Precision Matters: Geodata APIs are Not All Equal

As an industry leader in data quality and Location Intelligence, Pitney Bowes offers more than 4,500 global datasets. With their new APIs, they’re raising the bar on precision and insight.

Pitney Bowes API expert Jon Spinney explains...

Close to 80 percent of data produced today has a location component. That means one of the most important questions data can answer is “where?” Getting that wrong happens more often than you think, which can be a costly mistake.

For example, the FCC reports that more accurate location data could save thousands of lives annually. According to their report, “Fifty-four percent of 911 professionals said that the latitude and longitude data provided by carriers is ‘regularly’ inaccurate.”[i] Check out this Last Week Tonight segment to learn more. 

This is just one glaring example. The risk is broad, cutting across many industries and applications.

Boost your Precision, Boost your Results

The old saying “Garbage in-garbage out” still applies. APIs may make it easy to integrate data into your applications, business processes and workflows, but the quality of your outcomes depends on the quality of your data.

Data quality doesn’t just happen. It requires discipline. Every year, more than half a million new businesses open. Within a year, approximately 20 percent of those new businesses close. In 2015, the USPS processed 37M address changes.If you want your data to be complete, timely and precise, you need to carefully develop and continuously improve data quality.

The APIs you choose make a difference. To optimize inputs and outcomes, you’ll need to harness the power of “where”. Here are some helpful hints on how and why this is so important.

Get Coordinated

Location provides the most consistent way to link people, places and things. While other things may change, the locations themselves stay the same.
However, the stuff that defines locations can get messy. Addresses are often inaccurate or incomplete, and boundaries, such as the ZIP codes and tax jurisdictions, change frequently.
For precise, reliable location data, your data sources should add fixed coordinates to each address (a process called geocoding). Geocodes provide a solid point of reference despite the shifting landscape. They’re the foundation for ensuring the accuracy of related data. They make it easy to connect across datasets, and they make a big contribution to data quality.

Be Purposeful

You have specific objectives for your applications, business processes and workflows. You shouldn’t have to rely on data that only approximates the purpose you have in mind. Nor should you have to spend a lot of time searching for what you need.
Critical decisions require fast, precise inputs. Look for purpose-built APIs that provide specific, distinctive datasets that will help you to eliminate guesswork and workarounds. Specialized APIs save time and can help to ensure that you’re getting the precise insight you require.

Choose a Data Partner

Even with APIs that are a right fit for your purpose, the quality of your results will depend on the quality of the data behind them.  Things change, and often the risk associated with errors can be high.
Careful curation is vital to keeping your data as current, complete and accurate as possible. Providers should deliver support and detailed Documentation on location-based data sources. Choose a partner that’s committed to caring for both its data and its clients, and you’ll smooth your way to quicker, better outcomes.
We recommend choosing a data partner with an extensive array of available data, single- Portal access, valuable self-help resources and a commitment to continuous data improvement. Each of these factors will help to contribute to your efficiency, accuracy and agility.

Delivering on the Promise

Pitney Bowes is an industry leader in geocoding, geodata and Location Intelligence. Each of our APIs is carefully built for quality and purpose and backed with curation and support. The data they provide powers critical use cases in industries like insurance and banking This data is also increasingly used in mobile and the IoT (Internet of Things) applications worldwide. 
Here are few examples from our portfolio:

GeoEnhance: There are times when your initial input may be a set of coordinates provided, for example, by a mobile signal or photo. With GeoEnhance, you can instantly understand more about what those coordinates represent.
GeoEnhance can enrich coordinates with address and neighborhood information, identify points of interest, and even determine the local time zone. This is a quick, precise way to add context and insight.

Geo911: Geo911 is the only API that enables call routing based on a location coordinate. It’s specifically built to make it easy to quickly and accurately identify both the location of a wireless call and the right Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) to respond to the emergency.

Why is this important? Typically, when you dial 911, the call is automatically forwarded to the nearest PSAP call center based on the address associated with your10-digit phone number. That’s very helpful if you’ve called from a landline. However, if you’re calling from a cell phone or VoIP service, you may be nowhere near your billing address. Geo911 lets you instantly pinpoint a caller’s actual location, so you can dispatch services to the right place without delay.

GeoTax: Most states require that businesses collect taxes based on the actual location of service delivery. Trying to make these determinations often creates huge headaches and business risk. Tax rates and tax jurisdictions are both moving targets. If you calculate taxes incorrectly, you may face fines, bad publicity and unhappy customers.

GeoTax gives you automatic access to the most current and accurate information. Here again, geocoding is key. Most solutions use postal data to determine applicable taxes. This can produce a high error rate, because postal data was designed to deliver mail, not align with tax districts.

GeoTax uses geocoded addresses. Continually updated boundary and tax rate data take the guesswork out of determining the correct tax jurisdiction. Detailed insights keep you in sync even when taxes get complicated, such as when special tax districts or tax rates apply. (For example, automobile tax is not always the same as regular sales tax).

Get the Pitney Bowes Advantage

Pitney Bowes offers the largest selection of location-based data. With thousands of unique datasets spanning hundreds of geographies, we provide powerful GeoEnrichment worldwide. Geocoding and data quality best practices are built in. Data normalization makes our data precise, easy to access, integrate and use.  Our APIs are purpose-built, robust in content, yet simple and well-documented. They are quick to deploy and easy to utilize.

Learn More

Don’t forget to watch the replay of our webinar. You’ll learn more about selecting the right APIs, and get to all the Pitney Bowes APIs in action. You can also contact @andrewsdavel for more information.
Also, check out Pitney Bowes’ developer portal for more information on all their APIs.


[i] Association of Public Safety Communications Officials Survey, as quoted in Federal Communication Commission Docket 07-114, 2015

Be sure to read the next Location article: Getting To Know The Primary Use Cases of The Green Button API initiative