MapQuest Developer Blog

MapQuest University: Geocoding Everywhere

The mapping industry is full of buzzwords. Each month, MapQuest University will help explore these terms and how you can improve your user experience through better understanding. The buzzword for this month is "geocoding." What is geocoding? What is the future of geocoding? We sat down with Seth Shaffer, Senior Software Engineer on our Geocoding team, and asked him to give us the rundown on geocoding.

What is geocoding?

Geocoding is the process of converting a given address (1060 W. Addison St., Chicago, IL 60613) into latitude/longitude pairs (41.947239, -87.655636). These geographical coordinates can then be used to place a marker on a map, to indicate location. Geocoding is the backbone of any and all mapping applications. mapquest university geocoding

You rely on geocoding every time you get directions to and from a store, or friend's house. MapQuest relies on geocoding to ensure our users know, with a great degree of accuracy, how many more blocks they need to drive or walk to get to that concert venue, or how many miles it is from Denver to Chicago. You can also receive speed limit information and whether or not you're approaching a toll road. Good stuff, all around.

MapQuest's Reverse Geocoding API also provides functionality to any number of businesses. Reverse geocoding can be used to track the delivery of anything from pizza to online merchandise. It's also an integral part of asset tracking, allowing companies to keep an eye on their trucks near and far.

But what does the future hold for geocoding?

Where we're going, we don't need roads

Drones, and more importantly, drone delivery is taking off in a big way. Geocoding will be essential to helping these flying deliverers find their delivery location, since they won't be relying on mailboxes or house numbers. Drones don't have to rely on the traditional roads that we frequent, which means mapping is about to enter a whole new dimension.

Imaginary roads near and far

Have you ever wondered, to the exact mile, how far Helm's Deep was from The Shire? Or how long the Kingsroad was, starting at Winterfell and ending at King's Landing? One of the fun applications of geocoding is creating highly detailed maps of fictitious places. Just because we're never going to step foot in Waterdeep doesn't mean we can't have an interactive map showing us where it is in relation to Baldur's Gate. Plot routes, plan road trips, for places near and far. Because awesome.

Augmenting our reality

Recently, an app made quite the pop culture buzz, allowing users to catch fictitious monsters in our neighborhoods and daily commutes. You might have heard of it. Geocoding is a central functionality with all augmented reality applications. By harnessing geocoding, creative applications can continue to find ways to brighten our everyday lives, through our mobile devices.