Since patents are all the rage these days I thought I would toss out the following: Google was awarded a patent today. The patent is for technology that allows a geocode (latitude, longitude) to be generated for a postal addresses. Unlike patent applications (which are what usually get people talking) this is intellectual property that has been officially awarded to Google. The patent application was filed for in September 2003.
Title: Address geocoding
Patent #: 6,934,634
Abstract: A geocoding component generates geographic coordinate information, such as latitude and longitude values, for postal addresses. A table includes a number of rows, each corresponding to one or more addresses. The geocoding component can quickly locate a particular row in the table based on a number of input address identifiers as the intersection of the sets rows that correspond to each of the address terms. The geocoding component may operate on addresses that are received by the geocoding component or extracted from documents.
A paragraph from the "summary of invention" portion of the patent discusses how the technology can also be used to automatically extract address info from a document.
Yet another aspect of the invention is directed to a method for extracting addresses from a document. The method includes identifying possible address terms based on predetermined rules, verifying that the identified possible address terms are address terms by comparing the address terms to a table containing known addresses, and examining a relative position of the verified possible address terms in the document to determine whether the verified possible address terms form a valid address.
It's quite easy to envision how this technology could be used to identify and map info based on what's listed on a web page or other document. It also might be used to help identify local search results, personalized results (based on a users address) and when and where a paid ad would be visible on a results page based on the location of a searcher.
Want to discuss? Visit our forum thread, Google Is Awarded a Geocoding Patent.