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Creating Geocoding Exceptions for MapPoint Web Service Applications

Stephen Pushee wrote this article on resolving geocoding exceptions when using the MapPoint Web Service. "For example, a user might supply St. Thomas as a city name when searching for St. Thomas the island, not knowing that Charlotte Amalie is the main city on St. Thomas."

Introduction

In many MapPoint Web Service applications, a user supplies a postal code or city name, which is then sent to MapPoint Web Service to be geocoded (assigned latitude and longitude coordinates). At times, you may need to override the geocode provided by MapPoint Web Service or provide a geocode for an entity that the geocoder does not recognize. For example, a user might supply St. Thomas as a city name when searching for St. Thomas the island, not knowing that Charlotte Amalie is the main city on St. Thomas.

You can work around this issue by using a GeoException. A GeoException is an object consisting of a name (usually a postal code or city) and its corresponding latitude and longitude. By compiling a list of GeoException objects and making that list available in your application, you can ensure that your application returns the results that you expect.

This article describes how to create a geocoding exceptions list as an XML document, format and store the list, and implement geocoding exceptions in your application.

This article assumes that you are already familiar with the MapPoint Web Service SOAP API and MapPoint Web Service in general. For more information about MapPoint Web Service or to sign up for a free evaluation account, visit the MapPoint Web Service Web site. For more information about programming with MapPoint Web Service, see the MapPoint Web Service SDK.

Creating a Geocoding Exceptions List

A common method of creating an exceptions list is to create an XML file, which you then add to your project.

The following example shows the contents of an XML file that contains a list of GeoExceptions

<GEOEXCEPTIONS>
    <GEOEXCEPTION>
        <EXCEPTION>03766</EXCEPTION>
        <LATITUDE>36.5977347617212</LATITUDE>
        <LONGITUDE>-121.896651249168</LONGITUDE>
    </GEOEXCEPTION>
    <GEOEXCEPTION>
        <EXCEPTION>Hanover,New Hampshire</EXCEPTION>
        <LATITUDE>36.5977347617212</LATITUDE>
        <LONGITUDE>-121.896651249168</LONGITUDE>
    </GEOEXCEPTION>
</GEOEXCEPTIONS>
    

To add another GeoException to the list, you simply add another GeoException element.

Managing Your GeoExceptions

The work of populating and retrieving values from the GeoExceptions list is done by the GeoExceptionsManager class (download zip), which contains contains the following items:

1.  Constructor that takes the XML file path as a parameter.
2.  GeoException class that has Exception, Latitude, and Longitude properties
3.  PopulateGeoExceptionsCache method that loads the XML file as an XMLDocument object, 
  creates an array of GeoException objects and loads the array into Cache.
4.  GetGeoException function that takes a string and returns the GeoException if found. 

Storing a Geocoding Exceptions List

After you create the geocoding exceptions list, the next task is to store the list in a format that is easily accessible to your application.  I've found that the best option is to use the ASP.NET Cache object, which stores items in name/value pairs and allows the developer to add/remove/retrieve items in much the same way as when using the Session or Application objects.  More importantly, when using the Cache class you can set a 'CacheDependency' on a file (your GeoExceptions XML File) so that if that file is edited the item in Cache will be thrown out, forcing the application to re-read the XML and build a new GeoExceptions list that will be added to Cache.  The following is the PopulateGeoExceptionsCache method.

' Load the XML Document
Dim GeoExceptionsXMLDocument As XmlDocument = New XmlDocument
GeoExceptionsXMLDocument.Load(GeoExceptionsFile)

' Build array of GeoException objects
Dim myGeoExceptionNodes As XmlNodeList = _
  GeoExceptionsXMLDocument.DocumentElement.GetElementsByTagName("GeoException")
Dim myGeoExceptions(myGeoExceptionNodes.Count - 1) As GeoException
Dim i As Integer = 0
For Each GeoException As XmlNode In myGeoExceptionNodes
    Dim myGeoException As New GeoException
    For Each Item As XmlNode In GeoException.ChildNodes
        Select Case Item.Name.ToUpper
            Case "EXCEPTION"
                myGeoException.Exception = Item.InnerText
            Case "LATITUDE"
                myGeoException.Latitude = Item.InnerText
            Case "LONGITUDE"
                myGeoException.Longitude = Item.InnerText
        End Select
    Next
    myGeoExceptions(i) = myGeoException
    i = i + 1
Next
GeoCache.Insert("GeoExceptionsList", myGeoExceptions, _
  New CacheDependency(GeoExceptionsFile))
    

This method is called from the GetGeoExceptions function (below) only when Cache does not contain the GeoExceptions list.

If GeoException.Trim <> "" Then
    GeoException = GeoException.ToUpper
    If GeoCache("GeoExceptionsList") Is Nothing Then PopulateGeoExceptionsCache()
    For Each Item As GeoException In GeoCache("GeoExceptionsList")
        If Item.Exception.ToUpper = GeoException Then
            Return Item
        End If
    Next
    Return Nothing
Else
    Return Nothing
End If
    

Using GeoExceptions in your application

At this point your GeoExceptions list is sitting in Cache as an array of GeoException objects.  Now your application can check to see if a user inputted entity such as a postal code or city is on that list before making a geocoding call to the web service.  Following is the VB.NET code that you might use for such a purpose:

' Check to see if entered address is a GeoException
Dim myGeoExceptionsManager As New GeoExceptionsManager("XMLResources\GeoExceptions.xml")
Dim myGeoException As GeoExceptionsManager.GeoException = _
  myGeoExceptionsManager.GetGeoException(PC.Text)
If Not myGeoException Is Nothing Then
    ' Use GeoExceptions lat/long
Else
    ' Make call to MapPoint Geocoding service
End If 

Conclusion

At times, you may need to provide your own geocodes to make sure that your application returns the results that you expect. Creating a geocoding exceptions list in XML format and making it available in your application is an easy-to-implement and scalable solution for these situations.

Discuss this story in the forum.

Author: Steven Pushee
Email: Steven.Pushee(AT)Multimap.com
URL: http://www.multimap.com/
Steven Pushee is a Technical Account Manager for Multimap, a leading provider of online mapping and location-based services based in the UK. Prior to Multimap he spent 3 years with Microsoft in their MapPoint Business Unit filling a variety of roles such as Technical Account Manager, pre-sales support, and managing the MapPoint web service newsgroup.

Steven holds a BA in Russian Studies from the University of New Hampshire and an MBA from Franklin Pierce College.



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