The National Address Database: It’s time to “Just do it!”

By J. Michael Brown

The National Address Database (NAD) represents a single database containing address information for every residential and non-residential structure and interior unit, and optimally, for every point of ingress to real property. Providing accurate address data in a centralized open data portal will benefit nearly every aspect of government service, consistently improve the delivery of services, and spur innovation in the public and private sectors. Advanced technologies make the NAD possible today.

The necessity for an open NAD is real and present. Last October, the National States Geographic Information Council summarized the need and proposed steps to build Address Points for the Nation, based on information contained in the final National Address Database Summit Report from the April 2015 NAD Summit in Linthicum, Maryland. 

Emphasizing the summit’s pervasive “just do it” attitude, there exists a catalyst to begin building the NAD point layer while deliberation continues over the form and function of address attributes.  The ideology of address attribution is secondary to the primary need for creating a point layer denoting the physical location of building structures and ingress points. A point layer has instant value and directly begs for greater applications. Construct this foundational layer and addressing will surely follow.

Originating from existing datasets

An iterative NAD system that progressively integrates additional addressing capability and complexity begins with a database of existing building structure points and ingress points/lines to provide fundamental common elements that generate immediate benefit and usage. Advanced technologies exist to create temporal baselines of existing local and independent databases, and to extract features for building structures and points of ingress in void areas such as rural and frontier lands. Many existing databases are current and others only need to be baselined against new imagery to make them complete, correct, and temporal for inclusion. As these local baseline datasets are published to the NAD, the underlying address “feature” layer expands and quickly attracts widespread participation and use by multiple levels of government, public, and private sector users — even prior to aggregating and integrating local address attributes.

Immediate value and usage

Government entities, educational institutions, public and private enterprises all have immediate use for a concise NAD point layer, especially when linked to proprietary datasets. Users could efficiently use points, with geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) serving as a unique ID, in advance of requisite NAD addresses. In addition, these points could be easily conflated with what3words, MapCode (TomTom), Open Location Code (Google) and others to provide an immediately useful framework of instant addressing for multiple users and contributors. The more complex NAD system for address attribution and accessibility would continue to develop from there.

Advanced NAD technologies

FinitEdge technologies, developed by World of Change, USA, represent change detection and feature extraction processes for creating and updating address point locations with a stated accuracy of greater than 98% (99.5% per independent client tests) and essentially for pennies per point. FinitEdge combines fully automated image segmentation and vector matching processes with a proprietary global analyst crowd workforce — Authoritative Geographic Information, not Volunteered Geographic Information — for iterative intelligence processes, resulting in rapid feature extraction and near real-time change detection for data creation and updates.

Two important NAD address points

FinitEdgecreates and/or detects changes to the two most important NAD address points — rooftop building structure points, "Pintroids", and points of ingress to real property, "Ingressoids". It analyzes imagery for rooftop areas and for signature ingress-egress objects at travelways, such as driveway aprons, culvert crossings, cattle grates, etc., to detect changes in an existing address point dataset. 

In areas with no existing address point layers, FinitEdgeprocesses automatically extract Pintroids and Ingressoids as new points. Additionally, when processed with an existing road centerline dataset, FinitEdgealso creates “Enterlinks.” These are short lines, usually under 60 meters, connecting Ingressoids to an existing centerline vector.

Maximal interoperability

FinitEdge technology is uniquely designed to both construct and maintain the foundational layer of the NAD system. It only requires an area of interest polygon and orthoimagery — temporal or historical — for address point extraction, and an existing point layer for change detection. When fully released as a forthcoming SaaS platform, the simple FinitEdge interface will provide maximal interoperability with complete governance and process at the local agency level for a NAD system that encourages aggressive participation of inclusion and updates based on local growth and change. Areas can be processed in whole or in part, on demand, depending entirely on the budgets and desires of local authorities. It is possible that this SaaS could also be hosted by other imagery producers on systems like DigitalGlobe’s GBDX platform with easy access to a vast library of current and historical imagery.

Address point location integrity

Address points would be created and maintained by local authoritative agencies and coordinated through states to a regional or federal level for hosting on the NAD system. This data would then be accessible to a multitude of government, public and private users and could possibly be licensed with varying degrees of access to address attributes based on a demonstrated need to know. Regardless, the point layer would be the fundamental element available to all users, and its integrity would be maintained by the originating agency.

Users would, at a minimum, manage those identical address points and locations for proprietary applications. Attributes would be linked to points and synchronized with the NAD system whenever applicable updates, originating from the local authoritative agencies, have been made available.

In this NAD system, it would be imperative that address point locations, once baselined by local agencies, remain fixed until physical changes to building structures or points of ingress force updates. New and deleted address points would be expected where new construction or demolition necessitates, but moving points from originating baseline locations should not be permitted outside of extenuating circumstances. Users, especially those applying relational tables to proprietary data, require seamless access to all validated address point additions and deletions as well as updates to address attribute data on fixed existing points. Moving existing point coordinate locations would disrupt workflows, adding complexity and expense to all users when synchronizing with the NAD for these updates.

Crowdsourced NAD point locations

Users will have access to the published NAD but not to the local NAD "piece" where updates should always originate. Active OpenStreetMap-type crowdsourcing — Volunteered Geographic Information or VGI — through existing or emerging systems such as OpenAddresses, Community TIGER, or ArcGIS Earth, could potentially refine disparate address attributes, but all locational VGI should be limited to an agree or disagree format for the purposes of change detection, and not used for making active changes to points and their geospatial positions.

Imagine, for example, the disruption caused by allowing the public to freely move Pintroids around to change preferences for what3words addresses on buildings. The NAD system could eventually be structured to handle such occasions, but only through formal request and due process with local origination.

Positional VGI data should only be an interim validating agent for checking the integrity of point locations in their originating database between authoritative local area change detection updates, rather than as a source of readily useable content. Local authorities will own the completeness and accuracy of geospatial locations and can thereby decide when to accept VGI updates or to schedule an authoritative FinitEdge update.

Benefit to NAD contributors

Taking direct advantage of published NAD points requires GIS/LBS data managers, such as Google, Here, TomTom, Uber, Apple, USPS, FedEx, UPS, U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Homeland Security, Amazon, CoreLogic, etc., to either maintain the same exact positional location of each address point, or to elect to build and maintain relationships between NAD point coordinates and their proprietary point locations. Proprietary addressing and other private information would always be honored; however, a maturing NAD should ultimately make proprietary building and ingress point locations irrelevant. Therefore, contributors of validated point locations will realize direct benefits.

Entities that are required by law or elect to withhold point locations can certainly synchronize points from the NAD and maintain multiple points and lookup tables for each address. This situation would result in significant initial time and expense to reconcile and separately baseline their proprietary data with published NAD positions. The increased complexity and operational cost incurred would not warrant this scenario, but a benefit is still obtainable from all future NAD updates. Either way, potential big data stakeholders should recognize fiscal advantage and possible market opportunity from having their current address points, with latitude and longitude, construct as much of the cornerstone NAD feature layer as possible.

Just do it!

Whether extracting address points from scratch or detecting change in contributed NAD datasets, FinitEdge technology could provide nationwide point locations within 18 months to establish the initial NAD baseline. Once the originating pieces are baselined, the SaaS interface would make near real-time change detection for point location updates available on demand.

The National Address Database of fundamental geospatial points is at hand, and the 2015 NAD Summit has sounded a trumpet call to action, declaring a growing momentum to “Just do it!” 


If you liked this article subscribe to our newsletter...stay informed on the latest geospatial technology

© 2016 Directions Media. All Rights Reserved.