A cautionary note about “free” on-line Australian postcodes and mapping tools

We all love a bargain, true enough, but take a moment to consider the value you place on data being accurate and fit for purpose. Take a moment to consider the inputs you may be basing your business decisions on.We all use search engines, hoping we find exactly what we want at the best price, most of you will have found us via a web search, many on the words “postcode” or “Australian postcode”. Chances are you’ll have found plenty of other hits too, quite a few of which seem to be offering similar data and services to us, but apparently free of cost. Here are a couple of examples, including links back to their parent sites, so you can check them out for yourself (click the images).

The one below seems to answer the prayers of many who want to be able to “see” where the Australia Post code list places are, it has been “geocoded” according to the site owner and now has a column for latitude and another for longitude – great – “ready for data mash-up visualisation”!

Hang on though – 2010 – five years out of date, a lot changes in five years in a dynamic country like ours. And what’s that – are all those latitude and longitude numbers identical for all localities sharing the same postcode? Looks like they are, yes, a further check confirms this is the case for all records in the list. Well, that seems to qualify for the GIGO sticker of quality assurance with flying colours (the GIGO link is the Wiki entry)!

Update – February 2015. The link now appears to require an account..

Free_Geocoded_AustPostcodes

 

Free postcode radius search mapping tool, you little ripper!

Promising; click where to start (maybe a useful feature would be to allow you to specify which postcode to start from – perhaps planned for a future release – we just clicked near “Sydney” for this screen shot) enter the radius in km (20 for this) or miles (nice to have the choice for a global audience) and you get this result – just off screen is a text box with a list of all the returned postcodes, you’ll need to somehow get the results from there into your destination analysis environment, but hey, shouldn’t be an issue. Click the image below and it will open the page, hopefully in a new tab, and have a go yourself! We think it has potential, and so do a lot of folk who have left comments – you’ll need to scroll down to get them.

We have this functionality in-house and for sale. The results below looked a bit crowded, so we checked. What seems to be going on is the site is using the same (or similar) data to that in the example above, so lots of points piled on top of each other, plus it isn’t cleaned to remove none-address postcodes, so there are heaps of banks, locked bags, PO Boxes etc. Well, it is free after all, maybe another largely GIGO example, but with potential.

FreeMapRadiusTool

Below is how the same query looks when implemented using robust, clean data such as those you can get from us..

In this case we asked it to return all postcode areas where the nearest edge was 20km or less from the edge of postcode 2000 (Sydney). The postcodes with a “0” in the distance value are those ones adjacent to 2000, so edge to edge distance is indeed zero. We wonder what the 20km basis is in the “free” tool above, it doesn’t say. Our application can tell us which postcodes are included if we want distance to the farthest edge (some are quite large), or the central point – practical considerations which may have enormous implications for delivery charge calculations, for example. Our data has the option to return all sorts of informative data too, in readily accessible format making export to spreadsheets or databases a breeze.

While this example is a screenshot from a laptop, such an application can be made available for deployment in a web page as well, just costs a bit more.

Not_Free_MapMakers_MapRadiusTool

The point here is “free” is always tempting, but in the end, you probably get what you pay for..

Same data implemented as a web page (there are many ways of calculating distance from a particular postcode, like the one just above).

Many different styles and levels of functionality available (sorry, it’s just a screen shot in this illustration, a live working version will cost money, but at least you’ll get something which delivers!).

Not_Free_MapMakers_MapRadius_Web_Tool