Posts Tagged ‘Address Geocoding’

Better Sales Tax Matches with New FastTax Improvements

Service Objects has been returning location-based tax rates in the DOTS FastTax API since 2001. Back then, we identified sales tax rates using only zip code. Since zip codes could cross multiple city and county borders, we were returning the rate most likely to be accurate based on preferred city and county. That evolved to returning multiple results based on a zip code, with each result containing a unique city, county and state. This was more accurate, but still involved a level of human intervention as multiple rates could be returned.

The service improved further as Service Objects developed its DOTS Address Validation services, which allowed us to get even more precise in determining the right area for the tax rates. Users could now submit a full address to the API and in most cases get a single accurate result, pinpointing the result to a location that had a clear tax rate.

However, if a given address was bad – or maybe even good but too messy to validate – it would not return a result and users would need to failover to the zip code level operations. Rural addresses which fall outside of city boundaries could wreak havoc if the proper location is not identified.

Last year, Service Objects introduced a new operation, GetBestMatch, to solve these challenges.

GetBestMatch in FastTax is designed to find the best rate possible and return a clean result. It uses the latest algorithms from Address Validation – US to clean and validate the toughest addresses and failing that, validates that the other data points are valid in order to return a zip level rate.

The service can also return an address level rate through the analysis of the nearby area, even if the address is bad. If an area can be proven to have a consistent rate for a zip, city or county and we know the address would be within one of those areas with 100% certainty, it can be deduced that since any address within that area has the same rate, the rate we return would be accurate at the address level. This extra analysis means that GetBestMatch can more precisely return accurate rates more often than its predecessor operations.

Additional Returns Offer More Insight

To add even more accuracy to the service, GetBestMatch also does boundary analysis to ensure the most accurate location is used in the tax calculations. The main piece of information returned to users here is the “IsUnincorporated” note. IsUnincorporated helps users identify locations that might be considered part of the city but actually are not. This example shows what that might look like:

823 Holiday Dam Rd, Honea Path, SC, 29654

This is a partial return of the operation including the Note IsUnincorporated. This notifies the user that the CityRate, if it exists, should not be used in the final TaxRate. We have decided not to modify the original found result (TaxRate and CityRate) but return the IsUnincorporated result so that the user can handle it however they wish. In an upcoming release we will be adding a new return “UnincorporatedTaxRate” to simplify all of this.

The improved rates of return for address level checks also come with a few new challenges. Since we can return accurate rates even if the address is extremely messy, there might be times when we do not always have an accurate city or county to return. We know the rate is accurate but not necessarily exactly where the location is located. For example:

11900 Hunting, Pickerington, OH, 34147

This is a bad address. However, through extra validation we know the other parts of the address are good. We know the zip code and county are good, but it’s possible for multiple cities to fall within these boundaries. Analysis shows the rates would be the same regardless so while we are not able to accurately tell what city is attached to the address, we still know every address in the potential area would have the same rate, so we can confidently say the rate would be good for the address. Another example shows an even more obvious reason why we might not have a value:

8538 Smith Street, Wales, MI, 48027

Again, the address is bad, but this one is easy. Michigan only has a state rate, which means that all addresses within Michigan will have the same state rate. The analysis of city, county and zip shows a consistent city and zip, but the county could be multiple results. So, we can display city and zip code but not county. FastTax is not intended to be an address validation service, but a helpful tip is to look at the Zip return. If the Zip is 5 digits, it meant something happened during validation and the address did not pass inspection.

The latest GetBestMatch updates also added support for the US Territories (Guam, Micronesia, American Samoa etc.) Here is an abbreviated example of an address in Guam:

Bldg 30 Farenholt, Tutahan, 96910

In addition, we already supported military locations within the United States, but now there is support for all of the remote bases around the world as well. An abbreviated example of that can be seen here:

Unit 28103, USAG Graf Chaplain, APO, AE, 09002

Since all of these locations, even the ones abroad, had US assigned postal codes; making sure we could return results was of utmost importance. We now have a complete list of results covering all areas associated with the United States.

Finally, the latest operation also now supports JSON responses as one of our last services to be converted. This operation was also created to be more dynamic, information components outputs allow us to add new results on the fly without breaking any client integrations, like those using SOAP. Fields such as CountyFIPs have already been added, and the new field UnincorporatedTaxRate will also be added here. These fields allow us to work with our clients to add custom logic or results that might not otherwise be available.

Is there a custom logic you’d like to see in FastTax? Reach out and let us know, or get your free trial key and start testing today.

Why Google Maps Isn’t Perfect

Google Maps is an amazing service. Much of the civilized world has now been mapped through its data sources, ranging from satellite data to its ubiquitous camera-mounted vehicles. The result is a tool that allows you to find a location, link to local businesses, or virtually drive anywhere from downtown Paris to rural Mexico.

However, if you use Google Maps to validate addresses in a business, it is a little like trying to find a lifelong mate for your grandmother on Tinder: it is possible, but with a tool that wasn’t necessarily designed for that purpose. So let’s look at the differences between this service versus professional address validation and geolocation tools.

Google Maps versus address validation

Let’s start with the most important difference: Google Maps is very complete, but sometimes wrong. How wrong? Mistakes can range from bad directions, wrong street names, and bad addresses to wrong country borders, omitting large cities and everything in between. Once, in a mistake Google acknowledged, a Texas construction firm even demolished the wrong house when Google Maps sent them there.

Another difference is where the data comes from in the first place. Google Maps uses a variety of sources including administrative boundaries, parcels, topographic features, points of interest, trails, road features, and address points or ranges. It also accepts data from “authoritative” organizations as well as individuals, subject to a vetting process. As a result, however, it is possible for mistakes to be introduced and/or made when aggregating or consolidating the data.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, Google does not know exactly where every address is. When it does not have rooftop level data to pinpoint the address it will estimate where an address is using techniques such as address interpolation. Sometimes an address may also be wrong because an individual claimed the location and entered the information incorrectly, or changes such as new municipal or postcode boundaries were not updated.

What the pros do

By comparison, professional address validation and geolocation tools don’t guess at results, because their focus is more on accuracy. Tools such as Service Objects’ DOTS Address Validation and Address Geocode capabilities are focused on delivering an accurate and precise response, versus settling for “close enough.”

To get specific, if our address validation tool cannot correct and validate that an address is real, we will fail it and will not guess. By comparison, Google may just use the closest approximation, which can lead to issues. Similar rules apply to geocoding latitude and longitude coordinates from address data: where necessary, Service Objects will move down a gradient of accuracy/precision, but will still often be closer to the correct coordinates than Google.

Another key difference lies in our data sources. For example, DOTS Address Validation uses continually updated USPS, Canada Post and international data in combination with proprietary databases, to create near-perfect match accuracy. Likewise, for Address Geocoding addresses and coordinates are validated against our master database, the US Census Bureau, TIGER®/Line file, USPS® ZIP+4 tables, and other proprietary databases, ultimately yielding a 99.8% match rate accuracy when translating an address to its latitude and longitude coordinates.

Use the right tool

We like Google Maps. Without it we wouldn’t be able to easily visit major world cities online, find a good sushi bar near our hotel, or get directions to visit Aunt Mildred. But when you need professional-grade accuracy in address and location data for your business, be sure to use the right tools. Need more specifics? Contact us for a no-pressure consultation, and our team will be happy to explore your specific needs.

Enhance Customer Profiles With DOTS Address Insight – US

Service Objects is pleased to welcome a new service to our lineup, DOTS Address Insight – US.  Built on the core of our USPS CASS Certified DOTS Address Validation – US and DOTS Address Geocode – US services, Address Insight – US blends address and geocode data with supplemental demographic data. Our proprietary datasets of hard to get addresses (like rural or unincorporated areas) enhance United States Postal Service data and provide additional insights about locations that no single service could handle. Address Insight – US uses this data to strengthen your customer profile with just one call.

Address Insight – US Employs Powerful Data from Service Objects’ Strongest Services

Address Validation – US provides robust address validation, correction, and standardization for the vast majority of valid US addresses. Impressive fuzzy matching capabilities and logic are used for dealing with complex address structures. Delivery point validation, residential/business indicators, and suite link to append suite information are all included. In addition, Address Validation – US returns important informational pieces like corrections that were made to the address or identifying special cases such as location vacancy or returning mail.

Address Geocode – US combines multiple datasets to handle complex cases and messy addresses and return the most comprehensive set of Latitude and Longitude coordinates possible. Key informational pieces including State FIPS, County FIPS, Census Tract, and Census Block are also returned. Mapping calculations are performed to identify locations that are unincorporated, or outside of the bounds of a city. These calculations also identify the most accurate name of the location in PlaceName, which could be the name of an area within a larger city – where the larger city would normally be returned.

Three-in-one Service Improves Results and Location Scoring

In addition to the vast datasets found in Address Validation – US and Address Geocode – US, Address Insight – US incorporates additional compiled datasets that improve results and enhances location accuracy scoring. The ability to return information about challenging or hard to find addresses is a critical feature of Address Insight – US. The service returns several notes that help identify information about the address, such as:

  • AddressFoundByUSPS indicates that our Address Validation service successfully identified the location. This is the best possible result as it indicates a solid chance of mail delivery and more informational datapoints are available.
  • AddressFoundInSupplementalData indicates that the address information was found in one of the supplemental data sets. Its not as high quality as the USPS data and not as many additional data points are available, however there is a high likelihood the location is a good address.
  • AddressIsGeneralDelivery indicates that we could not find any specific information on the address, but the area is known and the street is good. The location is likely part of a General Delivery area and still has a strong likelihood of being valid.

Address Insight – US returns a score from 0-100 that approximates the likelihood that the location is a good one.

Additionally, Address Insight – US returns many other useful pieces of demographic and informational data, which can help businesses increase revenue through targeted marketing and satisfy regulatory requirements for compliance in different industries. Sample demographic returns include:

  • ZipHouseholdValue tells the average value of houses in the area.
  • ZipPersonsPerHousehold tells the size of households in the area.
  • HouseholdIncome returns give the average house hold incomes for different levels of the area.
  • Other informational returns include area codes associated with the area, time zone, MSA, CBSA, DMA and more.

New Interface Designed for Future Enhancements

One of the best new features available in Address Insight – US is that it is built upon a new dynamic interface that allows us to safely add in new data fields. We will never change a result that already exists, however, this interface allows us the ability to continually improve the service and add in new fields as they become available. This feature will allow Service Objects to potentially work with clients on custom solutions and in the future, we may even be able to build add-ons to the service that may return entirely new datasets.

Address Insight – US provides address validation, geocoding, and demographic data – all with a single call. We support REST, SOAP, GET, and POST requests over HTTPS outputting in XML and JSON formats. Get started with your free trial key for Address Insight – US or visit the developer guide to learn more.

Compliance and Address Insight

The golden rule of marketing has always been, “know your customer.” In today’s regulatory environment, however, it might be more accurate to say, “know your customer – or else!” Nowadays customer data – particularly in areas such as geocoding and demographic data – are often central to maintaining compliance with a wide range of regulations, in the financial world and elsewhere.

In response to this, Service Objects has just released a powerful new capability to help automate the gathering and analysis of geolocated consumer data: Address Insight – US. It provides address standardization, address geocoding and demographic information together in one real-time service, and is designed to serve a wide range of applications ranging from compliance to targeted marketing.

Examples of financial compliance issues

Let’s look at some of the areas where address insight can benefit your compliance efforts:

  • The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requires federally insured lending institutions to provide lending opportunities to low-to-moderate income communities – and in particular, prove that they are not “redlining” specific neighborhoods and denying them credit. One of the key performance criteria for evaluating CRA compliance is your geographic distribution of loans.
  • The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), enacted by Congress in 1975, requires lenders to publicly disclose data regarding their mortgage lending activities. While this is a disclosure law with no implied quotas, HMDA also serves to ensure that lenders do not contribute to the decline of specific geographic areas by failing to provide adequate mortgage financing.
  • For consumer lending in general, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) has a set of Fair Lending Examination Procedures used to audit lenders for evidence of lending discrimination. These reviews include an analysis of geographic patterns in lending to seek evidence of “redlining” or neighborhood-based discrimination.
  • Conversely, certain real estate transactions may be subject to Geographic Targeting Orders (GTO), which are enhanced identification and record-keeping requirements imposed by the Federal Financial Crimes Enforcement Network for expensive real estate transactions in areas that are prone to money laundering activities. For example, as of 2017 transactions of $3 million or more in Manhattan or $1 million or more in parts of Florida were subject to GTOs, along with numerous other metropolitan areas.

A solution for compliance and beyond

Of course, there are numerous applications beyond compliance for geocoded address insight. For example, academic researchers can use address insight to study specific neighborhoods – for example, the University of Chicago divides the city of Chicago into 75 defined communities that correlate with tract information, and can be used as study variables. And of course, the combination of location insight and demographic data can be a very powerful tool for market targeting.

For compliance applications, Service Objects’ Address Insight – US provides data such as MSA code, state code, county code (FIPS), and tract number for addresses for FFIEC compliance. It also includes all the benefits of Service Objects’ flagship address validation and standardization capabilities, as well as appended demographic information such as household values and incomes by ZIP code.

As with all Service Objects services, Address Insight – US is available through APIs that can be interfaced directly to most contact data automation platforms, as well as convenient batch list processing for smaller applications or specific datasets. Contact us for a free 500-transaction trial key, and see what this new tool can do for you!

Mailing Address vs Physical Address: What’s the Difference?

Is a mailing address the same as a physical address?

No, not always.

In general, a mailing address can often be the same as a street address, but this is not always the case. To understand why, we must first acknowledge that the two types of addresses are often defined and regulated by two separate authoritative entities that generally serve different purposes.

Different Purposes

A mailing address, or postal address, is often regulated by postal authorities that are commonly associated with services related to the sending and receiving of mail. For example, in the US this would be USPS. In the United Kingdom, Royal Mail. Deutsche Post DHL Group for Germany and JP Post or Japan Post (日本郵政 Nippon Yūsei) for Japan. These postal authorities can be public government agencies, like the USPS, or privatized companies like Royal Mail, Deutsche Post and JP Post- which were sold off by their governments.

A physical address, sometimes referred to as a street address, is used to describe where a place is geographically located. It often pertains to a geographic location under the jurisdiction of an administrative area or region that has some government function. The physical address should have a set geographic boundary that is recognized and governed by an administrative area. If an address resides in an incorporated area then its municipality is generally responsible for providing some public services, such as law enforcement, public schools, sanitation, water works etc. If an address resides in a rural and/or unincorporated area, then sometimes these services are provided by the governing state, territory, province, county etc. Sometimes certain services are not available at all.

Location, Location, Location

Where a physical address is geographically located will often determine what public and private services it has access to. For example, a rural address may not have access to readily available public transportation or high-speed internet, whereas an address in a metropolitan area likely would.

In the US, it is the job of the US Census Bureau (USCB) to collect and produce data about the people. Both public and private agencies rely on the various datasets produced by the USCB, such as geographic and demographic data, to help make informed decisions. The USCB produces various Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) datasets that are designed for use with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and various mapping projects. TIGER products are spatial datasets used to describe geographic features such as boundaries, roads, address information, water features, as well as legal and statistical geographic areas.

TIGER products are widely used in many US related geolocation solutions, including our own DOTS Address Geocode US service, and are considered a standard when it comes to working with geographic locations and features in the US and its territories. TIGER data, along with other topological geographic mapping datasets, can be used to help geocode a physical address to varying degrees of accuracy.

Choosing the Right Route

Mailing address datasets are generally used to help facilitate and ensure the delivery of mail, and they are not necessarily one-to-one comparable with geographic datasets like TIGER. The main reason being that these datasets are intended to serve different purposes. Let’s take USPS ZIP Codes for example. USPS ZIP Codes are not geographic areas. They are a collection of mail delivery routes and they help identify individual post offices and delivery stations that are associated with mailing addresses.

ZIP Codes help the USPS determine the best route for delivering mail. It is not uncommon for a physical address, that is geographically located in one locality, to be assigned to a different locality in its mailing address. This is common for areas where a single post office or delivery station may serve multiple localities.

Not All Mailing Addresses Are Physical Addresses

Here’s an interesting example of an address that is physically or geographically located in one state of the US, but the mailing address has it listed as being in another.

Physical Address:
25777 Co Rd 103
Jelm, CO 82063

USPS Mailing Address:
25777 Co Rd 103
Jelm, WY 82063-9203

Using Google Maps to inspect the address and the surrounding area, we see that the location is near a state line, but the address is clearly in Colorado and not in Wyoming.

According to Google the physical address is approximately six miles from the Wyoming and Colorado state line. When we investigated other addresses in the area we found that they too had a mailing address that said they were in Wyoming.

When we reached out to USPS to inquire about the addresses they acknowledged that they were indeed geographically located in Colorado; however, their ZIP code is associated with a USPS Post Office located in Jelm, Wyoming and that is the reason why the mailing addresses are for Jelm, Wyoming and not Jelm, Colorado. It may be confusing to base an address’ location on where it’s post office is located, but logistically it makes sense for the postal authority, USPS.

It’s also not uncommon for some rural areas to use general delivery, where mail is not delivered to a recipient’s physical address and it is instead kept at a post office that the recipient will go to and pick it up. If the post office is located in a different locality, then the recipient’s mailing address would be different from their physical address.

Other examples of mailing addresses that are not physical addresses include:

  • Post Office Box (PO Box) and Private Mailbox (PMB) – Many individuals and businesses use PO Boxes and Private Mailboxes as an alternative to their physical address. Postal Agencies like UPS offer PMBs as Personal Mailboxes, and while they do advertise that their PMBs include a street address it still is not the recipient’s physical address.
  • Centralized Mailboxes – Also known as cluster mailboxes or community mailboxes, are basically a large communal mail box made up of multiple individual boxes clustered together. The mailing address for a centralized mailing box does not have to reflect the recipient’s physical address as each box in the cluster will have its own unique identifier.
  • Unique ZIP Codes – These are ZIP codes that are assigned to some single high-volume addresses such as universities, government agencies and some large businesses. Postal carriers will deliver mail to the organization’s mail department, and it then delivers the mail to the final destination which may be in an entirely different geographic location.
  • Military Addresses – Are used to route mail for military mail services, such as the US Military Postal Service (MPS), the British Forces Post Office (BFPO) and the German Armed Forces (Feldpost). Civilian postal carriers deliver mail to military post offices which then perform the final delivery.

Which Address to use

For some people, their physical address is the same as their mailing address and when asked for their address they don’t have to worry about which address to give because they are both the same. For others who don’t have matching mailing and physical addresses, some consideration is needed. If the purpose of the address is to send mail to it, then the mailing address should be given. If the address is needed to locate where a place is geographically located, then the physical address is needed.

The answer should be clear but sometimes there are misconceptions and confusion and on the behalf of the party requesting the address. The party asking for the address may simply be unaware that not all mailing addresses are physical addresses and that not all physical address have mailing addresses. If the intent on how an address is to be used is not made clear, then the person giving their address could potentially give the wrong one if the two are not the same. Sometimes the person giving the address will be sure to specifically ask if they want the mailing address or the street address, but the party asking may be unaware of the difference and inadvertently ask for the wrong one.

Shipping Address and Physical Address

There can also be some confusing cases when it comes to the terms billing address and shipping address. Likely, the billing address will be a mailing address, but what about the shipping address? Let us suppose that a customer wants to have a package delivered to their doorstep. They want to enter their physical address, but they know that USPS does not deliver mail to their physical address. However, they do know that UPS does deliver to their door, but they are not sure about FedEx. If the site they are purchasing from gives them the option to choose the shipping carrier then that helps, but if it doesn’t then which address do they choose to give? Worse yet, what if the customer is unaware that their physical address is undeliverable?

Helpful Tools

When businesses and organizations work with addresses it is important to know where they are located and if they are valid and deliverable. Otherwise, they risk making uninformed decisions that can end up wasting valuable resources like time and money and damaging customer relationships. That is why Service Objects provides various address related products to help prevent mistakes and reduce waste. Our services can quickly correct and standardize address to help determine where they are located and if they are valid and deliverable.

Feel free to test drive any of our Address products and see how we handle these scenarios.

What Can We Do? Service Objects Responds to Hurricane Harvey

The Service Objects’ team watched the steady stream of images from Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath and we wanted to know, ‘What can we do to help?’  We realized the best thing we could do is offer our expertise and services free to those who can make the most use of them – the emergency management agencies dedicated to helping those affected by this disaster.

It was quickly realized that as Hurricane Harvey continues to cause record floodwaters and entire neighborhoods are under water, these agencies are finding it nearly impossible to find specific addresses in need of critical assistance. In response to this, we are offering emergency management groups the ability to quickly pinpoint addresses with latitude and longitude coordinates by offering unlimited, no cost access to DOTS Address Geocode ℠ (AG-US). By using Address Geocode, the agencies will not have to rely on potentially incomplete online maps. Instead, using Service Objects’ advanced address mapping services, these agencies will be able to reliably identify specific longitude and latitude coordinates in real-time and service those in need.

“The fallout of the catastrophic floods in Texas is beyond description, and over one million locations in Houston alone have been affected,” said Geoff Grow, CEO and Founder of Service Objects.  “With more than 450,000 people likely to seek federal aid in recovering from this disaster, Service Objects is providing advanced address mapping to help emergency management agencies distribute recovery funds as quickly as possible. We are committed to helping those affected by Hurricane Harvey.”

In addition, as disaster relief efforts are getting underway, Service Objects will provide free access to our address validation products to enable emergency management agencies to quickly distribute recovery funds by address type, geoid, county, census-block and census-track. These data points are required by the federal government to release funding.  This will allow those starting the recovery process from this natural disaster to get next level services as soon as possible.

To get access to Service Objects address solutions or request maps, qualified agencies can contact Service Objects directly by calling 805-963-1700 or by emailing us at info@serviceobjects.com.

Our team wishes the best for all those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Image by National Weather Service 

Ensuring Addresses are Accurate and Up-to-Date

“Did you know that nearly 30 million Americans move each year? Did you also know that government agencies like counties, cities, and states are required to keep accurate and up to date records of their private citizens for communication purposes?”

Service Objects is committed to helping businesses reduce waste, and identify and improve operating efficiency through data quality excellence. And according to founder and CEO Geoff Grow, you can do this using databases up-to-the-minute USPS-certified data and more to verify your contact records.

This video will show you how to use simple API and web-based tools that validate and append data to your contact information. You will learn how data quality solutions can:

  • identify change of addresses, making it easier to keep your contact records accurate and up-to-date,
  • validate addresses to maximize delivery rates,
  • geocode addresses to provide highly accurate latitude and longitude information. In addition,
  • and append census, ZIP code and county boundary data.

Bringing High Speed Internet to Rural Areas: The Connect America Fund

This is where the US government comes in. The federal universal service high-cost program – also known as the Alternative-Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM) – is designed to ensure that consumers in rural, insular, and high-cost areas have access to voice and broadband service at rates that are reasonably comparable to those in urban areas. And Service Objects is excited to help carriers find and deliver broadband internet to these hard-working rural Americans by introducing an indicator in our Address Geocode US that will let carriers know if the location is eligible for A-CAM funding.

The Connect America Fund is a win-win for everyone involved. It incentivizes the growth of rural internet access by reimbursing carriers for a portion of their costs of development, from the federal Universal Service Fund. Currently the Fund offers over 1 billion dollars annually to help defray the high cost of running fiber optic cables and equipment to sparsely populated areas, for carriers of all sizes. This can

Internet access is about much more than posting selfies to your Instagram feed. Today, it has become the engine of both commerce and human connection. The United Nations and the US both recognize that the internet has become so fundamental to freedom of expression and opinion that it is a basic human right needed for all people. But for many people living in rural areas of the United States, affordable internet access is still out of reach. According to US News and World Report, only 55 percent of rural Americans have access to broadband internet, versus 94 percent of urban dwellers.

quickly add up to a big source of income for the carriers and a great incentive to expand their coverage.

But there is a catch. To compete for these grants, carriers must submit the addresses, GPS coordinates and several other key pieces of information to the FCC. The deadline for 2016 funds is barely a month away – on July 1st, 2017 –so finding all the businesses and households located in these remote areas is not easy. Some of these addresses do not have mail service, others are just work sites such as barns or grain silos, and many are not the main address of the business. But all of these locations would still benefit from high speed internet, AND contribute to the per-address size of the carrier’s grant.

This is where Service Objects can help. Our Address Validation product can verify, correct and append address information, as fast as 150 milliseconds per record, using our CASS-certified USPS database engine. And our Address Geocode product can translate these addresses into exact latitude-longitude coordinates, with property-level match rate accuracy up to 99.8% and indicate if the location is within the funding boundaries. Both of these products can be put to work right away, as either an API for your application or through convenient batch list processing.

According to the Hudson Institute, rural broadband companies contributed nearly $25 billion US dollars to the economies of their states, were responsible for nearly 70,000 jobs, and supported over $100 billion dollars in e-commerce in 2015. And the impact of this broadband access ranges from the ability to locate manufacturing plants in rural areas, all the way to telehealth capabilities that bring top medical expertise to patients in remote areas. It is truly an enabling technology for closing the digital divide that still impedes economic growth in these areas.

Many people don’t realize that rural America was actually the birthplace of much of our modern telecommunications – long before most of us had phones, farmers would talk with each other on networks connected through barbed-wire fencing. Today, it makes perfect sense to have the online era come full circle to a population that needs and deserves the right kind of access.

Service Objects is proud to help with this initiative. We can now import the footprint of service from a rural carrier and match all eligible addresses within that area and provide the information needed to submit to the FCC. This allows the carriers to maximize funding of A-CAM and get their portion of the 1 billion dollars at stake.

If you would like more information on how we can help with Connect America Fund, send an email to communications@serviceobjects.com.

How Constantly Changing Sales and Use Tax Rates Can Impact Customer Satisfaction

For businesses engaged in commerce, it is a real challenge to stay on top of ever changing sales and use tax rates. One minor tax rate change can have a direct impact on your customers, costing your business significant time, money and resources.

In addition, the complexity of tax laws continue to increase every year, with constant changes in tax rates, and tax jurisdictions that often go beyond simple measures such as ZIP codes or municipality. And the risks to businesses for non-compliance are potentially severe.

The result from charging customers the wrong rate can have a significant impact on a business. Unhappy customers cause customer service issues, can have a negative impact on employee morale and have a substantial financial impact from processing refunds or collecting outstanding money owed.

All this means that maintaining tax compliance – particularly in today’s business environment, with everything from multiple distribution channels to e-commerce – requires planning and processes to become a smooth-running, cost effective part of your business.

Learn more about this important topic. Register for our upcoming webinar on May 23, 2017 and hear Geoff Grow, CEO and Founder of Service Objects, as he discusses:

  • What sales and use taxes are and how they are calculated
  • The concept of Nexus and when an out-of-state business is liable for collecting sales or use taxes
  • What the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement is and why it doesn’t work
  • Recent legal rulings that can affect your business
  • The important role geo-location plays in calculating rates
  • The impact on your business when your customers are charged the wrong rate
  • The benefits of leveraging a third party data provider who is an expert in providing the most accurate and up-to-date rates in the US and Canada

Can Google Maps be Used to Validate Addresses?

In November of 2016, Google started rolling out updates to more clearly distinguish their Geocoding and Places APIs, both of which are a part of the Google Maps API suite. The Places API was introduced in March 2015 as a way for users to search for places in general and not just addresses. Until recently the Geocoding API functioned similarly to Places in that it also accepted incomplete and ambiguous queries to explore locations, but now it is focusing more on returning better geocoding matches for complete and unambiguous postal addresses. Do these changes mean that Google Maps and its Geocoding API can finally be used as an address validation service?

No, it cannot. Now before I explain why, let’s first acknowledge why someone would think Google Maps can be used to validate addresses in the first place. The idea starts with the simple argument that if an address can be found in Google Maps then it must exist. If it exists then it must be valid and therefore deliverable. However, this logic is flawed.

Addressing a Common Problem

One of the biggest problems many users overlook with Google Maps and the Geocoding API is that incomplete and/or ambiguous address queries lead to inaccurate and/or ambiguous results. It is common for users to believe that the address entered was correct and valid simply because Google returns a possible match. These users often ignore that the formatted address in the output may have changed significantly from what they had originally entered.The people over at Google Maps must have realized this too as the Geocoder API is now more prone to return ‘ZERO_RESULTS’ instead of a potentially inaccurate result. However, not all users are pleased with the recent changes. Some have noted that addresses that once returned matches in the Geocoding API no longer do so.

Has the Geocoding API become stricter? Yes. Does Google Maps finally make use of address data from the actual postal authorities? Not likely.

Geocoding vs Deliverability

Google Maps does not verify if an address is deliverable. The primary purpose of the Geocoding API is to return coordinate information. At its best it can locate an individual residential home or a commercial building. Other times it is an address estimator. However, not all addresses are for single building locations.

Apartment and unit numbers, suites, floors and PO boxes are typical examples of the type of address that the Google Maps Geocoding API was not intended to handle. They now recommend that those type of addresses be passed to the Places API instead, but not because the Places API can validate or verify those types of addresses. Again, none of the APIs in the Google Maps suite will verify addresses. No, it is because information like a unit number is currently superfluous when it comes to their roof-top level geo-coordinates. Google Maps does not need to know if an address is a multi-unit and/or multi-floored building in order to return a set of coordinates.

Take the Service Objects address for example,

27 E Cota St Ste 500
Santa Barbara, CA 93101-7602

The Google Maps Geocoding API returns the following address and coordinates,

“formatted_address” : “27 E Cota St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA”

“location” : {               “lat” : 34.41864020000001,               “lng” : -119.696178            }

Notice that the formatted address output value has dropped the suite number even though the address is valid. Let’s change the suite number from 500 to a suite number that does not exist, such as 900.

“formatted_address” : “27 E Cota St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA”

“location” : {               “lat” : 34.41864020000001,               “lng” : -119.696178            }

We get back the exact same response, because they are both the same in the eyes of Google Maps.

A similar thing happens if we try the same using the Google Maps web site.

This is the result for when Suite 500 is passed in:

This is the result for when Suite 900 is passed:

Notice that 900 remains in the address.

An unsuspecting user could easily mistake the Suite 900 address for being valid if they were simply relying on the Google Maps website, and its mistakes like these that often lead people to believe that an address may exist when it does not.

The Right Tool for the Job

When selecting a dedicated address validation service here are a few critical and rich features you will want to look for:

Even with the recent updates Google Maps is still no alternative for a dedicated address validation service and choosing not to use one could prove to be an expensive mistake.

DOTS FastTax Gives More Accurate Tax Rates by Identifying Unincorporated Places

In a recent blog we discussed how to identify Incorporated and Unincorporated places. There are a number of reasons this is important, one of them being to determine accurate area tax rates. As mentioned in that earlier post, boundaries of a place do not always have clean lines. On the same street block there could be neighbors living side-by-side, who fall on different sides of that boundary. Therefore, they would be subject to a different local tax rate.

Our DOTS FastTax API is designed to calculate sales and use tax rates for a given address input. Our newest operation, GetBestMatches, now has the capabilities to determine this boundary data and return the most accurate tax rates for a given address. Leveraging additional resources available in our DOTS US Address Validation and Geocoding, we can better understand the nuances of these places, their unusual boundaries, and tax rate differences.

For example, in Service Objects’ hometown of Santa Barbara, there is an area between Santa Barbara and the nearby city of Goleta, affectionately known as “Noleta.” Although most of the inhabitants of this area consider themselves Santa Barbara residents, Noleta is considered Unincorporated when it comes to determining city tax rates.

Let’s look at another example in Phoenix, AZ.

Phoenix has a city tax rate of 2.3 percent city tax rate within the city’s boundaries. Per the image below, all locations in blue in this area are considered Incorporated and subject to the city’s 2.3 percent tax rate. However, any building within the unshaded block which includes “5601 W. Buckeye Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85043” is considered Unincorporated and therefore not subject to the city’s tax rate.

Yet another example located in nearby Mesa, Arizona — “901 N. 96th St., Mesa, AZ 85207”:

96th Street happens to be a street where boundaries differ depending on which side of the street you are on. In this case the even-numbered side of the street is incorporated and the odd-numbered side is unincorporated. The town of Mesa, Arizona has a 1.75 percent city tax rate. Therefore locations on the odd side of 96th Street actually have lower taxes because that side of the street is unincorporated and not subject to Mesa’s city tax.

These examples highlight only a few challenges businesses can experience when determining tax rates for their customers. Here at Service Objects we’re always looking for ways to help businesses provide the most accurate data. With the help of our latest FastTax operation, GetBestMatch, it’s no longer necessary to be a local in order to understand the nuances of places, their unusual boundaries, and tax rate differences like the ones above.

Contact us to learn more

How to Identify Incorporated and Unincorporated Places in the United States

The US Census Bureau uses the term “place” to refer to an area associated with a concentrated population, such as a municipality, city, town, village or community. These statistical areas have a defined boundary and they may or may not have a legal administration of power that performs some level of government function. The US Census Bureau uses class (CLASSFP) codes to classify different types of places and areas. The Bureau currently lists 70 different CLASSFP codes; however, all places are either a legally incorporated place or a Census Designated Place (CDP).

Incorporated Place

The US Census Bureau defines an incorporated place as a geographic area with legally defined municipal boundaries under the laws of the state in which it is located. Incorporated places are established to provide governmental functions for a population, typically with elected officials and the means to provide local municipal services such as water, sanitation, schools and police departments.  Each state has its own requirements for incorporation that typically include population and land area thresholds. 

Census Designated Place (CDP)

A Census Designated Place (CDP) is the statistical counterpart of an incorporated place. In general, CDPs are not legally incorporated under the laws of the state in which they are located, nor do they have elected officials to serve governmental functions.  Municipal services for CDPs are normally provided by either the county, a minor civil division (MCD), or by a nearby incorporated place.  A CDP is also commonly known or referred to as an unincorporated place.

Identifying Incorporated and Unincorporated Places when Geocoding Addresses

The DOTS Address Geocode US service makes use of various datasets from the US Census Bureau. This data is compiled and organized into detailed street level data and place wide boundary data. The street level data allows the geocoding service to know which side of the street the address is on. This lets the service know which block the address is on and it is helpful in some edge case scenarios where an address may fall on the edge of a boundary.

901-n-96th-st-mesa-az-85207

The street level data lets us do many things but it’s not always complete and it doesn’t always give us the whole picture. In some cases, there are addresses that reside in the outskirts of an area, outside of the incorporated boundaries. These locations are in the unincorporated areas of a minor civil division (MCD) or county. Detailed data for these unincorporated areas is often lacking, usually due to a combination of low population density and large land areas.

1022-w-calle-tuberia-casa-grande-az

After the coordinates for an address have been determined, the service can then use them to determine if they fall in an incorporated place, unincorporated place, or outside of any place boundary and in an unincorporated area. This not only works for addresses in the outskirts of an area but for other situations as well.

Sometimes there are small pocket communities that appear to be within a larger city area but they are not actually a part of it.

5601-w-buckeye-rd-phoenix-az-85043

The US Census Bureau says that the boundaries of a place should be considered organic, as they can shrink and grow. In some cases, the boundaries of a place will not cleanly stop on the edge of a street or block. Sometimes the boundary will dissect part of a road or block partway, dividing neighboring structures.

14802-n-78th-ln-peoria-az-85381

Overall, there are many challenging scenarios that can arise when it comes to geocoding an address and determining if it is unincorporated or not. However, using the right data with the right tools and expertise means that we can overcome these challenges to provide accurate and reliable results to our clients.

3 New Features to Service Objects’ Validation Services

Here at Service Objects, we are constantly working to improve or add useful features to our services so we can continue to be an industry leader in providing our customers with quality data. We are always on the hunt for new data sources, new operations and new ways of leveraging existing information for the benefit of our customers.

Here are some recent ways we’ve improved our services:

Associating PO Boxes with Post Office Addresses

We added a feature to our DOTS Address Validation 3 service to be able to provide post office addresses that are associated with PO Boxes that get validated through our service. If a PO Box is validated through our service, we’ll be able to provide the address information of the post office  (or multiple post offices; it can return multiple addresses) that may be associated with that PO Box. This is activated on a customer by customer basis as some may not want that information present in their current implementations. If this is something you would like to see in your implementation of DOTS Address Validation 3, let us know and we’ll authorize it for you.

Portable VOIP, Prepaid Wireless Number Data

Our phone validation services (DOTS GeoPhone Plus 2 and DOTS Phone Exchange) can now recognize Portable VOIP and prepaid wireless numbers. This new data can help recognize when a caller may be using services like Skype or Google Voice numbers. Recognizing these types of numbers can be one of the first steps in preventing fraud.

Legislative Data

Have you ever wondered what legislative districts may be associated with a particular address? If so, you are in luck! Our DOTS Address Geocode –US service can now provide Senate and House of Representatives chamber codes for addresses that receive a street level match in our GetBestMatchV4 operation. These codes can be used to look up current representatives for a particular address.

If you want to learn more about any of these features mentioned above, please contact us as we would love to tell you more about how these enhancements can impact your business. We are always in the process of adding new features to our services, so if there is something you would like to see, don’t hesitate to let us know!

Service Not Available: USPS Mail Delivery is More Limited Than You May Think

Residents in many smaller towns and rural areas in the United States do not receive residential mail delivery from the USPS. They’re living off the grid, the postal grid, that is.

In communities such as Davidson, NC, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, and Jackson Hole, WY, USPS does not deliver mail to home addresses. Shippers like FedEx and UPS usually deliver packages to peoples’ doors, but the USPS does not.

In some cases, like in Davidson and Carmel-by-the-Sea, the decision against mail delivery was made locally to encourage community building. With everyone checking their mail at the local post office, they’d have to interact with each other. Carmel-by-the-Sea has been doing this for more than 100 years. According to the city’s Chamber of Commerce, a newcomer attempted to get residential mail delivery service about 10 years ago and was promptly labeled an “agitator.”

In Davidson, a delivery route is available to disabled residents. Mail delivery routes are also available to homeowners associations and retirement communities outside of the original town’s boundaries, but only to clustered mailboxes.

In other cases, cities and towns lack delivery routes because of USPS policies. For example, in Jackson, WY and Mammoth Lakes, CA, regular and heavy snowfall make it virtually impossible to deliver mail.

Rural mail delivery frequently involves a central set of mailboxes located along a rural path. These mailboxes tend to cover a large area; thus, they are rarely close to residents’ actual homes.

In 2013, the USPS changed one of its residential delivery policies. For all newly established addresses, instead of delivering to the door or a curbside mailbox, mail will only be delivered to central mailbox clusters. These can be located far from a person’s actual residence. These clusters also make package delivery tricky since the mailbox address is different from the property address.

Here at Service Objects, we are constantly looking for new addresses that don’t fit nicely into a simple box. If the USPS doesn’t deliver to a given address, it doesn’t mean that the address isn’t real or valid for FedEx and other shipping services. Our competitors often ignore tricky outlier addresses such as those that technically don’t exist, at least according to the USPS.

We understand that a lot of people are living off the postal grid, either by choice or by USPS policy. We excel at finding these addresses and dealing with their intricacies. These are the types of challenges that push us to improve our address validation software for even better accuracy.

Lost Deliveries Equals Lost Revenue

Getting Your Mail Delivered

In 2014, the United States Postal Service reported that 4.3% of all mail was ‘Undeliverable as Addressed’ (UAA). At first glance, this doesn’t seem too bad, BUT this seemingly small percentage can become a very expensive issue, having a negative impact on your business. Looking at the big picture, this translates to over 6.6 billion pieces of UAA mail, costing the USPS $1.5 billion a year. What’s more, UAA mail cost the entire mailing industry over $20 billion in 2015.

Think about the number of packages, mailers, documents, and invoices that you send out on a daily basis. How many Undeliverable As Addressed mailings do you experience daily, monthly, yearly? As reported by the USPS, it is likely around 4.3% of mailings. And that number doesn’t account for 3rd party courier services like UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc.

To help illustrate the hard and soft costs associated with of UAA mail, let’s take a look at a couple examples.

Mail-Order Catalogs

You might think with the advent of the internet, mail-order catalogs would have become obsolete by now. On the contrary, catalogs are a healthy part of omnichannel marketing and with over 11.9 billion mail-order catalogs mailed in 2014, they do not appear to be going anywhere.

In fact, direct mail outperforms digital channels by a long shot, with 3.7% response rate on a house list and a 1.0% response rate on a prospect list. By comparison, all digital channels combined, only achieve a 0.62% response rate. The real power shows up when marketers combine direct mail WITH digital marketing. As Kurt Salmon discovered, over 58% of online shoppers say that they browse catalogs for ideas, and 31% have a retailer’s catalog with them when they make an online purchase.

“For example, during one calendar-year period, we observed that Internet-only customers of one specialty retailer placed orders of $80 on average, whereas catalog customers’ average orders totaled approximately $90.”

Extensive market research helps us see just how important mail-order catalogs are to many businesses. Unfortunately, of the 11.9 billion catalogs mailed in 2014, 476 million catalogs went undelivered. For companies that rely on catalog marketing, deliverability does have an immediate effect on their bottom line.

To provide more context, consider the following scenario.

A large retail clothing company is sending out millions of seasonal catalogs to their house and prospect lists. The costs to design, create, print, and mail these catalogs is substantial but they know that customer order values increase by 15% when they have a catalog in hand.

Unfortunately, recent sales reports indicate that the company’s response rates have dipped about 1%. After some inquiry, they discovered that 4.3% of their catalogs came back as UAA, and therefore did not reach their targets. They have suffered the direct costs of printing and postage and the indirect costs of a lost sales opportunities.

To correct this problem, they implemented some simple address validation tools and were able to reduce their UAA rate, thus saving on these costs and immediately getting back on track.

Return to sender stamp on envelopeUndelivered Invoices & Packages results in Decreased Cash Flow & Unhappy Customers

Your relationship with your customers is everything. And a key part of customer service is “knowing” not only who your customers are, but also where they reside so that their deliveries are consistently getting to them. And, when you have loyal, happy customers, you maintain a steady cash flow.

Along those same lines, customer invoices must be delivered on time, every time, in order to avoid unnecessary operational costs.

Companies whose invoices are not received in a timely fashion will experience a direct impact on their:

  • Accounts Receivables Department: requiring additional time to call on customers or clients when invoices are not received
  • Finance Department: affecting accounts receivable, aka, interrupting company cash flow
  • Mailroom Operations (if applicable): spending time researching and in most cases resending statements/invoices and adding additional postage costs

But, by taking steps to validate their mailing addresses, they increase their chances of maintaining their customer relations. Ask yourself this question: How many times will a customer “tolerate” inadequate service, such as undelivered packages or invoices, before they decide to cancel their business altogether?

So how can you correct and streamline your customer lists for address accuracy while also keeping them current?up-to-dateness? It starts with plugging in Service Objects’ DOTS – Address Validation solution to verify, validate, and correct undeliverable mail.

Solutions, Solutions

To significantly increase the deliverability of your mailing lists, Service Objects offers a number of solutions that will help validate and correct your mailing addresses. All of our services can be accessed through our real-time APIs and/or using our batch process.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  • DOTS Address Validation – US, can instantly verify, correct and append address information against our CASS-Certified USPS address verification database. Some companies choose to append latitude/longitude and demographic information, in which case, we recommend DOTS Address Validation Plus. Using either of these services, the majority of your addresses will be verified and corrected, and ready for mailing.
  • DOTS Address Detective uses real-time “fuzzy” logic to complete missing data points in the address and then verified against our CASS-Certified database. Great for incomplete and hard to validate addresses.
  • DOTS NCOA Live service, keeps verified and corrected addresses up-to-date. This is built on the USPS National Change-of-Address database (NCOALink).

Think Globally

  • DOTS Address Validation – Canada, covers 15.7 million addresses in all 10 provinces and 3 territories and validates both French and English addresses.
  • DOTS Address Validation – International, verifies, corrects, and appends addresses outside the United States and Canada. Covers over 250 countries, dependent areas and territories. Addresses are corrected to the unique requirements of country’s postal address formats and cultural idiosyncrasies.

Whether it’s a direct marketing mailer campaign, confidential documents, packages, or customer invoices, you need to count on successful deliveries every time.

So get it right the first time by using the most genuine, accurate, and up to date customer address information available. As it relates to your bottom line, there is no room for error. Plain and simple, Service Objects Address Validation solutions can help you reach your mailing goals!

Pokémon Go: Behind the Scenes

You found a Magikarp in your neighbor’s swimming pool or met a few new friends collecting Pokémon characters at the local duck pond. It’s all good fun until…

…Until you realize that your location, your social networks, and your data are being tracked. Early reports that Niantic, the parent company of Pokémon Go, may be collecting a wealth of personal information caused an immediate uproar among data privacy advocates and concerned players. Turns out, the Apple App Store version of Pokémon Go initially had full access to users’ Google accounts. This included access to your Google Drive documents and read and write access to your Gmail.

Pokemon-StreetsFortunately, Niantic was quick to respond, and the problem has already been resolved. That said, the game may still be able to collect the following information:

  • Your email address
  • Your user name
  • Your location(s)
  • Your IP address
  • Your date of birth
  • Recent webpage visits

While you may not object to Niantic knowing your email address or location, what happens if hackers hack into Niantic’s servers? With millions of reported users within just a week of its release, you can bet that hackers are checking out Niantic. How will they use your personal data?

Here’s something else to be alarmed about: location, location, location. The app knows exactly where you are. Granted, that’s part of its charm, but we urge caution.

Remember that Magikarp in your neighbor’s swimming pool? How did the app know to put a fish-like character right there? It’s not magic; it’s geocoding. The app integrates with existing maps and global location databases, making it able to distinguish items like private swimming pools, fountains, parks, and churches — all at the local level.

For example, fountains are commonly designated as Pokéstops, a place where you can get fresh virtual supplies. Public places like churches, parks, and football fields are often designated as “training gyms” where players gather to train and become “King” of the gym.

Here at Service Objects, we hate to be Pokémon party poopers, especially because we love geocoding, and Pikachu is adorable. The app’s geocoding element is quite simply brilliant. Like our own address validation API, Pokémon Go uses detailed maps and address databases to accurately understand a given geographic location and its features. In our case, our USPS CASS certified address validation service compares geographic information against the address data contained within USPS and other address databases. This allows us to confirm, standardize, append, and correct address data, as well as return specific geocodes to pinpoint the location on a map. In theory, if we wanted to superimpose a cute animated character over a specific address based on location data, we could do that. The technology is virtually the same.

In Pokémon Go’s case, the developers are using an existing Ingress global intel map and database compiled by Ingress players around the world. Players of this earlier Niantic location-based game had contributed to this massive database, uploading geocodes, descriptions, and photos over time. One of the major tasks in Ingress involves capturing portals at public places which is why Pokémon Go has a wealth of existing geolocations marked such as playgrounds, fountains, public art, landmarks, and monuments. Niantic was formerly part of Google, and may have also tapped into the Google Maps API (as many app developers do).

Why should you be concerned about geocoding in a game? At some point, advertisers may be interested in your whereabouts, but here’s another thought: While it’s fun to find a fish in a swimming pool and interact with other players at a public site like a church for “training” in a Pokémon gym, you may wonder who else is playing the game?

The fact that neighborhood playgrounds are designated gathering places for players is yet another cause for alarm — especially given the fact that children, adults, and hackers alike are all attracted to the game. And criminals are already using Pokémon Go to their advantage. For example, according to the St. Louis Dispatch, armed robbers staked out known gathering spots for Pokémon Go players and then robbed them in over the weekend.

Even without the criminal element, Pokémon Go’s surging popularity coupled with its incredibly granular, block-by-block map data may soon make it one of the most, if not the most, detailed location-based social graphs ever compiled. If you’re going to play, go in with your eyes wide open.

Pokemon-Stay-Aware

Geocoding Resolution – Ensuring Accuracy and Precision

When geocoding addresses, coordinate precision is not as important as coordinate accuracy. It is a common misconception to confuse high precision decimal degree coordinates with high accuracy. Precision is important, but having a long decimal coordinate for the wrong area could be damaging. It is more important to ensure that the coordinates point to the correct location for the given area. Accurately geocoding an address is very complex. If the address is at all ambiguous or not properly formatted then a geocoding system may incorrectly return a coordinate for a location on the wrong side of town or for a similar looking address in an entirely different state or region.

Some address geocoding systems will return decimal coordinates to the sixth decimal place or more; however, depending on your particular needs, that level of precision may actually prove unnecessary. The degree of precision for most consumer level GPS devices only goes up to the 5th decimal place anyway, which equates to “roughly” one meter of precision. This is “roughly” one meter because the distance can vary depending on how close you are to the either the equator or the poles. The distance will be at its greatest the closer you are to the equator and gradually gets smaller as you move north; however, when dealing with coordinates at this level of precision and above, the difference is mostly negligible for address geocoding.

In the Decimal Degrees wiki page (link below), there is a table that covers the levels of precision for each decimal place in a decimal degree. Below is a similar looking table:

 

Decimal DegreesLooking at the table above we see that a decimal coordinate with a level of precision past the 6th decimal place would be entirely unnecessary for locating an address. That level of precision would only be necessary under very special circumstances and would require very specialized equipment to use. If a decimal coordinate goes past the 7th or 8th decimal place then the coordinate was most likely calculated and the true level of precision would be unknown. So don’t let a decimal degree coordinate with a high level of precision fool you into thinking that it is more accurate. It is important to always thoroughly test any geocoding system to ensure that it meets your particular needs.

Reference: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decimal_degrees)

Data Validation In Real Estate

The Real Estate Industry Can Gain a Competitive Edge with Data Validation

Data-based marketing, outreach and lead generation isn’t only for cutting-edge B2B companies anymore. Data runs the world these days and successful businesses in every industry can benefit from using verified, validated data in smart ways.
Working with generic data isn’t enough, either. It can be inaccurate and out of date, making it as useful as no data at all—worse, even, if you’re relying on this information. That’s why smart real estate organizations—from large firms to independent agents—are investing in data validation services.

Data validation verifies that the information you’re working from, whether about a specific lead or regional demographics, is accurate and up to date. Validation can be as simple as verifying correct names, phone numbers and current addresses, or can be as nuanced as geo-targeting, IP address validation and reverse phone lookup discovery. No matter the level of data verification, the results are the same: correct information can help you make better-informed decisions and accurately target your audience.

Clever and industrious people in the real estate industry can benefit from just about every type of data validation; it’s all about keeping an eye on trends and getting the right message to the right people at the right time.

Address Validation

This is simple but crucial for real estate agents, who still spend a considerable amount on direct mail marketing. Getting a personalized mailer in the hands of the right person is important. RealTrends found that targeted direct mail pieces had a 2-5 percent response rate, versus the 1 percent rate when real estate agents mailed the piece to everyone without specific targeting.

Address Validation before a direct mail send can help ensure that you have the resident’s correct name (“Current Resident” makes the piece seem extra promotional and impersonal), the correct gender salutation, and helps make sure that the target actually lives at that address.

Or Current Resident Edit
Image via Evil Mad Scientist

Using a data validation service that has access to the USPS National Change-of-Address database can help further refine outreach. If a new family just moved into the address you’re targeting, they’re probably not looking to move again soon, so strike that address off the list for now.

Taking address validation a step further with geocoding validation can help real estate agents get a jump on hot trends and growing neighborhoods. Cross check a list of addresses against a trending neighborhood’s longitude and latitude to make sure the addresses you have really are in the hot spot. People currently in this neighborhood might want to capitalize on the new demand and sell their home at a profit, making them prime contacts for savvy real estate agents. Extend your validation and outreach efforts to the surrounding neighborhoods to get a leg up on the competition.

Reverse Phone Look-Up

Reverse Phone Look-up enables companies to put a name and current address to a phone number. This is particularly useful since many people now move but keep their original cell phone number. This trend makes phone numbers alone a hard way to target people, especially with the declining use of landlines. According to Time, 41 percent of homes were landline-free as of 2014 and 60 percent of adults ages 30-34 exclusively use a mobile phone. With the average age of first-time home buyers currently sitting at 31 and expected to climb to 32-34 in the coming years, this makes reverse look-up validation an invaluable resource for real estate agents.

This type of validation will tell you if the people on your list of phone numbers truly do live in your territory. Plus, it will give you their most current address and name. National real estate companies can use this validated data to send location-specific messaging to everyone on their list, based on the person’s current location.

Demographic Validation

A core premise of marketing, no matter what industry, is “know your audience.” Demographic data validation can help real estate agents get an accurate and intimate understanding of the areas they work in. Gut instincts are essentially gambles, whereas using validated data ensures you have reasonably accurate and updated information. By working with US census validated demographic data, real estate agents can change and target their messages based on location.

  • Spanish-language ads can be placed in predominately Hispanic neighborhoods
  • First-time homebuyer messaging can be sent to areas with a high concentration of young adults reaching the pivotal first-time homebuyer age
  • Direct mail pieces discussing downsizing can be targeted to areas with mostly older adults
  • Target small business owners in the area about property opportunities in the up and coming business district

SuburbsUnderstanding the population make-up of a particular area can also help influence how you market properties. Areas that are mainly suburban are likely to connect more with family-oriented messages while urban areas probably want to hear more about high-end home features and nearby amenities. By using a combination of demographic validation and geocoding validation, agents can perfectly target each area.

This level of data also provides insight into the average income and spending of nearby households, which is helpful when pricing houses and projecting commissions.

Competitive Edge

Many real estate agents work independently and cannot afford to waste time, resources, and money on misguided marketing and outreach efforts. This is where a commitment to clean data and consistent data validation can provide a competitive advantage. Committing to using validated data as a key business tool can help real estate firms accurately focus efforts and spend smartly with better response rates.

Data can be intimidating, but with good data validation the return on investment is well worth it. Look into the different features and options offered to begin cleaning up your data and deciding which level of data-based targeting will work best for you. Go beyond just address validation and get creative if you want to pull ahead of the pack.

Ensuring Insurance Covers the Proper Property

Location, location, location. Those are often claimed to be the three most important words in real estate. Since new homeowners need to properly insure their new investment, location, location, location are also the three most important words in property insurance, making it a good case study in address accuracyGeolocation

While insurance companies also rely on accurate addresses for correspondence by mail, the most important reason for ensuring the address accuracy of a property’s location is it plays a significant factor in properly assessing the risk riding on a policy issued to insure the property. For example, determining whether the property is located near a flood plain, fault line, tornado alley, or wildfire zone.

To accomplish these goals, insurance companies require two software solutions. The first is address validation certified by the United States Postal Service (USPS), which verifies, standardizes, and corrects address data as needed, and determines if the address is deliverable. The second is address geocoding, which determines the latitude, longitude, full ZIP code, latest census tract code, country code, and block code for the address by leveraging reference data from a variety of sources, including the United States Census Bureau, Topologically Integrated Graphic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) files, and the USPS ZIP+4 database. Geocoding can also be used to estimate the distance between a property and a flood plain, fault line, tornado alley, or wildfire zone. By translating an address into its exact geocode using latitude and longitude coordinates, insurance companies can pinpoint the location of the property. These solutions enable the insurance company to evaluate the risk associated with the property and issue an appropriate policy.

Insurance customers also value having the most accurate and up-to-date address for their property so that insurance documents, cancellation notices, non-renewal notices, claims acknowledgements, and other correspondence arrive in a timely manner.

Ensuring insurance covers the proper property begins with ensuring the address accuracy of the property’s location.

Jim Harris OCDQ BlogThis post comes from guest blogger Jim Harris of Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality. Harris is a recognized data quality thought leader with over 20 years of enterprise data management experience. Harris is a freelance writer, independent consultant, and Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality (ocdqblog.com), a vendor-neutral blog about data quality and its related disciplines.

How Technology Can Help Close Online Sales and Keep Customers Coming Back

Not another marketing theory: Read how technology works on the issues that may be limiting your sales and/or damaging your online reputation.

Successful e-commerce companies have three things in common: Good online reviews, reasonable delivery fees and prompt delivery of goods. Web services can help you streamline delivery rates and assure your products are delivered on time: key ingredients for keeping customers in your online sales process and inspiring them to leave positive feedback in return.

Streamline Rates

Has this ever happened to you?You find the perfect product at the right price, only to find out that the shipping rates nearly double its price? If you’re like me, then you click out and search for another place to buy your product. We’re not unique in this. Some studies estimate that up to 75% of all shopping carts are abandoned before sales are closed, and report that the #1 reason is high shipping rates.

Why are some shipping rates so high? Location is the first thing that comes to mind; but then there’s that dreaded “handling” fee that often inflates the cost.

Companies can often keep people like us in the sales process by simply tightening up on distance calculations, thereby reducing “handling” in the sales and shipping process. This is something that can easily be done by integrating a hosted Web service that provides them with the information and automation needed to make it happen.

Take, DOTS Address Geocode, it’s a Web service that pinpoints customers’ exact locations the moment they’re typed into online forms; companies can use this information to offer delivery rates based on actual distances rather than geographic zones.

Assure Deliverability

While DOTS Address Geocode pinpoints customers’ locations, it also cleans up their addresses, fixing things like ZIP codes and left-out apartment numbers, for example. It can also push the clean customer data into sellers’ CRM systems. That means less “handling” via no re-keying efforts and fault-free delivery.

Undeliverable mail accounts for billions of dollars of waste in the US alone, and some of that comes back to you and me, combined in “handling” fees associated with reprocessing bad deliveries.

Undeliverable (or late-arriving) purchases also account for the majority of online complaints when it comes to rating customer experience.

To sum it up, pinpointing exact customer delivery locations and cleaning up addresses to assure deliverability help you not only in your efforts to reduce handling fees, but also in building and maintaining your online reputation.

Offering better value and better customer experience drives more loyalty and ultimately more revenue to online companies. Good reviews attract people like me to initiate business with online companies in the first place; reasonable handling fees inspire us to stay the course and complete sales processes; and quick deliveries on our purchases gets us to leave positive feedback in return.

DOTS Address Geocode Pinpoints customer location and assures address deliverability while instantly updating the seller’s CRM system. It’s a simple solution to help online sellers offer better bottom-line prices; streamline sales and shipping processes and keep customers coming back and/or sharing their positive experiences.

Address Geocoding—a Big Tip for Delivery Businesses

All over the country businesses have popped up to bring quality sit-down restaurant meals into our homes. In the Pacific Northwest, Dinner Delivery Plus is one such business. Serving the Greater Eastside of Seattle area for the past 16 years, Dinner Delivery Plus offers the 400,000+ residents and businesses a variety of national and local restaurants with more than 80 choices. About 4 months ago, Dinner Delivery Plus decided to make some changes to their business model. Using DOTS Address Geocode℠ from Service Objects, they have redefined restaurant delivery in their market.

 

Delivery services, whether it be for restaurants, flowers, or groceries, often charge customers Delivery Fees on a Zone-based model. Zone-based models typically put the onus on the consumer to figure out how much their delivery charge will be by manually plotting their location on a map in relation to the business they are ordering from. To calculate a delivery fee the customer has to figure out which zone their desired restaurant is in and which zone their home or business is in, then they have to calculate the delivery based on a complicated grid or map. Some restaurant delivery services only offer consumers the option of choosing from restaurants within their specific zone. All in all, not the best customer experience—usually at a higher cost to the consumer.

Dinner Delivery Plus saw the opportunity to do things differently and to redefine their market. Their goal was to offer a better value and more restaurant choices to their customers. By employing distance based delivery pricing instead of Zone-based delivery, customers would pay a delivery fee based on the actual distance from the restaurant they were ordering from to their location.

Here is where address geocoding comes in. Using a real-time address geocoding web service, Dinner Delivery Plus is able to pinpoint the exact location of the customer when they register and input their address into the web form to place a delivery order. The geocoding service validates the address and determines the latitude and longitude coordinates. With this information Dinner Delivery Plus is able to tell the customer the exact delivery charge based on their distance from each of the 80 restaurants. Their website makes recommendations for restaurants that are the closest, but leaves it to the consumer to decide where they want to order from–creating a better customer experience.

Offering better value and a better customer experience drives more loyalty and ultimately more revenue. Address geocoding services can be a game-changer for businesses providing delivery as a service to their customers.

What are you doing in your business that is redefining your market?

Service Objects—the leading provider of real-time contact validation solutions—offers Address Geocoding for both the US and Canada.

Posted by: Gretchen N.

Santa to Use DOTS Address Geocode, Rudolph’s Fears Allayed

SANTA BARBARA, CA — December 23, 2008Service Objects announced today that its DOTS santa-2Address Geocode Web Service will play an important role as Santa Claus drives his sleigh around the world tomorrow night. Now that Santa’s sleigh is equipped with GPS tracking and DOTS Address Geocode, Santa will be able to perform property-level geocoding so he can plot his route better than ever.

Updated DOTS Address Geocode – US Data

This week I’d like to discuss an important update to our DOTS Address Geocode – US Web Service. One of our many sources for geocoding US addresses is the TIGER/Line database, published by the Census Bureau. This particular database is updated and published twice a year, and we update our services with the new data as soon as possible. A typical update may take a week or two to implement and test.

Our regular update procedure was interrupted when the Census Bureau announced a new database format for the latest release. Due to our proprietary method of combining street data sources, we needed to rewrite much our DOTS Address Geocode – US service from the ground up in order to work with the new database format.

This was not an easy task–it took months of research, development, and testing to ensure we had done the job right. During the development, we took a fresh look at every step of the geocoding process and made dozens of changes. As a result, we can now locate even more addresses at the property level, and have substantially increased accuracy. At Service Objects we are always looking for ways to improve our DOTS Web Services!

We strive to keep our data sources up-to-date so you receive the best information available. Updating our DOTS Address Geocode – US service was time well spent, ensuring fresh data and faster updates in the future. We’re confident that these changes have added value to the service and will greatly benefit our clients.

Thank you for reading,

Alex P.

Questions for Alex P.? Contact him at communications@serviceobjects.com