This summer, I went sightseeing in Florida and California— all while sitting in a cubicle. How did I do it? I spent my internship at WhitePages as a data entry specialist, working on a geolocation project. Geolocation is the identification of a real-world location on a digital map. I collected the exact longitude and latitude coordinates for hundreds of addresses in order to measure the accuracy of geolocation services such as Google Maps, Bing Maps or Mapquest. Once in a while, I stumbled upon spectacles like Ca d’Zan in Florida or Michael Jackson’s (RIP) Neverland Valley Ranch in California.
It’s tedious work finding the coordinates of all those addresses, but it’s also incredibly important for improving the accuracy of the maps used by Whitepages.com and WhitePages mobile apps.
WhitePages uses maps to show where businesses and residences are located. When searching for a specific business in a city, our website displays a map that pinpoints its exact location. A map also appears when searching for residential listings so you can easily find a friend or neighbor’s house. WhitePages does this by storing the longitude and latitude for an address provided by a geolocation provider.
By manually looking up various coordinates we are ultimately able to test the accuracy of a geolocation provider. And choosing the most accurate provider helps improve the quality of WhitePages.
To conduct our test, we created a reference set of coordinates and addresses. We researched rural, urban, business and residential locations in order to locate the actual buildings at these locations on a map. Then, we recorded the coordinates of the very center of those buildings. Once the data is collected, we can evaluate a geolocation provider by comparing their coordinates for any given address with our manually verified coordinates for a the same address.
Of the map servies tested, most were pretty accurate, though some would often place buildings in the yard or on the street. There are a few extremes where the service thinks the building is several thousand feet away from the actual location, however this usually only occurs in rural locations. Once our test is complete, we’ll have a definitive answer as to which provider can be trusted to make sure WhitePages users never get lost.
So next time your gas tank meter hovers above “E,” breathe easy knowing that you won’t end up stuck in an empty field without gas if you search for nearby gas stations on WhitePages.