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Photos from Where 2.0 2006

Session

Addressing Global Issues

Sean Phelan, Founder, Multimap

Date: Tuesday, May 29
Time: 2:15pm - 2:30pm
Location: Imperial Ballroom

The issues and complexities associated with the world of geocoding are often underestimated and widely misunderstood, and become even more so when approached from a global perspective. Geocoding is an essential part of the delivery of online mapping and location-based services, residing firmly and resolutely at the heart of every single map transaction. Geocoding is about converting an address or placename to geographic co-ordinates and, given the lack of uniformity in the way placenames are formatted and presented not only across borders but indeed within one region or even country, the challenges involved in giving meaning to that information, and rendering it on a map, are enormous.

While one person’s “Ch Dickens, Paris” might mean “Rue de Charles Dickens, Paris”; for another it might mean “Chausee de Dickens, Paris”. While, in the UK people might immediately understand that Lisburn, N.I., is an address in Northern Ireland, it’s unlikely that users outside Great Britain will do so. Equally, “vanity addressing” can cause confusion. Also, the administrative hierarchies some companies apply to their address tables make little or no sense in the context of people’s natural language. For example, consumers are likely to define their area according to the area’s name, as opposed to the local authority in whose jurisdiction it is found. Certainly the world of geocoding is much more complex than it might seem at first glance, and companies need tools to reconcile these differences so that “natural language” matches the way location information is presented and formatted in a data table, on a country-by-country basis. And consumers don’t want to have to wade through lots of options prompting them to choose between a number of addresses; they want to be understood correctly the first time they enter a search.

With over a decade’s experience in this arena, dedicated exclusively to the improvement of the quality and breadth of mapping coverage, Sean Phelan, founder of Multimap, one of the world’s leading online mapping providers, is in a uniquely strong position to put the thorny world of international geocoding under that microscope. With high-quality geocoding in most European countries, and employing the advantages of the advanced geocoding tools available in the U.S., where the market is more mature, Multimap’s geocoding capabilities and coverage are second to none. At some point in the future, companies may be able to avail themselves of off-the-shelf tools that will geocode all their destinations, resolving inconsistencies of addressing intra and inter-country, but this is unlikely to happen for another five years. In the meantime, businesses with an interest in LBS need to be educated about the core issues and the options available. Phelan would be delighted to cover these areas in a presentation to your audience.