Geocoding Basics

March 10, 2010

According to, to geocode is to “take a street address and convert it into latitude and longitude coordinates so that it can be displayed on a map”.  I chose to geocode the 20 nearest Best Buy Stores to Champaign, IL.  After setting up the addresses in Excel and running the geocode program, the following map was produced when opened in Google Earth:

As it turns out, Best Buy Stores are spread apart (except near Chicago) causing several stores in Indiana to register as “nearby locations”.  Understandably, ‘s store locator only shows the 4 closest stores at a time, as more than 4 could place the customer in another state.

The only problem I came across with the geocoding was finding the latitude and longitude coordinates for each address.  I expected the coordinates to be integrated into the map points.  Instead, they were in a table just below the map.  Unless I did something wrong, I suggest that the coordinates be incorporated on the map.

Geocoding can be very useful as different countries have different formats for addresses or even lack them completely.  Geocoding would provide a global language of addresses in the form of latitude and longitude coordinates.  This would be beneficial to foreign tourists, the military, and governments.  In special cases, such as disaster areas (Haiti, Chile), if addresses were in latitude and longitude coordinates the military would have a much easier time locating buried buildings and trapped victims.  Geocoding could become a ‘universal translator’ in the language of location.


One Response to “Geocoding Basics”

  1. edemuyn2 said

    I like your insightful idea that geocoding could be used as a universal translator for addresses, which are in different formats in different places. It made me wonder what address formats the website we used accepts. There are probably places in the recent disaster areas you mentioned (Haiti, Chili) with pretty crazy addresses. As an example, I don’t imagine you could geocode my address when I lived in El Salvador, which was literally “Third house accross from the school”. Good post!

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