Engine Works

Under the hood of Alteryx: tips, tricks and how-tos.
Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

Editor's note: The Alteryx Public Geocoding App has been discontinued from our Public Gallery, effective 2019-06-20. Our Location Insights bundle offers geocoding capabilities.

Alteryx has many different use cases ranging from big data diving to process automation to demographic reporting, but one feature that has always stood out for our customers is the ability to geocode an address within an Alteryx data stream by utilizing our native geocoder.  The Alteryx Public Geocoding App on the Alteryx Analytics Gallery is a prime example of this functionality.


Let’s begin with the basics: What is geocoding?  Geocoding is the process of finding associated geographic coordinates, such as latitude and longitude, from other geographic data, such as a street address.  These geographic coordinates can then be mapped and entered into Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or other analytic platforms (such as Alteryx) for further analysis. 


So what makes the Alteryx Public Geocoding App so special?  The Alteryx Help files state “The Geocoder tool places a point object based on address interpolation by converting a multi-line address into a normalized form, with latitude and longitude, spatial object, and additional fields specific to the coding process.”  That may make sense for a few folks out there, but for the rest of us the app utilizes our address point methodology to quickly and accurately determine the geographic point of that address.  In other words, input an address, get a latitude and longitude.  This is vital in that you as the user can further analyze an address with analytic tools, such as Alteryx.


Wow, now what is address point methodology?  First, we take the address and run it through CASS.  This solves two issues.  It first determines whether or not it’s a valid address, then cleans up that address for matching.  Next, we match that CASSed address to a database of addresses that have also been CASSed.  This provides a lat/lon accuracy at the rooftop level (very accurate, highly desired).  If there is no match, Alteryx takes a look at the address itself to determine an approximation of the address (still highly accurate).  For example, if the address is 150 Main Street, and the geocoder knows that block A contains addresses between 100 and 199 Main Street, our geocoder places the point half way through the block.  Finally, if there is still no match, the geocoder places the point at either the Zip +4 centroid (very accurate) or Zip centroid (not very accurate).


Why is all of this important?  Geocoding plays a vital role in a large portion of our daily lives, whether or not we are aware of it.  For example, creating a demographic model of retail stores with 5 and 10 minute drivetime trade areas needs to start from a single point. 

If we have an address, our geocoder will provide that necessary point the Trade Area tool needs to create the drive time polygons.  A different example?  Let’s say it’s lunch time and I am trying to use Alteryx to find all of the restaurants within a 5 minute drivetime from our Boulder office…all I need is our office address, and voila!  Geocoding!