Midpoint and Center of Minimum Distance – What are They?

Because we know you like mapping so much, Mapline has a feature which will make your mapping experience more informative. The feature will give you a detailed report that will show the midpoint and the center of minimum distance when you click on a shape with the map points inside.

The Midpoint (also called centroid, center of gravity, or center of mass) refers to the average coordinate for a set of points on a spherical earth. What does that mean? Think of it this way: Suppose you have a globe and you allow it to spin freely. Then you add your points as equally weighted pins or thumb tacks to the globe. Then you allow the globe to equalize based on the weight of the pins. The “Midpoint” will the coordinate that is closest to the ground (not necessarily one of your existing location coordinates).

What about the Center of Minimum Distance? It is the coordinate on the globe which will minimize the travel distance from all points on the map.

Examples at Work

The midpoint is often used to know the middle point of all the addresses mapped together. For example, three business partners from different states (one is from Miami, Florida; the other from Chicago, Illinois; and another one from San Francisco, California.) wanted to meet up and discuss further plans for their business. When plotting all their locations, and click to find the midpoint, the report will give them Ocheleta, Oklahoma as the midpoint. It means Oklahoma is the center of all the three given locations.

As in the case of center of minimum distance, since it captures the minimum length of travel time, the result oftentimes are not the same. Given the same cities and states – Miami, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; and San Francisco, California – the center of minimum distance does not require all of the business partners to travel the same amount of distance to go to the center (or the midpoint) from their locations. If the 3 business partners want to meet and get together, the shortest overall travel distance is achieved if the business partner in Chicago, IL travels only to its nearby city – Gardner, Illinois – which is the center of minimum distance. In most cases, the center of minimum distance may be one of the locations selected, or at least very near to the one already selected.

Midpoint or Center of Minimum Distance – Which to Choose?

Uses of these two methods depend largely on the goal. In the scenarios above, if the company is paying for the travel costs of the meeting (and assuming the travel cost per mile is the same for all three business partners), then it would be best to select the Center of Minimum Distance location in Gardner, Illinois. If each individual is paying for their own travel and you want the travel costs to be more even, then the best decision would be to go with the Midpoint location in Ocheleta, Oklahoma.

Other Uses

  • Finding the most suitable site for conventions
  • Scouting for new business locations