Is There a Problem with “Authoritative” Geocoding?

Roongpiboonsopit and Karimi provide a very interesting study on the quality of five relatively known geocoding services.  Google Maps is something I use very often, however I never really critically thought about the possible errors that may exist and their consequences.  A study such as this allows us to understand the underlying parameters that go into these geocoding services and how they may differ from provider to provider.  One aspect that was really interesting to me was the difference in positional accuracy of different land uses.  Obviously, there tends to be an “urban bias,” of sorts, when geocoding addresses.  As a result, one is more likely to get an incorrect result when searching for address in rural/suburban areas.  While this makes sense due to spatial issues, I thought that this could theoretically be extending to other criteria.  While LBS becomes more popular and geocoding increases in importance, will certain companies offer “better” geocoding services to businesses that are willing to pay for it?  For example, Starbucks could make a deal with Google to ensure that all of their locations are correctly and precisely geocoded.  Taking it to the extreme, Google could even make a deal to deliberately sabotage the addresses of other coffee shops.  While I think this specific case may be unlikely, it does raise issues about having completely authoritative geocoding services.  As we increasingly rely on these geocoding services, the companies offering them have a large influence on the people who use them.

This leads into the idea of possibly relying on participatory services, such as Open Street Map.  OSM has made leaps and bounds in terms of quantity and quality of spatial data over the past few years.  I am curious to see how it would match up with the five services in this paper.  OSM relies on the ability of users to edit data if they feel it is incorrect.  Therefore, the service is theoretically consistently being updated depending on the number of users editing a certain area.  As a result, errors may be less likely to be consistently missed, as with the case of a more authoritative geocoding service.  It would also be interesting to see the type of buildings that may be geocoded more or less accurately.  As we continue to enter this age of open and crowd sourced spatial data, I believe it has the potential to provide us with even better services.




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