International Geocoding

by Brandon Purcell on June 1, 2009

Since the initial Beta release of SpatialKey in March we have received many requests for International geocoding. If you are not familiar with the term, geocoding it is the process of converting street addresses, or zip codes (postal codes) to geographic coordinates often expressed as latitude and longitude. With SpatialKey we are using TIGER (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system) to geocode our data. TIGER is provided by the Census Bureau which is freely available for public use. The TIGER geocoder is only available in the US and there is no such international equivalent. We have been researching different options for a unified international solution for SpatialKey but there are several challenges that that have prevented us from providing a solution:

  1. International geocoding requires conversion from vastly differing address formats across many different countries making it difficult to obtain a one size fits all solution. This requires us to implement specific solutions for different countries or areas of the world.
  2. Of the well known and widely available international geocoding solutions most are not free or prevent the commercial use within a third party product.
  3. Many international geocoding solutions are quite costly and can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to geocode just a few thousand addresses.

What can I do now if I have International data that I want to use in SpatialKey?

If your existing data does not have latitude and longitude and is outside of the United States there are several third party solutions that you can use to geocode your data before importing into SpatialKey. The USC GIS research laboratory provides a comprehensive listing of free and paid Geocoding options. There are very few free services that offer bulk geocoding for international addresses but you can utilize one of the free services listed at USC GIS research laboratory and script your own solution for bulk geocoding. Using a combination of a third party geocoding solution and our data import API you can automate management of your data within SpatialKey.

One solution that provides a free bulk geocoding for European data with up to 5000 addresses per day is BatchGeocode uses the Yahoo API's and supports both United States and European addresses.

Will SpatialKey provide International geocoding in the future?

We will continue to search for a low cost, easy to use International geocoding solution that can be integrated with SpatialKey. If you have an immediate need for international geocoding within SpatialKey we can custom develop a solution that integrates with a third party geocoder. Contact our sales team if you are interested in a custom solution.

Topics: data import, geocoding

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