Geocoding 101

Before you can analyze, extrapolate or profit from location data, you need to first associate each record with an accurate latitude and longitude coordinate—a process known as geocoding.

Geocoding is the process of assigning an X, Y (latitude and longitude values) coordinate pair to the description of a place and to accurately identify corresponding records in one or more reference data sources which closely describe that place. It enables people to locate, situate, and navigate themselves, and is presently the easiest process to describe one’s location in geographic coordinates. Once a latitude and longitude value is assigned, the geocoded address can be displayed on a map, used in a decision making workflow, used in a transaction and/or injected into a larger business process.


How Geocoding Works

The process is complex and mistakes in geocode assignment can lead to poor business decisions that impact risk, profits, and customer relationships. The standard process include address standardization, address cleansing, validation, matching and return of location coordinates for a given address.

Geocoding Process

The geocoding process is typically based on following characteristics:
  • Input data – the address user wishes to have geographically referenced and which contains attributes capable of being matched to reference
  • Output – geographic coordinate with precision results
  • Decision algorithm – the methodology employed to get match with reference data by  the process which include address parsing, normalization, and weighting of input dataset with that of the reference dataset
  • Reference data – consists of the geographically coded information which will serve as base to derive the appropriate geographic code for an input data
Address parsing is the process of dividing a single address string into its individual component parts, while address normalization converts these parts into their standardized equivalents. For address parsing, a set of rules is developed using tokenization on white spaces between words, the ordering of the tokens, and a series of alias tables to determine each of the individual address components. Once the types of the tokens have been identified, normalization is performed with more alias tables to make a best effort attempt to normalize the components to the desired output format. Weighting refers to determining a set of potential location candidates and determine how closely each one matches the address based on decision algorithm of geocoder. Based on closeness, each potential candidate is assigned a score from 0 to 100. In certain geocoding system precision code is assigned opposed to score card. The precision code represents the success or failure of the geocoding operation, and conveys information about the quality of the match. Each character of the code tells how precisely geocoder has matched each address component.

Many Ways to Geocode

There are many ways to Geocode. These are:
  • Interpolated Street Address
  • Intersection
  • Parcel Centroid
  • Street segment
  • Postal codes
  • City / Place Centroid
  • Landmarks / Points of Interest / Business Name
  • Neighborhoods
  • User-Generated Street-centerline and Point data
How you geocode impacts the results of your analysis, and therefore it's important to understand these methods and apply the appropriate ones to your project.

Reverse Geocoding Defined

Reverse Geocoding returns an ADDRESS for a given coordinate, usually a Latitude / Longitude. Latitude / Longitude are typically generated from a GPS-enabled device such as a smart phone.
Reverse geocoding is more complex than forward geocoding; the number of possible answers are greater. Reverse geocoding also cascades from most accurate to least accurate possible locations, including point-level address, interpolated address, street centerline, etc.

Reverse Geocoding


Why Geocode?

  • What’s the nearest . . .?
  • What is this point inside / close to?
  • What is the value / risk / danger . . .?
Why Geocode

Pitney Bowes' geocoding solution cleans data, standardizes addresses and validates the accuracy of source addresses before calculating geocodes. By applying multiple parsing and matching algorithms across postal, third-party and proprietary data sets, you can overcome problems associated with changing postal codes, poor data entry and missing information to generate more precise data.

When it is not possible to deliver a geocode centered on a specific address or parcel, Pitney Bowes tools apply consistent rules, automatically cascading to the next most-specific point of reference, from address point, to street level, down to postal code, city or state. In some cases, no geocode may be better than a wrong geocode.

How it benefits you?

Geocoding helps you to visualize enterprise and market data in the context of location, so you can make smarter choices regarding targeting, networks and risk. An accurate geocode can provide new insights about your customers.  Pitney Bowes' geocoding, mapping, data and analytic capabilities add accuracy and confidence to most every business decision.
UPDATED:  June 30, 2017