Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

Geocoding Postcodes shouldn't be hard...

I'm working on building a Google Maps mashup application for a magazine article, and hit a brick wall. The Google Maps API doesn't geocode UK post codes, thanks to the restrictive costs and licensing conditions on the data.

Geocoding is the process of converting location data (say an address or postcode) into mapping data, often latitude or longitude, though it can be an Ordinance Survey grid reference or any other coordinate system. Consumer geocoding should be as easy as Flickr's approach, where you just drag your pictures onto a map. But writing the code to do it, well, that's a different story!

Luckily there's more than one way around the problem, and you can geocode postcodes for free (in one case using more than one Google API). Just look at the list of approaches and tutorials on Google's own resource page for external geocoding tools. I rather like this method, as it's relatively simple to code up...

Finally I'll point folks at the Free Our Data campaign. Postcode and mapping data is data we've paid for through our taxes, yet the government sees fit to restrict access to it, making information that should be free for UK citizens a profit centre.
Tags: geographic information, google, writing

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