September 11, 2006
The Importance of Accurate Geocoding
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! The accuracy of geocoding has become more and more important in industries such as insurance, catastrophe management, and risk management, telecommunications and flood zone determination, that geocoding has been added to AM Best's guidelines for corporate risk management. At the end of August, MapInfo released its most current release of MapMarker, MapMarker 12, a product that focuses on accuracy in geocoding and address information. Read about it in this week's Industry News.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me

Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

The Importance of Accurate Geocoding

By Susan Smith

The accuracy of geocoding has become more and more important in industries such as insurance, catastrophe management, and risk management, telecommunications and flood zone determination, that geocoding has been added to AM Best's guidelines for corporate risk management. During Hurricane Katrina last year, customers were hit with the realization that catastrophe modeling results were negatively affected by inaccurate address information as well as poor geocoding. The most accurate positional placement of locations is critical to being able to gain the best results from their modeling.

At the end of August, MapInfo released its most current release of MapMarker, MapMarker 12. This is a product that allows customers to take any information on their assets that they have in a database that has address attributes and be able to assign real world coordinates to that information, so they can map and analyze it.

According to Walt Mykins, director of the project management team for MapInfo, among the features you will find in MapMarker 12 is U.S. Postal Service Coding Accuracy Support Systems (CASS) certification for 2006-2007. CASS meets U.S. postal standards for standardizing addresses. This is useful for companies to get discounts on a bulk mail rate if they can demonstrate they've used a CASS certified product.

“Additionally, there is a geocoding cartridge for Oracle, which is now available as an optional installation with MapMarker,” said Mykins. “There are a number of ways people geocode their data. Some run things in batch and they'll geocode 500,000, 1 million, 2 million records that they would like to place and analyze on a map. The geocoding cartridge for Oracle allows them to run that geocoding process within their relational database and allows them to do a number of things rather than having to batch up their data and do it on periodic refreshes. Some customers may geocode their data on a monthly or semi-annual basis or maybe even a weekly basis. By using a geocoding
cartridge, they can do that in real time, so as records are inserted, they can do geocoding. As records are updated they can maintain the integrity of the data, so as the address changes, clearly the position changes and they can capture it in real time.”

Another significant feature in MapMarker 12 is inclusion of the delivery point validation (DPV) with all new MapMarker implementations. The DPV is an offering built from work done with the USPS on how geocoding works in general. When you create the interpolation map you can find out where along a street an address would be if it was there. If you combine that with DPV, you can find which are actual deliverable postal addresses so that you know that you actually have a deliverable location. “This is quite powerful for people doing mailers,” said Mykins.

MapMarker customers prioritized accuracy in their list of requirements for the new release, which is reflected in version 12 in improvement of accuracy of geocoding.

“Typically in geocoders, you'll have streets that are defined and streets broken into segments, or blocks, and along segments there are address ranges, so we may say a segment on one side of the street would go from 0 to 10 and on the other side goes from 1 to 9,” Mykins pointed out. “The geocoding technology will find the location on the street, will find the address range that's correct, and once it's done that, it can interpolate where along that line segment that address would reside.”

“Frequently address ranges are padded with things to allow for new developments. The address range may not represent the real world of what's actually there today. It's good in that it allows for that growth. It causes some problems sometimes if you're trying to get the real world position of where something is. For example, if there's padding on one end of the street or the other in the segment ranges, then you get your points bunching up on one end of the street through your geocoding tool when that's not really what happens. There are a couple of things that we've done to try to account for that. Using a source dataset, the address point data set, from a partner of ours, TeleAtlas,
which we feature in MapMarker 12 and MapMarker ParcelPrecision. It's a dataset that has approximately 43 million points in it. Those are parcel locations rather than just vectors with addresses along a vector range. Now we have real positions of parcels along a street. This has been available previously in metro areas but this is the first U.S. wide data set that's out on the market.”

“There are couple of ways in which we take advantage of that data in MapMarker 12. Now that we have parcel data, we've been able to use that data to better assign the starting and ending address ranges along the segment so the segment I referenced may actually say it goes from 1 to 9 and it's a quarter of a mile long. But if we look at the parcel data and we see address # 5 is actually a quarter mile down which is at the end of the parcel then we can reassign that parcel's address, so that when we do our interpolation, we'll be more accurate. Then 5 won't fall in the segment anymore, it will actually move to its real location, which is more towards the end of that segment. By taking
that data directly within MapMarker we've given ourselves more realistic start and end points in terms of what is reality on the ground.”

TeleAtlas sources from local government's parcel data, which is not 100 percent coverage of the U.S., according to Mykins. However, it's most beneficial in suburban areas where you have growth going on and geocoders traditionally have difficulty with the bunching problem. Streets are still being developed and houses are still being erected.

Within MapMarker 12, there's a capability for a user who has his or her own parcel information, or own known points, and places those into real world locations. What MapMarker allows you to do, rather than using just the address segments provided with the product, but also use the customer's trusted address points to improve that interpolation.

“You don't need to have full coverage of parcels,” said Mykins. “If you have partial coverage of parcels, we can use those to supplement the interpolation process so that we can get a more accurate placement.”

There is also an add on to MapMarker 12 called MapMarker ParcelPrecision which, rather than simply using those points to improve the end points and improve MapMarker segments, this data can pinpoint street addresses to a physical building, site or parcel.

For customers who are doing their analysis and visualization with MapInfo Professional, as a first step they would want to have data geocoded so the geocoded locations that have been assigned via MapMarker are readily available before bringing it into MapInfo Pro. The user of MapInfo references that data directly, and they can immediately analyze and visualize that data.

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.


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