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Geocoding Vs. Reverse Geocoding: What’s the Difference

Geocoding Vs. Reverse Geocoding_ What’s the Difference

Geocoding converts an address into a series of corresponding latitude and longitude coordinates. The longitude and latitude coordinates are converted into a corresponding street address in reverse geocoding.

Understanding Geocoding

Geocoding starts with an address. You take an address, input it, and get a geocode (a longitude/latitude) in return. You can take a description of a location (its coordinates, its address, its name) and pinpoint it to a location on the surface of the earth. You can do that by entering one location at a time or performing it in batches. The locations are then outputted as geographic features with attributes that can be used for mapping and spatial analysis. 

You can use points of interest for finding different kinds of locations through geocoding, such as mountains, bridges, stores, parks, coordinates based on longitude/latitude, all through geocoding. 

Let’s consider an example based on the definition. Let’s suppose you live at the top of Mount Everest and have the following address: 

111 Summit Circle, Apt. 1,

Mt. Everest, Nepal

With geocoding, you can take this address and convert it into a corresponding geocode that would be something like:

27.34329, 87. 345356

These are the latitude and longitude coordinates of the address. This geocode is an exact point on the earth’s surface; meanwhile, mailing addresses are not. Therefore, a geocode can serve as a much more accurate description of where you live. 

Geocoding offers varying levels of accuracy that include rooftop geocoding, parcel centroid, thoroughfare, locality, and administrative area. 

Rooftop geocoding is the highest level of accuracy that offers coordinates as near as the rooftop of a location in question. This data is achieved via interpolation. Rooftop location is captured based on the coordinates of roads and structures nearby. 

Administrative area geocoding is the lowest level which only provides the location of a particular state or province. 

How Reverse Geocoding Works

Reverse geocoding involves taking the coordinates of a place and converting them into an address. If, let’s say, you began with the coordinates 27.34329, 87. 345356, then they would be converted to the address: 

111 Summit Circle, Apt. 1,

Mt. Everest, Nepal

This data would be termed a reverse geocode. 

Reverse geocoding utilizes an API in which you input the coordinates, which will then convert these coordinates into an address. 

Use Cases for Geocoding 

Geocoding has found many applications in the modern world, including address data analysis, customer data management, and distributed geocoding applications. 

You can display the locations spatially with geocoded addresses and recognize patterns based on the information. For example, marketers can use it to identify the usage of their products or services and build upon their marketing strategy to target locations. 

You can manage your customer data by geocoding it and creating a map of their locations. You can then target specific clusters of customers, produce route maps, establish directions, and refine your business strategy based on this invaluable data. 

Distributed geocoding applications include address locators that allow users to do geocoding over the internet. Real estate agencies and firms have found significant advantages in the application of disseminating information through geocoding. 

Use Cases for Reverse Geocoding 

Reverse geocoding is frequently used by industries such as government and healthcare. GPS coordinates are a necessary form of data that must be converted into a readable street address. For example, a 911 call center would use reverse geocoding for more effective public safety services. 

Marketing companies can send notifications in real-time to their mobile audience based on their GPS locations. 

Software platforms that use mapping technology to pinpoint addresses also use reverse geocoding as part of their process. 

Key Takeaways

Although they are completely opposite processes, geocoding and reverse geocoding have found numerous applications in various industries ranging from real estate to healthcare. Companies like BatchData provide accurate, optimized, and quick geocoding/reverse geocoding services that prove to be invaluable to businesses that rely on their customers’ location. These processes offer varying degrees of accuracy, ranging from rooftop accuracy—the highest level of accuracy—to the administrative area—the lowest level of accuracy. 


Austin Proctor

Austin Proctor

Technical Writing Manager @ BatchData

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