Posts Tagged ‘Physical Address’

In Search of the Unique Address

Some things seem simple on the surface, but aren’t so easy in reality – for example, programming your DVR, or building assemble-it-yourself furniture. In the world of contact data quality, we would add one more item to the list: removing duplicate addresses from your database.

Why is this? Because in many cases, the exact same delivery location can be described in multiple ways and formats. Some of them are quirks of geography: for example, a location that can be described as part of different municipality levels, or a rural route location that also has a valid street address. Others are victims of syntax, such as having different ways of listing a suite or office number. Some can be caught by the human eye, but not easily by a computer. Still others would confuse anyone.

This article will look at many of the ways that duplicate address can slip by in your database – and some ways you can fix this, with a little automation. Let’s dive in.

Spotting Duplicate Addresses

If you were to look at the following address examples you would be able to easily identify them as being the same.

Example 1A:

27 East Cota Street Suite 500
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Example 1B:

27 E Cota St #500
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

After all, the only difference between the two is that example 1B is abbreviated and example 1A is not. To a computer however, the two addresses are distinctly different, and they would therefore require standardization in order to look the same to a computer.

Using an automated solution, like our DOTS Address Validation products, that standardizes addresses according to USPS or other guidelines is a great solution for these scenarios. Here is how both of these addresses would look after being standardized:

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

How about this next example: do these addresses look the same to you?

Example 2A:

960 Embarcadero Del Norte
Isla Vista, CA 93117-5106

Example 2B:

960 Embarcadero Del Norte
Santa Barbara, CA 93117-5106

Example 2C:

960 Embarcadero Del Norte
Goleta, CA 93117-5106

Address examples 2A, 2B and 2C are all valid, USPS standardized, and they are all for the same mailing address. However, to a computer, they are still uniquely different. If you were maintaining a list of addresses and trying to remove duplicate addresses or prevent duplicates from being added, then the above examples would likely slip by unnoticed.

In this next example, would you have been able to guess that they are both for the same mailing address?

Example 3A:

RR 1 Box 1465
Bunch, OK 74931-5160

Example 3B:

90455 S 4687 Rd
Bunch, OK 74931-5160

In this case, a rural route address also has a street address equivalent. Here’s another example of duplicate addresses that would be tough to detect.

Example 4A:

10246 Spicewood Rd
Cadet, MO 63630-7211

Example 4B:

RT 2 Box 2730
Cadet, MO 63630-7211

If you were simply reliant on the address string to try and detect duplicates, then there is no way that you would be able to catch those examples. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some sort of simple ID code or preferably an ID number that you could use to identify addresses instead of the full address? Actually, there is a solution for this in some countries, in the form of a unique address ID (UID).

Where Do IDs Come From?

Unique Address IDs should ideally come from an authoritative source, such as a postal authority or municipality. Authorities such as municipalities are generally responsible for naming streets and addressing buildings, while postal authorities are responsible for delivering mail to these locations. Differing authorities will generally come up with different IDs to fit their specific needs, and it is unlikely that address IDs will be shared by both. For example, municipalities will generally be more concerned with where an address is physically located and its classification type, whereas a postal authority will focus more on mail delivery and carrier routes. Therefore, it is not uncommon for a mailing address to differ drastically from its corresponding physical address.

Going back to address examples 2A, 2B and 2C, we have three duplicate mailing addresses, but of the three example 2A is the one that best describes address’ geographic location. This is because the address is geographically located in the unincorporated community of Isla Vista; however, Isla Vista has no post office of its own and mail is likely served by post offices in the neighboring cities of Goleta and Santa Barbara. According to USPS, all three city names are acceptable and can be used equally. This is because USPS has assigned them the same address barcode.

Address Barcodes

Barcodes are often unique address identifiers. For US mailing addresses, USPS provides a Delivery Point Barcode which is comprised of the full ZIP+4, the Delivery Point Code, and finally a checksum digit. The barcode digits can be used to identify duplicate mailing addresses. Take the previously mentioned address examples, their barcode digits are as follows.

Example 1 Barcode: 931017602254

Example 2 Barcode: 931175106601

Example 3 Barcode: 749315160554

Example 4 Barcode: 636307211461

With the barcode digits, it doesn’t matter how different the various duplicate address strings look since they all share the same numeric barcode digit. Note that you can obtain these barcodes digits as one of the outputs from DOTS Address Validation – US for US addresses.

USPS is not the only postal authority to offer a unique ID. Australia, for example, has a Delivery Point Identifier (DPID) that can be used as a unique identifier for an Australian address. The DPID is generated and maintained by Australia Post. According to the Australia Post Data Guide, the DPID is defined as follows.

  • The Delivery Point Identifier (DPID) is a randomly generated, unique 8-digit number, which is allocated for every new address added to the source address database. All DPIDs, for complete addresses, fall within the range of 30,000,000 to 99,999,999.

Unfortunately, not every country has an authority that offers a unique address identifier. Sometimes delivery point data simply isn’t available, and identifiers are only available for some buildings, streets, communities and regions.

IDs do not guarantee uniqueness

Even when an authoritative source offers a unique delivery point identifier, this does not necessarily equate to uniqueness. For example, not all addresses are deliverable, and some communities rely on general delivery services where the recipient is required to pick up their mail at a post office. Since a general delivery address can serve more than one person or household, it would be dangerous to rely on the address ID of one to try and remove duplicate addresses from a database if they are associated with contacts.

It is also not uncommon for some rural areas to share a mailbox. According to USPS’s General Guidelines and Policies for Rural Delivery,

  • On a rural route, more than one (1) family, but not more than five (5) families may use the same mailbox. A written notice of agreement signed by those who use such a box is filed with the postmaster at the delivery unit.

If more than one household is sharing a rural route mailbox then they will all share the same address barcode ID. So, while the address itself may be unique, it is not truly representative of the number of households behind it. This could prove problematic for businesses looking to use an address ID as a way to limit sales and promotions to a certain number of purchases or entries per household.

In some cases, there will be addresses that represent entities that send and receive large volumes of mail. These entities, such as universities, government agencies and some large corporations, will sometimes be assigned their own unique postal code. In the US these entities will be assigned a “unique ZIP+4” code. The French postal authority, La Poste, assigns CEDEX (Courrier d’Entreprise à Distribution Exceptionnelle) codes. In the UK, these codes are sometimes called “large user” codes and they are managed by Royal Mail. It is not uncommon for these large organizations to have their own mail department. Postal carriers are generally only responsible for delivering mail to these internal mail departments, and the large organization will handle delivery to the recipient.

Making sense of address IDs

Overall, when it comes to address IDs it important to keep a few things in mind.

  • Make sure the address you are using accurately represents what you need it to in order to meet your business needs. For example, you are not trying to use a mailing address as a physical address and vice versa.
  • If an address ID is available then ensure that it is generated and maintained by the appropriate authority, such as a postal authority for mailing addresses.
  • Depending on your needs, address IDs may not always be an appropriate method to ensure uniqueness.
  • Authorities have full control over the address ID. An address ID may change at any time or become orphaned without warning.

If you’re feeling less sure now about what you need then don’t fret. Sometimes the more you learn about a subject the more confusing that subject becomes. Here at Service Objects, we pride ourselves on helping you find the right tool for the job and are here to help.

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.

Test drive any of our address products with a free trial key and see how we handle these scenarios.