Geocoding 101: Forward geocoding vs reverse geocoding

Geocoding is the process of providing exact locations, which provides information for accurate analysis.

Geocoding adds geography to an address

Forward geocoding is simply the process of adding a longitude and latitude to a physical address. For example, by plotting the location of our customers we can then use that information to plan where to invest in new infrastructure, such as, for example a 5G tower or a new store location.

The IoT is driving the reverse. With reverse geocoding, we have a GPS coordinate for our location – typically the installation point for infrastructure such as a fibre line, an electricity meter or even a new automated teller machine. Reverse geocoding converts from these coordinates to a human-readable address.

In this way forward and reverse geocoding work together to add link our customers to our products and services.

Why geocode?

Of course, geocoding is simply a means to end. The value comes from the insights that location data adds to our customer data – allowing us to enhance the customer experience and profitability by serving them where they live and work.

How accurate is geocoding?

A geocode to five decimal places is accurate to around 1m – but geocodes can be as accurate as 1mm if we go to 8 decimal places.

For geocoding we need an accurate, high-performance data set linking addresses and coordinates, that can be easily accessed.

When we match our address to the data points the accuracy of our result will govern the accuracy of the geographical point returned – for example, we may geocode to the exact street address, to the street segment (if we can’t find the house number), or to the suburb (if we can’t find the street.). Typically accuracy will be higher in urban areas than in rural areas, as reference data sets are better for urban areas. Our results also depend on our ability to standardise the address data provided.

Watch our two minute video for a brief introduction and demonstration of geocoding using the Precisely APIs.

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