What Are the Different Types of Geocoding Services?

Geocoding services transform addresses into geographic coordinates, essential for mapping and spatial analysis. They range from simple, single-address conversion to batch processing and reverse geocoding. Some offer additional data layers, like demographics. Each service caters to different needs, from personal projects to enterprise solutions. How might the right geocoding service enhance your next project? Let's find out together.
R. Kimball
R. Kimball

Geocoding services vary based upon the provider. Most service companies provide services that convert physical address information into geographic coordinates of latitude and longitude. Some providers charge for the conversion services, and others provide the service for free. Each online mapping service has its own application programming interface to interact directly with the online map.

Universities and other large institutions have developed tools to assist individuals and groups to convert physical address information into corresponding geographic coordinates. Many of these organizations permit users to use their geocoding services to geocode one address, provided in either a parsed or non-parsed format, or a batch of addresses at one time. These services are provided either online or via an application downloaded to the individual user’s computer. Each organization provides the format in which the data is to be provided in order for its services to complete the data interpolation.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Individual users or specific programs may access an application programming interface in order to access a specific mapping system’s geocoding services. The application programming interface includes the rules and specifications for how the data is to be provided to the program to be processed into geographic coordinates by the program itself. Each online mapping program uses a proprietary interface for users to interact with the program and place geographic coordinates onto the Internet-based map. These maps are in turn used by millions of users on a monthly basis to find specific locations via either the Internet or global positioning systems.

Companies selling global positioning services to consumers use geocoding services to translate information found in telephone directories into information that consumers may access from a variety of devices. Many handheld devices include positioning information within the device so that the user may access information regarding a specific service within a set mileage radius of the user’s current location. Automobiles also include positioning devices within them in order to provide assistance to drivers while en route. The companies providing these services may also provide specific advertising to a consumer based upon that person’s current geographic coordinates.

Individuals also use geocoding services for hiking or other adventures to document routes or other landmarks. These individuals might use the interpolation services prior to embarking on an adventure to create a specific map. While on the adventure, the user might mark a landmark on a handheld positioning device to save the data for later use. Upon returning home, the user might use a geocoding service to reverse interpolate the geographic coordinates into a physical address.

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