Refinements to Location Standards: Geocoding

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By David Loshin

People mistakenly confuse the term "location" to mean the same thing as "address," but an address is a little bit of a confusing idea when you think about it. For example, when we use an address, it can take on different meanings in different contexts.

From a delivery perspective, it could refer to a mail box, or might refer to the front door. From a taxation perspective, it might refer to a land plot. In other contexts it might refer to the street edge of a driveway or the center of a rooftop. Essentially, each of these instances may be different locations that share the use of an address.

In fact there are many locations that do not map directly to an address. For example, a telephone pole, a storm drain, the edges of a runway, and a point along the shoulder of a highway are all examples of locations that do not have addresses. So how do we find them?

The answer is to use a geocode: a set of geographic coordinates including a latitude and a longitude value. Geocodes specified with enough precision provide a very good way to pinpoint a location.

And with the growing use of handheld global positioning satellite (GPS) devices (or GPS-enabled devices such as most newer mobile phones), a geocode is practically as good as an address for the purposes of delivery. In my next post, I'll look at linking addresses and geocodes, and where that all fits within the concept of address standards.


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