The process of converting addresses into geographical coordinates is used in many areas for a very specific purpose: to obtain latitude and longitude values from a physical or postal address. This operation, defined in technical jargon as “geocoding”, allows you to convert one or more records entered by hand or by file into various formats in a safe and fast way. Once the geographical coordinates have been obtained, it will be possible to carry out further complex operations, such as triangulation on the map to calculate the shortest route between the starting point, the arrival point and the passage point in order to reduce the fuel consumption of a vehicle and optimize the delivery time. Therefore, geocoding opens the doors to new and important business and market opportunities in sectors such as transport, logistics, shipping and more. But how do you get an error-proof conversion of addresses into geographic coordinates? What software do you use and how can you solve geocoding needs for databases containing up to hundreds of thousands of addresses? In this article, we will try to understand how to face a conversion in a workmanlike manner without any special skills and from any device, including mobile devices.
TRANSFORMING ADDRESSES INTO COORDINATES STEP BY STEP
Understanding how the transformation or conversion of addresses into geographic coordinates takes place is essential to recognize the risks and benefits of a software-automated process compared to a manual operation. Indeed, if once it was inevitable to process data with analog systems of dubious precision and scarce practicality, nowadays modern technologies ensure a perfect performance of geocoding at reduced costs and with zero margin of error. Everything is done with the help of validation software that can also manage requests for geocoding, or the conversion of addresses into geographic coordinates. These computer programs work according to a proven and, as we have seen, error-proof procedure. Through a series of steps in rapid sequence, the addresses are checked and reclaimed until the final transformation into geographical coordinates (latitude and longitude). In this regard, we report the most important steps performed after launching a query with Address4 software:
- address check, first of all, the addresses are examined in order to find the right matches, or at least the most likely matches between what is uploaded and what is present in the database. Entering a non-existent phrase or address, for example, will produce an error, while entering a correct (or existing but with errors) address will lead to the next step.
- completion and updating, the address, at this point, is enriched in the missing parts and the obsolete values are updated. The addresses that miss a datum, such as the territorial code or the house number, will be completed in real time by the software with extreme precision and with information verified day by day.
- address conversion and geocoding, the final step is the transformation of the address into geographic coordinates, with coverage that reaches 250 countries around the world. All this in a few seconds in the case of a single request or a few minutes for a file with hundreds or even thousands of addresses.
Batch geocoding has been possible for many years but how can we take advantage of the service provided by Google Maps to carry out batch geocoding?
The answer is not obvious for those who work with postal addresses every day. We know that Google Maps offers the geocoding service via API, address by address, and gives results that don’t always meet expectations. If a company needs to accurately geolocate a list of hundreds or even thousands of addresses at the same time (that is commonly known as bulk geocoding or batch geocoding), the use of Google Maps via API could be limiting and impractical. The company, in fact, should first develop ad hoc software able to connect via API to Google Maps and then manage the entire process of sending and receiving geographical data and addresses without any mistakes. Furthermore, the system, even if built to perfection, should accept unreservedly the results provided in output by the Google Maps API geocoder, counting on the one hand that the starting data is correct or precise enough not to generate ambiguity and, on the other hand, that the Google Maps application is able to process the addresses providing reliable results in output. But this approach lacks precision and safety!
How do you obtain the desired information, that is the exact geographical coordinates of tens, hundreds or thousands of addresses, quickly and error-free?
The answer is given by the Google Maps Batch service combined with our Address4 software. We are talking about an innovative feature that we have implemented to our suite of services for normalization and geocoding. Thanks to the Google Maps Batch tool provided by Address4, anyone is able to upload an address file and obtain a perfectly georeferenced file within a few minutes, i.e. each address will be associated with an exact geographical point, identified by its coordinates. Beyond the uniqueness of the operation, the advantage is to combine the wide coverage of Google Maps geocoding with the incomparable accuracy of Address4 in recognizing territorial data. An outcome that ensures enormous benefits in quality and competitiveness in various business sectors. Let’s take a better look at how Google Maps Batch geocoding works and how we can make the most of a bulk geocoding process.
Ecommerce administrators, research companies, web developers, digital marketing agencies … There are many businesses and professionals who ask themselves the daily question: how can I validate an international postal address? The answer is actually not so obvious.
An international mailing address often represents a nucleus of little known information and therefore difficult to decipher, especially for those who are not familiar with the language of the target country of the shipment. After all, the language is certainly not the only barrier that the less experienced have to face. The difficulties of validating international addresses are of at least three types, all equally important:
The format of a postal address corresponds to the layout and type of the various records. Name and surname of the addressee, street or square, street number, area code, town, country … these items can vary a lot from one country to another, both in their sequence (logical order), and in the way they manifest themselves (whether they exist or not). International address validation software, as we will see shortly, is able to convert the address format from country A of origin to destination country B, verifying at the same time that the quality requirements of a cleansed address are respected (update, completeness, consistency, etc.).
Another great obstacle for those who do not possess the necessary skills is inevitably linked to the language. The international address must in fact be written correctly, in accordance with the grammar and vocabulary of the target country. Accents are very important in this sense: a simple forgetfulness can give rise to misunderstandings that make shipping to the recipient vain, with obvious negative repercussions in terms of budget and result. The language must therefore be managed wisely, without improvising oneself as translator and without thinking that an address written in the source language may lead to a secure sending of the correspondence.
Street address geocoding (or postal address geocoding) is a functionality that allows you to obtain geographic coordinates from a postal address (whether complete or partial is unimportant as long as you use the professional instruments you will read about in this article). Geocoding an address means objectively deducing two fundamental data for several operations relevant to marketing, shipping and searching activities and not only. Thanks to precise geographic coordinates, you can place the position of the companies you collaborate with on your virtual map and consequently you will get the optimal route to deliver your goods. As a result, you will save time and fuel and, in few years, this will repay the company for the efforts and resources that have been invested for buying an evolved geocoding system.
It is essential though to find a system that can meet the needs of anybody who has to geocode one or more addresses in a short time and without any mistakes. This is the point: if we are doing this for fun or as a hobby, we can be happy with a standard application for a smartphone that was designed for other purposes (such as a simple satnav, for example); but when we have to deal with strategic targets or large data volumes, we have to look for more reliable resources that are able to geocode hundreds of thousands of addresses from all over the world. Moreover, this solution will guarantee that the entered data are correct and updated. And that’s a lot.
The normalization of postal addresses is an activity that affects multiple businesses, from e-commerce shops to logistics and transportation companies. Despite address normalization being important for a large number of businesses, the use of address normalization is often unclear for the entrepreneurs and webmasters that, indeed, should take advantage of it. That is why a few companies still struggle to implement the normalization instruments of the postal addresses and miss the opportunity to develop and optimize their resources. Therefore, we have thought that it would be useful to clarify the current scenario and analyze 10 important points to know: let’s discover them, one by one in detail to understand what validation is exactly and what advantages it gives.
1) Normalization requires professional software
The first thing to know is that proper normalization requires professional software to guarantee the maximum correspondence between the reality and the system databases. Despite there being different tools, especially online, that perform basic normalization operations, it is better to trust professional instruments that can provide better accuracy and precision in data reclamation.
How can an address validator improve the performance of a company? How important are addresses for your business? How could an inaccurate postal address negatively affect your business? These questions are answered with the help of advanced software for the validation of postal addresses. By using this type of software, your company can save both time and precious resources while avoiding any damage to their image or loss in reputation before final customers. Indeed, any business, from the smallest ecommerce retailer to the largest franchising business, has to make sure that the addresses of their customers (real and potential ones) are updated and correct. Otherwise, disastrous situations can occur such as missing the delivery of a product or dispatching advertising materials to obsolete addresses that are assigned to other people.
That can be disturbing for people who trusted you: your customer should be respected and that means you should know their habits and their addresses. So, how can validation software help your company? Here is the answer. We will tell you the most significant advantages and we will explain to you in detail why and how it could be of interested to your company. It does not matter what type of business you have because for logistics, for example, a validated address database is essential but it is also very important for gyms or hotels. Sooner or later, someone may need to ship an object, for example a membership card, a product catalogue or a key forgotten somewhere. So, let’s see the advantages can be obtained from a fast, safe and complete validation of the addresses.
1) IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE CUSTOMERS
The management of the customer care department requires a modern and professional approach for being effective. Nobody wants to waste time over the phone for spelling their home or office address. If you want to be competitive in the market, you should set your customers free from any useless tasks: all requests should be managed as fast as possible without uncertainties and waits. Moreover, burdening a person with the heavy task of transcribing and entering data is not a good idea because the human mistake is always possible! Remember: about 60% of your turnover comes from your loyal customers; take care of them and you will be able to cultivate fruitful and long term relationships with high economic returns.
Even among professionals, the exact knowledge of how postal address validation works is not always shared by everyone alike. The validation systems, in the form of more or less advanced computer software, each have different technologies and functionalities, so the idea users receive about the real validation mechanism of postal addresses can vary greatly, not only based on the program used (and more specifically on the version of the program used), but also according to the reference language and the target country. We at Address 4 have the great advantage of knowing every aspect of the subject (especially on the development front), and we can talk from a more advanced perspective than any other end user.
In light of the above, we want to offer readers of our site the chance to learn more about how last generation validation software of postal systems works, backed by decades of experience gained by our company in this sector. We will therefore see the many factors that come into play when an address is assigned to computer programs dedicated to validation, and what results can be obtained with these tools in the main configurations of use available (real time, batch, plugin, API). We begin by outlining the major services related to the normalisation of postal addresses in relation to the resources available with the Address 4 software.
The first job option that we mention is online address standardisation, a service that allows you to correct and verify any postal address by entering the data in a template or form within a specific page. In this case, data processing takes place remotely, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The most obvious advantages are practicality and calculation speed, useful factors when you need to obtain a validated address immediately.
The possibility of a wrong shipment should be taken seriously by any business. It is not just about sending an order to a customer or a partner and missing the delivery due to an incorrect address. These scenarios are rare, but possible. The most tangible risk is the approximate management of postal, communication and logistics procedures. For example, due to a delay linked to the search for the correct address. Often a different house number is enough to create a problem for a deliveryman or a trucker. Imprecision is undoubtedly the worst enemy of those working in the shipping field. This is why there is special software for postal address validation. And that’s why this software can be integrated into business applications via API.
In international jargon we speak of API address validation in reference to the set of tools that allow us to satisfy this type of requirement by means of a web service interface. It goes without saying that there are multiple versions of API for address normalization, from those that can be integrated into e-commerce to suggest the correct address to customers when purchasing (and avoid unpleasant delays, returns, etc.), to the address validation APIs for business applications, able to validate and correct the addresses of existing databases. Shipments and search for roads remain the main objectives of API address normalization, but the features offered by a web service of this type go further. Let’s see in detail the services that can be activated with API in a business application.
Master Data – either IT data or other data – is the most precious intangible assets of a company; that is why the Master Data Management (shortened in MDM) is the best management and treatment system available on the market. We are talking about a sector of advanced corporate governance that includes both multinational holding companies and medium and large size companies. Indeed, any medium and large companies can take advantage of adopting an efficient strategy of Data Master Management. This advantage will be greater and greater because of the exponential growth of the IT systems and the volumes of data that is collected by manual activities (i.e. call centers, data entry, etc.) as well as automatic or semiautomatic activities (i.e. funnels, newsletters, landing pages, etc.). Data comes from different channels, therefore we should not think of Master Data Management as something that concerns the Information Technology only. The advantages, as it will be given in this article, are real only if we consider all the involved variables.
Databases of loyal customers, personal details of suppliers and partners, lists of data relevant to the economic resources of the company (from the marketing budget to the purchasing costs of materials)… All these activities require management as integrated as possible as well as fast, precise and intuitive so that they don’t have to be dealt with by a team of experts but by a group of people that will be trained and updated properly. That is the only way to achieve a higher competitiveness in the business where the company operates, reducing wasted time and money and improving performance and the capabilities to cope with the challenges of the modern market. Let’s see the tools you need so that your Master Data Management satisfies your expectations.
Online database normalization is achieved quickly and easily, even by non-experts, by using Address4 software. You don’t need complex programs or the latest computers because the databases of personal data will be normalized online by the Address4 website by just uploading the file in the most common formats. The procedure is simplified for the user, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Normalizing entire database means quickly examining files containing up to hundreds of thousands of names with just one click. Each name must be “normalized” by an operation that implies several activities of calculation and sequence verifications.
The raw datum must be given back as reclaimed, that is, corrected and validated according to the preset quality standards. The same objective is shared when online addresses are normalized or email addresses are validated. Each name in the database is checked for punctuation and spelling so that possible typing errors are eliminated. Obsolete fields are replaced by updated values, for example when a surname is modified. Finally, the name is completed with missing information according to the defined patterns and the desired format. That way, important information about the age, sex and nationality can be obtained by simply starting from his/her name and surname. Moreover, we can quickly and precisely discover some useful details for our business such as the address, phone number, email address, and, of course, in accordance with the current privacy regulations.