Posts Tagged ‘Address Geocoding’

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 for 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!