"Geocoding" aids decision-making in underwriting and marketing.
Advances in database technology, the advent of universal access to the Internet, and the existence of geographical data have combined to create a rapidly growing industry in "geocoding", the automated processing of geographic information for specific locations.
Sagent has established itself as a leader in the field of incorporating data from various sources and adding the value of spatial enhancement. The term "spatial enhancement" refers to the precise identification of locations in comparison to physical surroundings and groupings of people. This process has a direct impact on reducing operating costs, improving customer service, and improving accuracy in assessing premium to risks. Examples of its simplest applications enables emergency medical services to identify health care providers within a certain distance of a client's address or lets banks identify branches or depositories nearest to a customer, and helps public utilities and telecommunications identify the source of a service problem. All this is done almost instantly by entering an address or telephone number.
The system automatically locates the person making an inquiry or reporting a problem, and identifies the facilities nearest to him or her. More importantly, individuals can use Web-based geocoding systems themselves to locate business establishments, health services, public utilities, and government facilities without having to talk to customer service representatives.
"Geocoding is adding a new dimension to business intelligence," says Susan Andre, MD of Sagent Technology SA. "Although the geographical data available in SA is not as well developed as in the US, geocoding is starting to be used locally."
The simplest to the most sophisticated geocoding applications are built upon one fundamental procedure. An address is entered, then automatically corrected and standardised by matching to a list of valid address ranges from the postal service. Once the address is corrected, it is matched to geographical data and latitude and longitude is interpolated. The result is an "enhanced" address that precisely identifies the location's latitude, longitude, province and suburb.
More sophisticated applications allow market researchers to select retail locations by using geocoding systems that automatically define prime market areas. These applications draw "polygons" on a map that identifies areas with the demographic and economic characteristics, and transportation facilities, needed to create a sufficient customer base for a business location. Such applications also identify the best potential sites for a business within the defined market area.
Geocoding is very successfully used in insurance underwriting applications. It can for example automatically determine, among other things, how far a property is from a shoreline or seismic fault line, or whether it is in a flood zone or special windstorm underwriting area.
Andre notes that the Sagent platform is designed to handle the merger of many distinct data sources. "Most businesses have complex back-office environments where the data about their relationship with the customer, the expense stream or the revenue stream exists."
A typical corporation that has been doing computing for the last 20 years has between eight and 50 operational transaction systems that contain pieces of the information needed for information delivery. "We have a mature solution that allows companies to do the extraction, transformation and load of a single view of any of those subject areas. We can incorporate geocoding and create actionable information and deliver it using e-mail, browser and wireless protocols as the whole world becomes real-time."