Address data links everything together. Or, to put it another way, “everything happens somewhere.” Whatever the industry, whatever the sector, whatever the organisation, it is at some point going to rely on detailed geospatial (or geographical) information.
Some real-life, high stake examples include monitoring and managing the distribution of COVID vaccines. Geospatial information is being used in planning electric vehicle infrastructure. And in retail and utilities, consider just how many addresses and locations are used during the manufacturing-transport-distribution-retail process.
A more discrete level of geography
Postcodes are widely relied on; the familiar six, or seven, digit alphanumeric code has been in place for over 60 years, and though proven effective, it still isn’t the most discrete level of geography. Postcodes can be inconsistently sized, geographically speaking, and they can change, or be terminated. It is a strong system, but there remains room for a new level of information.
For example, a postcode alone isn’t enough to identify individual units in residential blocks and similar developments. A postcode like XY1 2ZA may well locate a block of flats, but what if you required information about flat number three within that block?
If unverified, address records can also vary in quality and accuracy, due to inconsistencies between data systems, and often it can come down to simple human error.
Enter: the UPRN. A number that properties and some non-addressable objects (post boxes and electricity substations) can have in common.
What is a UPRN?
UPRN, ‘Unique Property Reference Number,’ can be used like a National Insurance number, or car registration plate. A UPRN can be up to 12 digits in length and serves as a unique identifier for an addressable location – a building, a bus stop, a post box, and so on.
The UPRN numeric identifier applies a ‘common standard’ for addressable buildings and objects, which then makes it possible to collate, share, and connect data from various sources. The unique identifier helps reduce ambiguity in a location being considered. Essentially, the UPRN ensures everyone refers to the correct location. It enables a greater accuracy of detail between separate organisations, and so, the unification of data.
Individual datasets may fail to recognise an address, especially if organisations perform data entry by different methods; or a query may relate an object that has no literal address.
The UPRN can be used as a consistent, unique reference point. Organisations can link records, exchange them, and keep their data consistent within their internal tools and processes.
In the housing and PropTech sectors, information on housing and properties is decentralised and difficult to access, especially from an overall ‘lifecycle’ point of view. Much of the existing property data is unstructured and made up of multiple formats, including hard copies which have yet to be digitised.
Connecting multiple datasets, not just within the PropTech sector but many others, requires the application of a single, reliable identifier.
Application of the UPRN
The UPRN creates linkage between data sets. For example, the NHS has patient records linked to UPRNs. The emergency services can use UPRNs to capture locations they want to home visit; and have already used them in measuring distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine. As is often the case, higher quality data allows more quality analysis, and better understanding of key demographics. The use of UPRNs can better service citizens.
The UPRN is a valuable asset for locating places and people, while remaining a safe identifier that anchors data together. Land registry, gas certificates, broadband coverage, NHS records – everything that could be related to one property, unified.
They’re all the keys, and the UPRN is the keychain linking them all together.
NB: A longer version of this blog post is available at UPRN | OS | Myth breaking (ordnancesurvey.co.uk)
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