OData geo-spatial functions in Azure Cognitive Search - geo.distance and geo.intersects

Azure Cognitive Search supports geo-spatial queries in OData filter expressions via the geo.distance and geo.intersects functions. The geo.distance function returns the distance in kilometers between two points, one being a field or range variable, and one being a constant passed as part of the filter. The geo.intersects function returns true if a given point is within a given polygon, where the point is a field or range variable and the polygon is specified as a constant passed as part of the filter.

The geo.distance function can also be used in the $orderby parameter to sort search results by distance from a given point. The syntax for geo.distance in $orderby is the same as it is in $filter. When using geo.distance in $orderby, the field to which it applies must be of type Edm.GeographyPoint and it must also be sortable.


When using geo.distance in the $orderby parameter, the field you pass to the function must contain only a single geo-point. In other words, it must be of type Edm.GeographyPoint and not Collection(Edm.GeographyPoint). It is not possible to sort on collection fields in Azure Cognitive Search.


The following EBNF (Extended Backus-Naur Form) defines the grammar of the geo.distance and geo.intersects functions, as well as the geo-spatial values on which they operate:

geo_distance_call ::=
    'geo.distance(' variable ',' geo_point ')'
    | 'geo.distance(' geo_point ',' variable ')'

geo_point ::= "geography'POINT(" lon_lat ")'"

lon_lat ::= float_literal ' ' float_literal

geo_intersects_call ::=
    'geo.intersects(' variable ',' geo_polygon ')'

/* You need at least four points to form a polygon, where the first and
last points are the same. */
geo_polygon ::=
    "geography'POLYGON((" lon_lat ',' lon_lat ',' lon_lat ',' lon_lat_list "))'"

lon_lat_list ::= lon_lat(',' lon_lat)*

An interactive syntax diagram is also available:


The geo.distance function takes two parameters of type Edm.GeographyPoint and returns an Edm.Double value that is the distance between them in kilometers. This differs from other services that support OData geo-spatial operations, which typically return distances in meters.

One of the parameters to geo.distance must be a geography point constant, and the other must be a field path (or a range variable in the case of a filter iterating over a field of type Collection(Edm.GeographyPoint)). The order of these parameters doesn't matter.

The geography point constant is of the form geography'POINT(<longitude> <latitude>)', where the longitude and latitude are numeric constants.


When using geo.distance in a filter, you must compare the distance returned by the function with a constant using lt, le, gt, or ge. The operators eq and ne are not supported when comparing distances. For example, this is a correct usage of geo.distance: $filter=geo.distance(location, geography'POINT(-122.131577 47.678581)') le 5.


The geo.intersects function takes a variable of type Edm.GeographyPoint and a constant Edm.GeographyPolygon and returns an Edm.Boolean -- true if the point is within the bounds of the polygon, false otherwise.

The polygon is a two-dimensional surface stored as a sequence of points defining a bounding ring (see the examples below). The polygon needs to be closed, meaning the first and last point sets must be the same. Points in a polygon must be in counterclockwise order.

Geo-spatial queries and polygons spanning the 180th meridian

For many geo-spatial query libraries formulating a query that includes the 180th meridian (near the dateline) is either off-limits or requires a workaround, such as splitting the polygon into two, one on either side of the meridian.

In Azure Cognitive Search, geo-spatial queries that include 180-degree longitude will work as expected if the query shape is rectangular and your coordinates align to a grid layout along longitude and latitude (for example, geo.intersects(location, geography'POLYGON((179 65, 179 66, -179 66, -179 65, 179 65))'). Otherwise, for non-rectangular or unaligned shapes, consider the split polygon approach.

Geo-spatial functions and null

Like all other non-collection fields in Azure Cognitive Search, fields of type Edm.GeographyPoint can contain null values. When Azure Cognitive Search evaluates geo.intersects for a field that is null, the result will always be false. The behavior of geo.distance in this case depends on the context:

  • In filters, geo.distance of a null field results in null. This means the document will not match because null compared to any non-null value evaluates to false.
  • When sorting results using $orderby, geo.distance of a null field results in the maximum possible distance. Documents with such a field will sort lower than all others when the sort direction asc is used (the default), and higher than all others when the direction is desc.


Filter examples

Find all hotels within 10 kilometers of a given reference point (where location is a field of type Edm.GeographyPoint):

    geo.distance(location, geography'POINT(-122.131577 47.678581)') le 10

Find all hotels within a given viewport described as a polygon (where location is a field of type Edm.GeographyPoint). Note that the polygon is closed (the first and last point sets must be the same) and the points must be listed in counterclockwise order.

    geo.intersects(location, geography'POLYGON((-122.031577 47.578581, -122.031577 47.678581, -122.131577 47.678581, -122.031577 47.578581))')

Order-by examples

Sort hotels descending by rating, then ascending by distance from the given coordinates:

    rating desc,geo.distance(location, geography'POINT(-122.131577 47.678581)') asc

Sort hotels in descending order by search.score and rating, and then in ascending order by distance from the given coordinates so that between two hotels with identical ratings, the closest one is listed first:

    search.score() desc,rating desc,geo.distance(location, geography'POINT(-122.131577 47.678581)') asc

Next steps