What is AddressBase And How Will It Improve Address Data Quality?

AddressBase ® is changing the way companies manage their customer address data but what is AddressBase ®? How does it differ to PAF? What are the advantages of adopting this new system?

I recently interviewed one of our members, Paul Malyon of Experian Data Quality, to find out more.  Paul is an expert on customer data management and has specialist knowledge in the implementation and use of AddressBase.

If you have additional questions you can contact Paul at his Data Quality Pro Profile or via the Experian Data Quality AddressBase resource centre.

Dylan Jones: For companies just getting started with address management can you explain what AddressBase®is and how it differs to the earlier PAF data that many people will be familiar with?

Paul Malyon: AddressBase® is a suite of products created off the back of a fundamental change to the way that UK government deals with location data.

Thanks to a tie-up between the Ordnance Survey and local authorities, with the valuable assistance from other agencies such as the Royal Mail and the Improvement Service in Scotland, we now have a single, definitive address dataset for the UK – the National Address Gazetteer.

It is created by GeoPlace LLP and delivered to the Ordnance Survey, which uses it to produces the AddressBase® range of products.

The top of the range AddressBase® Premium, a dataset that features the best of Royal Mail PAF (i.e. postal addresses), Ordnance Survey’s Address Layer 2 (geographic locations of postal addresses and other features) and the NLPG (local authority-sourced address data) to create the best ever record of planned, current and historic addresses in England & Wales.

All of these addresses and locations are accompanied by the ‘golden thread’ of AddressBase®; the Unique Property Reference Number, or UPRN. This unique identifier is the permanent, unchangeable key that enables you to migrate, move, update and share your data around different systems without any doubt as to the validity of the information you have. It is found on every location in the file from the moment that a local authority grants planning permission, right through the building process, occupation and even after a building is demolished.

With the addition of the One Scotland Gazetteer in spring 2012, this data will extend to cover the whole of Great Britain.

While PAF is still an excellent record of postal addresses, AddressBase® (and in particular, AddressBase® Premium) offers enhanced data on postal locations, non-postal locations (such as bus shelters and electricity sub-stations), planned addresses, changed addresses, historic addresses and multiple occupancy buildings.

Paired with detailed classification codes, grid references and other meta-data such as linkages to other OS mapping files, AddressBase® Premium is simply the best record available with the combined strengths of everything that goes into the file.

Dylan Jones: So does this mean PAF has been replaced completely with the new AddressBase® system?

Paul Malyon: I wouldn’t say that.

For the public sector I see AddressBase® Premium becoming the de-facto standard in the next few years. The Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) and One Scotland Mapping Agreement (OSMA) make it easy for them to access, use and share the data that it’s simply a no-brainer once the migration hurdle has been tackled.

For larger commercial organisations such as those in the utilities, insurance and retail sectors, AddressBase® Premium also offers some real advantages and possible cost savings for organisations that already have PAF and OS data. ).

It’s also worth remembering that the Ordnance Survey will be retiring the Address-Point or Address Layer 2 files in a couple of years’ time and replacing them with the relevant AddressBase® variants.

For smaller organisations and SMEs, PAF is probably still the best option in terms of functionality and price. With PAF also being a major part of AddressBase® I simply can’t see it not playing a major part in the reference data ‘map’ for many years to come.

It’s really a case of talking to your business, customers and partners to find out what your aims are in terms of UK location data in the next few years to see what’s going to offer the best ROI.

It’s also worth finding out everything you can from organisations like our own (Experian QAS) which specialises in contact and address data.

Dylan Jones: What are the advantages of moving to AddressBase?

Paul Malyon: For the public sector, the ability to share information freely with other members of the PSMA or OSMA is a game-changer. The fact that everyone will be using the same reference data means that services can be provided in the right place, at the right time, every time.

There are real cost savings to be made by removing the need to source different datasets for different requirements in one organisation. I’ve seen so many cases where a service centre or website uses PAF while the planning department is using NLPG. The resulting confusion as to who has the ‘correct’ address is fairly inevitable, despite the best efforts of everyone involved.

This simply won’t be the case if every part of a business uses the same file that features the best of all the component files with the ability to tailor the data to suit the needs of each department when using compatible software, such as QAS Pro.

As another example, emergency services can now locate you using a single file for postal addresses and other locations such as churches, bus stops and ponds. This increased data accuracy from a single package could literally mean life or death. I know that may sound flippant, but I think it’s important not to underestimate the significance of the power of good data.

For the private sector, there are obvious advantages if you’re licensing multiple files today. In terms of actual functionality, I can see real opportunities to improve the services offered to consumers.

As an example, take home Insurance. If you move into a new-build property and want to take out an insurance policy and the insurer is using PAF, they may not have your home listed yet. It will be very difficult for them to locate your property and offer you a correct quote.

This means that they may not get your business or that they end up offering you a quote based on poor information (which could cost them more than expected in the event of a claim). With AddressBase® Premium, an address is listed from the moment of planning permission being approved, so they should be able to find your home and see what’s around it to offer you the service you need.

If offering a service to someone at a specific location in Great Britain is important to your business, AddressBase® Premium simply offers you better data in a really convenient package.

Dylan Jones: How has the Ordnance Survey structured the licensing payments for AddressBase®?

Paul Malyon: I guess it comes down to what type of business you are and what requirements you have. Let’s start again by looking at the the public sector.

If you’re a member of the PSMA (or OSMA once the Scottish data is included) you can license AddressBase® Premium from the OS or a partner like Experian QAS for the same cost as a PAF license. This is simply to cover the cost of the PAF elements of the data. The OS and NLPG data elements are ‘free’ under the PSMA.

For a commercial organisation you’re going to be licensed on a ‘Per Terminal’ basis with costs ranging from about £24,000 for one terminal to just under £190,000 for unlimited use. I know that sounds like a lot, but if you already license Address-Point or Address Layer 2 as well as Royal Mail PAF you will be making some savings. There are also one, two and three year licenses available that offer some discount.

With any data product, it’s also worth factoring in the costs of software, services and in the case of AddressBase®, also migration. Talk to your business stakeholders and suppliers about the best way of going about it to to achieve a good ROI.

I’d also suggest that this migration programme (especially for the public sector) is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Plan now, plan properly and get your suppliers to help you.

Dylan Jones: What are the technical implications for organisations looking to adopt the new AddressBase dataset in place of the earlier PAF format? Will system changes have to be made?

Paul Malyon: With any change to fundamental core reference data, some changes are likely. However, with the way that AddressBase® has been put together to combine the familiar PAF data with all of the other elements in a relational format, you can make the data work the way you need it to if you have the right tools.

As an example, we’ve enabled our customers to completely tailor the look and feel of the data using the QAS Pro address capture tool. It enables them to see ‘just’ the PAF elements but capture everything else in the background (such as the meta data I mentioned earlier) for use later, or have the data in any other configuration that makes sense to their business processes.

Dylan Jones: What is the coverage of AddressBase, is it UK wide?

Paul Malyon: Currently, it’s England & Wales with Scotland to come in late spring. This will give us Great Britain but there aren’t currently any plans to add Northern Ireland to the roster.

However, with the Pointer file from the Land & Property Service in Northern Ireland still available and very similar in format to AddressBase® Premium it is quite easy to get UK coverage of the highest quality.

Dylan Jones: I know a number of our public and private sector members use your products so do you have a continuity program or migration roadmap to help them move on to the new AddressBase format?

Paul Malyon: Absolutely. We’ve already started working with customers in both the public and private sectors to make the move. We recently hosted some roundtables to share our best practice methodology and experience of similar projects with a number of early adopters to help them with their business cases.

In terms of the actual migration, we have a team of specialist consultants in our Professional Services practices helping organisations to plan their migration step-by-step, set up evaluations of data and software, enhance their data to make it ready for the migration and then actually run the all-important ‘big switch’ to AddressBase® Premium. The team also trains users to get the most out of the AddressBase® data, software and range of additional data.

Frankly, AddressBase® is too important to risk getting it wrong. We’re throwing our 20+ years of expertise at this project and we see it as more than a simple migration. This is a fundamental, three-year programme to improve the use of location data in the UK and it involves every Government agency and department, many types of enterprises software, data and service providers such as ourselves.

With some of the existing OS files and possibly the NLPG being retired in 2014, I think the time for just talking about AddressBase® is over – we’re now working on getting the customers who need it up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible.

I’m under no illusions that this is a tough roadmap, but we’ve put in the groundwork already, which will make it easy for customers to migrate and minimise risk.

Dylan Jones: Finally, for those sitting on the fence with AddressBase®,what are some of the competitive advantages in adopting the new data source?

Paul Malyon: The example I gave earlier around the home insurance quote rings true here. The company which has better data and uses it more effectively will be the one that wins the race to the customer.

Thinking about address data, if you know that a bit of empty land now has planning permission for a block of flats and you can actually see when these flats are built and occupied (as you can with AddressBase® Premium), your marketing activity can be tailored around this process. For example, for a company selling white goods or home furnishings it makes sense to actively target new-build properties.

If you have this data and your competitor doesn’t, who is going to get that important special offer through the letter-box first? 

Dylan Jones: Thanks for sharing your time Paul, appreciated.

Paul Malyon, Experian Data Quality


Paul Malyon, Experian QAS

Paul Malyon, Experian QAS

Paul Malyon is a Senior Product Manager at Experian Data Quality and a member of the UK Open Data User Group (ODUG). He is a keen data innovator and looks for ways to bring value to businesses or positive change to society using the power of data quality tools and reliable reference data. With a BSc in Geography from King’s College London, Paul is a self confessed ‘data geek’ with interests in location data, demographics and the growth of social network influence on businesses and individuals. 

Paul blogs regularly on dataisaproduct.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter @PaulMalyonQAS and @PaulMalyon.

For more information on Paul’s day job, check out www.qas.co.uk