGIS but QGIS won’t be happy about the measurements column because it does not recognize its data type:

Query layer with valueAtTimestamp

Instead, what we can do is create a query layer that fetches the measurement value at a specific timestamp:

SELECT id, geom, 
    valueAtTimestamp(measurements, '2022-10-01 12:02:00') 
FROM iot_joined

Which gives us a layer that QGIS is happy with:

Time for TemporalController

Now the tricky question is: how can we wire our query layer to the Temporal Controller so that we can control the timestamp and animate the layer?

I don’t have a GUI solution yet but here’s a way to do it with PyQGIS: whenever the Temporal Controller signal updateTemporalRange is emitted, our update_query_layer function gets the current time frame start time and replaces the datetime in the query layer’s data source with the current time:

l = iface.activeLayer()
tc = iface.mapCanvas().temporalController()

def update_query_layer():
    tct = tc.dateTimeRangeForFrameNumber(tc.currentFrameNumber()).begin().toPyDateTime()
    s = l.source()
    new = re.sub(r"(\d{4})-(\d{2})-(\d{2}) (\d{2}):(\d{2}):(\d{2})", str(tct), s)
    l.setDataSource(new, l.sourceName(), l.dataProvider().name())


Future experiments will have to show how this approach performs on lager datasets but it’s exciting to see how MobilityDB’s temporal types may be visualized in QGIS without having to create tables/views that join a geometry to each and every individual measurement.

It’s been a while since we last talked about MobilityDB in 2019 and 2020. Since then, the project has come a long way. It joined OSGeo as a community project and formed a first PSC, including the project founders Mahmoud Sakr and Esteban Zimányi as well as Vicky Vergara (of pgRouting fame) and yours truly.

This post is a quick teaser tutorial from zero to computing closest points of approach (CPAs) between trajectories using MobilityDB.

Setting up MobilityDB with Docker

The easiest way to get started with MobilityDB is to use the ready-made Docker container provided by the project. I’m using Docker and WSL (Windows Subsystem Linux on Windows 10) here. Installing WLS/Docker is out of scope of this post. Please refer to the official documentation for your operating system.

Once Docker is ready, we can pull the official container and fire it up:

docker pull mobilitydb/mobilitydb
docker volume create mobilitydb_data
docker run --name "mobilitydb" -d -p 25432:5432 -v mobilitydb_data:/var/lib/postgresql mobilitydb/mobilitydb
psql -h localhost -p 25432 -d mobilitydb -U docker

Currently, the container provides PostGIS 3.2 and MobilityDB 1.0:

Loading movement data into MobilityDB

Once the container is running, we can already connect to it from QGIS. This is my preferred way to load data into MobilityDB because we can simply drag-and-drop any timestamped point layer into the database:

For this post, I’m using an AIS data sample in the region of Gothenburg, Sweden.

After loading this data into a new table called ais, it is necessary to remove duplicate and convert timestamps:

FROM ais;

ALTER TABLE AISInputFiltered ADD COLUMN t timestamp;
UPDATE AISInputFiltered SET t = "Timestamp"::timestamp;

Afterwards, we can create the MobilityDB trajectories:

tgeompoint_seq(array_agg(tgeompoint_inst(Geom, t) ORDER BY t)) AS Trip,
tfloat_seq(array_agg(tfloat_inst("SOG", t) ORDER BY t) FILTER (WHERE "SOG" IS NOT NULL) ) AS SOG,
tfloat_seq(array_agg(tfloat_inst("COG", t) ORDER BY t) FILTER (WHERE "COG" IS NOT NULL) ) AS COG
FROM AISInputFiltered

ALTER TABLE Ships ADD COLUMN Traj geometry;
UPDATE Ships SET Traj = trajectory(Trip);

Once this is done, we can load the resulting Ships layer and the trajectories will be loaded as lines:

Computing closest points of approach

To compute the closest point of approach between two moving objects, MobilityDB provides a shortestLine function. To be correct, this function computes the line connecting the nearest approach point between the two tgeompoint_seq. In addition, we can use the time-weighted average function twavg to compute representative average movement speeds and eliminate stationary or very slowly moving objects:

SELECT S1.MMSI mmsi1, S2.MMSI mmsi2, 
       shortestLine(S1.trip, S2.trip) Approach,
       ST_Length(shortestLine(S1.trip, S2.trip)) distance
FROM Ships S1, Ships S2
twavg(S1.SOG) > 1 AND twavg(S2.SOG) > 1 AND
dwithin(S1.trip, S2.trip, 0.003)

In the QGIS Browser panel, we can right-click the MobilityDB connection to bring up an SQL input using Execute SQL:

The resulting query layer shows where moving objects get close to each other:

To better see what’s going on, we’ll look at individual CPAs:

Having a closer look with the Temporal Controller

Since our filtered AIS layer has proper timestamps, we can animate it using the Temporal Controller. This enables us to replay the movement and see what was going on in a certain time frame.

I let the animation run and stopped it once I spotted a close encounter. Looking at the AIS points and the shortest line, we can see that MobilityDB computed the CPAs along the trajectories:

A more targeted way to investigate a specific CPA is to use the Temporal Controllers’ fixed temporal range mode to jump to a specific time frame. This is helpful if we already know the time frame we are interested in. For the CPA use case, this means that we can look up the timestamp of a nearby AIS position and set up the Temporal Controller accordingly:


I hope you enjoyed this quick dive into MobilityDB. For more details, including talks by the project founders, check out the project website.

This post is part of a series. Read more about movement data in GIS.

This is a guest post by Bommakanti Krishna Chaitanya @chaitan94


This post introduces mobilitydb-sqlalchemy, a tool I’m developing to make it easier for developers to use movement data in web applications. Many web developers use Object Relational Mappers such as SQLAlchemy to read/write Python objects from/to a database.

Mobilitydb-sqlalchemy integrates the moving objects database MobilityDB into SQLAlchemy and Flask. This is an important step towards dealing with trajectory data using appropriate spatiotemporal data structures rather than plain spatial points or polylines.

To make it even better, mobilitydb-sqlalchemy also supports MovingPandas. This makes it possible to write MovingPandas trajectory objects directly to MobilityDB.

For this post, I have made a demo application which you can find live at The code for this demo app is open source and available on GitHub. Feel free to explore both the demo app and code!

In the following sections, I will explain the most important parts of this demo app, to show how to use mobilitydb-sqlalchemy in your own webapp. If you want to reproduce this demo, you can clone the demo repository and do a “docker-compose up –build” as it automatically sets up this docker image for you along with running the backend and frontend. Just follow the instructions in for more details.

Declaring your models

For the demo, we used a very simple table – with just two columns – an id and a tgeompoint column for the trip data. Using mobilitydb-sqlalchemy this is as simple as defining any regular table:

from flask_sqlalchemy import SQLAlchemy
from mobilitydb_sqlalchemy import TGeomPoint

db = SQLAlchemy()

class Trips(db.Model):
__tablename__ = "trips"
trip_id = db.Column(db.Integer, primary_key=True)
trip = db.Column(TGeomPoint)

Note: The library also allows you to use the Trajectory class from MovingPandas as well. More about this is explained later in this tutorial.

Populating data

When adding data to the table, mobilitydb-sqlalchemy expects data in the tgeompoint column to be a time indexed pandas dataframe, with two columns – one for the spatial data  called “geometry” with Shapely Point objects and one for the temporal data “t” as regular python datetime objects.

from datetime import datetime
from shapely.geometry import Point

# Prepare and insert the data
# Typically it won’t be hardcoded like this, but it might be coming from
# other data sources like a different database or maybe csv files
df = pd.DataFrame(
{"geometry": Point(0, 0), "t": datetime(2012, 1, 1, 8, 0, 0),},
{"geometry": Point(2, 0), "t": datetime(2012, 1, 1, 8, 10, 0),},
{"geometry": Point(2, -1.9), "t": datetime(2012, 1, 1, 8, 15, 0),},

trip = Trips(trip_id=1, trip=df)

Writing queries

In the demo, you see two modes. Both modes were designed specifically to explain how functions defined within MobilityDB can be leveraged by our webapp.

1. All trips mode – In this mode, we extract all trip data, along with distance travelled within each trip, and the average speed in that trip, both computed by MobilityDB itself using the ‘length’, ‘speed’ and ‘twAvg’ functions. This example also shows that MobilityDB functions can be chained to form more complicated queries.


trips = db.session.query(

2. Spatial query mode – In this mode, we extract only selective trip data, filtered by a user-selected region of interest. We then make a query to MobilityDB to extract only the trips which pass through the specified region. We use MobilityDB’s ‘intersects’ function to achieve this filtering at the database level itself.


trips = db.session.query(
func.intersects(Point(lat, lng).buffer(0.01).wkb, Trips.trip),

Using MovingPandas Trajectory objects

Mobilitydb-sqlalchemy also provides first-class support for MovingPandas Trajectory objects, which can be installed as an optional dependency of this library. Using this Trajectory class instead of plain DataFrames allows us to make use of much richer functionality over trajectory data like analysis speed, interpolation, splitting and simplification of trajectory points, calculating bounding boxes, etc. To make use of this feature, you have set the use_movingpandas flag to True while declaring your model, as shown in the below code snippet.

class TripsWithMovingPandas(db.Model):
__tablename__ = "trips"
trip_id = db.Column(db.Integer, primary_key=True)
trip = db.Column(TGeomPoint(use_movingpandas=True))

Now when you query over this table, you automatically get the data parsed into Trajectory objects without having to do anything else. This also works during insertion of data – you can directly assign your movingpandas Trajectory objects to the trip column. In the below code snippet we show how inserting and querying works with movingpandas mode.

from datetime import datetime
from shapely.geometry import Point

# Prepare and insert the data
# Typically it won’t be hardcoded like this, but it might be coming from
# other data sources like a different database or maybe csv files
df = pd.DataFrame(
{"geometry": Point(0, 0), "t": datetime(2012, 1, 1, 8, 0, 0),},
{"geometry": Point(2, 0), "t": datetime(2012, 1, 1, 8, 10, 0),},
{"geometry": Point(2, -1.9), "t": datetime(2012, 1, 1, 8, 15, 0),},

geo_df = GeoDataFrame(df)
traj = mpd.Trajectory(geo_df, 1)

trip = Trips(trip_id=1, trip=traj)

# Querying over this table would automatically map the resulting tgeompoint
# column to movingpandas’ Trajectory class
result = db.session.query(TripsWithMovingPandas).filter(
TripsWithMovingPandas.trip_id == 1

# <class 'movingpandas.trajectory.Trajectory'>

Bonus: trajectory data serialization

Along with mobilitydb-sqlalchemy, recently I have also released trajectory data serialization/compression libraries based on Google’s Encoded Polyline Format Algorithm, for python and javascript called trajectory and trajectory.js respectively. These libraries let you send trajectory data in a compressed format, resulting in smaller payloads if sending your data through human-readable serialization formats like JSON. In some of the internal APIs we use at Adonmo, we have seen this reduce our response sizes by more than half (>50%) sometimes upto 90%.

Want to learn more about mobilitydb-sqlalchemy? Check out the quick start & documentation.

This post is part of a series. Read more about movement data in GIS.

Recently there has been some buzz on Twitter about a new moving object database (MOD) called MobilityDB that builds on PostgreSQL and PostGIS (Zimányi et al. 2019). The MobilityDB Github repo has been published in February 2019 but according to the following presentation at PgConf.Russia 2019 it has been under development for a few years:

Of course, moving object databases have been around for quite a while. The two most commonly cited MODs are HermesDB (Pelekis et al. 2008) which comes as an extension for either PostgreSQL or Oracle and is developed at the University of Piraeus and SECONDO (de Almeida et al. 2006) which is a stand-alone database system developed at the Fernuniversität Hagen. However, both MODs remain at the research prototype level and have not achieved broad adoption.

It will be interesting to see if MobilityDB will be able to achieve the goal they have set in the title of Zimányi et al. (2019) to become “a mainstream moving object database system”. It’s promising that they are building on PostGIS and using its mature spatial analysis functionality instead of reinventing the wheel. They also discuss why they decided that PostGIS trajectories (which I’ve written about in previous posts) are not the way to go:

However, the presentation does not go into detail whether there are any straightforward solutions to visualizing data stored in MobilityDB.

According to the Github readme, MobilityDB runs on Linux and needs PostGIS 2.5. They also provide an online demo as well as a Docker container with MobilityDB and all its dependencies. If you give it a try, I would love to hear about your experiences.


  • de Almeida, V. T., Guting, R. H., & Behr, T. (2006). Querying moving objects in secondo. In 7th International Conference on Mobile Data Management (MDM’06) (pp. 47-47). IEEE.
  • Pelekis, N., Frentzos, E., Giatrakos, N., & Theodoridis, Y. (2008). HERMES: aggregative LBS via a trajectory DB engine. In Proceedings of the 2008 ACM SIGMOD international conference on Management of data (pp. 1255-1258). ACM.
  • Zimányi, E., Sakr, M., Lesuisse, A., & Bakli, M. (2019). MobilityDB: A Mainstream Moving Object Database System. In Proceedings of the 16th International Symposium on Spatial and Temporal Databases (pp. 206-209). ACM.

This post is part of a series. Read more about movement data in GIS.

%d bloggers like this: