Locations Are Not Addresses

In my last post, I shared a minor epiphany I experienced working on a project to merge data sets from two different oil companies in which I fully recognized the difference between an address and a location. Borrowing from an assortment of definitions, a location describes a point or an area within a dimensional space. A location is frequently mapped to two dimensions on the surface of the earth, usually latitude and longitude, but may encompass three dimensions (including altitude). On the other hand, an address is a text string that is formatted according to a definition provided by a postal authority representing a location directing parcel or package delivery.

Don’t confuse the two. And there are many business process situations expecting a location, others that expect an address, and a few that expect aspects of both. As an example of the last scenario, property and casualty insurance companies may insure facilities or infrastructure artifacts that do not have an address, such as fences, telephone poles, electrical wires, or train tracks. These are all examples of things to which you would not send a letter, but it is critical to know exactly where the item is in order to develop a coverage policy and assess the premium rate. However, in addition to knowledge needed to establish a policy, there are also characteristics requiring some address data, such as the localities in which the items exist for emergency services and for taxation.

Without this data, some business processes cannot successfully complete. This suggests that accuracy of location data and accuracy of address data are both extremely important.

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26 Responses to Locations Are Not Addresses

  1. Joy M. Elamthuruthy says:

    Interesting arcticle. I am very curious to know how you will know exactly where a train track is. How do you do it when it is 3000 miles long?

  2. Dennis Crow says:

    This shows why GIS knowledge is critical to using mapping or just geospatial data without mapping in a BI environment. The data management of the different kinds, sources, metadata for geospatial data is a complex practice in itself. To answer your question, to trace a railroad track: (1) create standards and rules to either digitize the lines from imagery or to use GPS. Successfully doing this requires thorough knowledge of geospatial science and technology. Geocoding addresses is simple in comparason, but is a nuanced process.

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