What is it? And what is it used for?
With geocoding, you can convert locations and addresses to X/Y coordinates and vice versa. All you need is a geocoder software. Here you will find tips and everything you need to know about geocoding and geocoding tools.
Everyone uses it in everyday life, few know what it's called: We are talking about geocoding. Because every time you type an address into a map and you are then shown a point on the map, a so-called address geocoding takes place in the background. We answer all your questions concerning the topic of geocoding, geocoding tools and give useful tips for practical use.
What is geocoding? Definition and explanation
With geocoding, software converts address data into geodata. This is done by assigning the appropriate X/Y coordinate to an address. Geocoding enables you to convert addresses into coordinates.
The coordinates are required to visualize locations on a digital map (e.g. Bing Maps, Google Maps) or in geographic information systems (GIS software). Only with the geocoding process are you able to display your addresses on a map as points (pins) or as geometric shapes for an entire area.
The addresses to be geocoded do not have to be complete. It is ok if parts of the address are missing (e.g. house number, postcode, etc.). Because with geocoding, you can also assign geographical information in the form of map coordinates to locations, states, postcodes, etc.
Of course, the following applies: The more complete the address, the more precise its location on the map.
“Show me an address and I'll tell you where you are on the map” - With geocoding, you can locate addresses and locations on the digital surface of the earth. Expressed more simply: You can quickly convert addresses into coordinates.
Types of Geocoding
1. Address Geocoding: From Address to Coordinate
Basically, every geocoding is an address geocoding, and for certain locations (for example, a lake or a mountain), the address is not quite as precise as for a customer address or a branch location. For companies and organizations, the most common application of geocoding is the geocoding of addresses. Because this allows addresses to be converted into coordinates.
Companies then use the generated coordinates for geomarketing, market, potential and location analyses, as well as for the visualization of customers, locations and supply chains and similar applications. The addresses to be geocoded are often addresses of customers, suppliers, branch locations, competitor locations, points of interest etc. By the way, you can find more on how companies use coordinates further down in the text.
2. Reverse Geocoding: From the Coordinate to the Address
Geocoding has two directions. Some geocoders not only convert addresses into coordinates, but also the other way around. The software then converts the appropriate address with street name, house number, ZIP Code, place and country name. The direction from the coordinate to the address is called reverse geocoding.
Reverse geocoding is thus geocoding in reverse. You convert geo-coordinates into textual location information, i.e. into an entire address or city or country name etc. To do this, you need geocoding software that is explicitly suitable for reverse geocoding.
3. Batch Geocoding: Geocode Multiple Addresses at Once
Batch geocoding describes the geocoding of a large number addresses and is used very frequently by companies. Because most companies have very large amounts of addresses that need to be geocoded. Typing every address individually just does not make sense. Batch geocoding enables you to start the process once and the software then automatically geocodes many addresses at once. This saves a lot of time and nerves.
While the software works on its own, you can go get a coffee or work on other projects, depending on how many addresses you have to geocode. Geocoding approximately 50,000 - 100,000 addresses should give you enough time for a short coffee break. You can also start large projects with a clear conscience before heading home for the evening. The geocoder automatically calculates the project overnight. Even if your computer goes into standby mode, the geocoding process continues in the background.
If required, you can easily edit geocoded addresses manually from the list or directly on the map. This means that you can quickly find and correct incomplete or incorrect addresses using geocoding.
For any type of geocoding, whether address, reverse or batch, you need suitable geocoding software, such as Geocoder JoinAddress from WIGeoGIS.
Assigning a coordinate to an address and vice versa may sound simple, but it is far from it, because different components have to work together in geocoding. A geocoder works as follows:
Components of a Geocoder
A geocoding tool for professional use basically consists of the following components:
- A reference database in which addresses and geographic coordinates are saved.
- A server software that uses and searches the reference databases as sources to find, construct and output the appropriate coordinate.
- A batch function for geocoding mass data.
- Typeahead address search for the flexible entry of and search for addresses.
- A client software with which the geocoder is queried. This can be a locally installed client or a web client (for online geocoding).
The building blocks alone make it clear that a geocoder can only be as good as the reference databases it accesses. On the other hand, the geocoding software must be potent, meaning it works quickly and has an intelligent search algorithm. A batch function is essential for professional use. In addition, geocoders differ in terms of the flexibility with which clients can query the geocoding server.
This is how the geocoding process works
The different building blocks work together in the geocoding process. The following happens:
- You enter an address into the geocoder, for example Hansalgasse 3 in Vienna. The more completely you enter the address, the more precisely the software can locate it on the map.
- The intelligent geocoder software searches a gigantic reference database for your address and delivers the correct and most precise coordinates.
- This allows addresses to then be located and displayed on a map.
What types of geocoders are there? Which is the right one?
In the past, Geocoders were exclusively installed locally in the company, but today web services are also available that allow you to geocode directly in a browser. This corresponds to the current IT usage trends in companies. Modern geocoders therefore offer local and online geocoding. Both variants have their justification and advantages depending on the respective usage scenario and the needs of the company. That is why many companies do not choose one variant, but use both. Many companies geocode large amounts of data and sensitive data locally in-house, while for other addresses they use an external online geocoder. If you want to find the right geocoder for your specific needs, you have to take a close look.
Tip: How to recognize a good geocoder
What makes a good geocoder? Which one is right for me? It depends on your needs. Basically, geocoding software should have the following features:
- Completeness and accuracy of the reference data
- High quality of geocoding
- Transparency when displaying the geocoding result
- Speed and performance
- Possibility to edit addresses manually
- Simple and intuitive to use
- Secure storage and processing of your data. Only you and no one else uses your address information.
This is How Geocoding Works with JoinAddress
With JoinAdress, WIGeoGIS offers a modern geocoder that geocodes batches of addresses worldwide correctly, precisely and quickly. You can install the software locally in your company and use it for online geocoding via a web client.
In the online version, simply upload your addresses from an Excel file. Your address data will be saved and processed on the WIGeoGIS server, which is located in our company headquarters in Vienna. Your data is secure. Nobody is reading along. Only you use your address data. After geocoding, you can permanently delete the project and all data. Your data and the geocoding result cannot be reconstructed. In addition, the JoinAddress Geocoder allows you to manually edit your addresses in lists and directly on the map.
In the video, you can see how to geocode with JoinAddress and learn about its features.
Areas of application: Why and for what do you use geocoding?
Geocoding can be used in many business areas and is now taking place in numerous applications in the background without us even being aware of it. An example: Every time we enter an address in a map application (e.g. Bing Maps, Google Maps), the address is geocoded in the background so that it can be displayed as a point on the map.
Geocoding is thus the basis for numerous corporate applications, be it as an address search tool in CRM and other databases, as a tool for address data analysis, as an address management helper or as a coordinate supplier for location analysis, market analysis and geomarketing with GIS.
Companies geocode addresses from different business areas, such as addresses
✔ from customer databases and projects for new customer acquisition
✔ of locations in the branch network
✔ of service points
✔ of warehouses, hotspots and other relevant locations in the supply chain
✔ of competitor locations
✔ of points of interest
In combination with other key figures or market data from your company, geocoded address data serves as the basis for numerous geo-analyses for sales, expansion, service and marketing measures. For these advanced geo-analyses you need GIS-Software.
Four Popular Examples of the Use of Coordinates in Companies
We asked our customers and companies in which areas they use geocoding and coordinates. The following popular use cases have emerged.
Coordinate Supplier for GIS Systems
Most companies geocode addresses in order to work with them in GIS applications. You can use coordinates in ArcGIS, QGIS, WIGeoWeb and other WebGIS solutions for geo-analyses of all kinds.
Analyze Addresses Visually
Companies use geocoding as a means of visual address data analysis. By locating addresses on the map, agglomerations (clusters) and other spatial patterns can be recognized immediately. This gives companies a new, important perspective for their business decisions. This perspective can be decisive for your business success.
Every company has a large collection of addresses. Often these are not recorded in a uniform manner, but are incomplete or entered different systems. With geocoding, companies bring order into the address chaos.
Address Search in Databases
Finding an address in a CRM or another application is often a problem. Companies solve this by integrating an address search tool that is based on geocoding. The address is found no matter how it is entered, no matter if it is incomplete or the street name or city name comes first. The tool always shows a suitable suggestion.
WIGeoGIS is a Geocoding Specialist
WIGeoGIS has been developing geocoding software for SMBs, IT service providers and global corporations for more than 25 years. This also includes large companies such as Münchner Rück, for whom highly precise address localization is of the utmost importance.
WIGeoGIS is continuously further developing its geocoding software JoinAddress. Since 2017, the Geocoder is now also available online and combines a user-friendly interface with very up-do-date and highly accurate coordinates at a very fair price. More on Geocoder JoinAdress.