The Complexity of Linking Addresses (and Locations) to Geocodes

Melissa Team | Data Quality, Geocoding | , , , ,

By David Loshin

There is a difference between an address, which refers to a delivery location, and a geocode, which can specify practically any location, and clearly, addressable locations make up a subset of geocoded locations. And if you are at a specific location, and you happen to be holding a GPS (global positioning satellite) device, you can derive the


But what happens if you want to find the nearest address to a specific geocode? Or if you are only provided with a location description (such as “the intersection of Main and Elm Streets”) and you want to get a precise geocode?

More practically, let’s say you are a logistics manager for a delivery service and you are interested in mapping the most fuel-efficient routes for your drivers? In any of these cases, there is a need to link geocodes to addresses (and vice versa) in a way that is accurate and trustworthy.

And this is easily doable with standardized addresses. If you think back to my first post in this series, I talked about the need for delivery accuracy as a key driver for the definition of an addressing standard.

Here, we can use the addressing standard to provide accuracy in geocoding. Data services provide databases that relate street segments to boundary geocodes, allowing you to interpolate a geocode given an address. As long as we can get a standardized address, we can find the geocode.

At the same time, that same data product can be used to reverse map a geocode to a street segment, and with enough precision on the latitude and longitude values, probably even map to a specific address.

So the value of address standards goes beyond just delivery accuracy. As more applications rely on location to add value, the need for address standardization and geocoding will also continue to evolve and grow.