The usefulness of geocoding


Imagine that you work in the dispatch department of a taxi company and your task is to plan and then analyze travel orders. In daily passenger bookings, in most cases, your order will have a textual destination address. It would seem, what’s so difficult? But you don’t just need to know the postal address. You need to know exactly where the point in the city the taxi will go, how long the trip will take and, ultimately, what will be its cost. That is, you will have to constantly translate postal addresses into coordinates, or, in other words, actively carry out the geocoding process.

In this article, we will try to briefly answer the question of those readers who first encountered this topic – what is geocoding

Understanding the process

We know that there are a large number of definitions of certain objects, systems, processes, etc., which are not easy to understand. However, a notion of geocoding is an exception to this category of definitions. To begin with, geocoding is nothing but a usual process or modus operandi. This is such procedure by which a description of any real location that has a postal address or name can be turned into an object on the surface of the Earth using a coordinate system. As a result, we get an accurate location that can be used in compiling various geographic or topographic maps, or used in a particular business, for example, in a taxi service, as in our example, or, in various kinds, delivery services, in logistic, etc. 

Simple logic tells us that if there is a process of geocoding, then there is a process inverse to it. That is, the process by which a geographic location on the surface of the Earth is converted into a text address that is easier to read and understand.

Some users believe that the procedure of geocoding and the procedure of address lookups are the same thing. However, it is not. These are two different tasks. Unlike geocoding, simply looking up an address suffers from several problems. For example, here are some of the most common of them. First, most searches return multiple results. This is because inquiries often contain typos in the names of settlements, especially in complex names, very often grammatical declensions are not taken into account etc. Often there is such a problem as a “default city”. This phenomenon is typical most often for residents of capitals almost all over the world. As it turned out, the population of the capitals, using the address search, very often do not write the name of the city, implying that this should be known by default.

The past and present of geocoding

And what was the modus operandi of geocoding before the IT era? Let’s remember postal envelopes. They provided for the writing of the country, region, city, district, street, etc. However, in many cases this has led to confusion and related problems. Then postal indexing of addresses was introduced, which greatly simplified the process of finding a location and made it more reliable.

However, it was with the advent of IT technologies that it became possible to quickly systematize and transform any data in its original format into data that should have a form suitable for use for various purposes. And this applies not only to determining coordinates from text addresses or finding human-readable addresses from coordinates. The idea of geocoding has become generally applicable, and in various areas of human activity, you can find a wide variety of examples of the use of this universal assistant.

Let’s go back to our taxi dispatcher example. The process of geocoding in this case will not only help to correctly determine the place of delivery of the car and the final point of delivery of the passenger, but also systematize all information about orders, especially if there are regular customers. And this means that you can successfully manage such information in order to improve service, prevent problems, create some standardized instructions and rules, and, ultimately, build a certain strategy in the business. So, as we can see, direct and reverse geocoding is not just a transformation of one data into another, it is an accessible and convenient tool that covers a wide range of human activities.

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