Geocoding, latitude, longitude and the other location-based terms you need to know

Philip Barker
Kettering 52° 23' 55.752" N, -0° 43' 32.988" E

If you're a newcomer to the world of location, mapping and navigation, there are times when it can feel like people are talking a different language. There are loads of technical terms, and occasionally it can be difficult to figure out what the experts are actually talking about.

That's why we've put together a handy glossary, helping you to understand all the technical terms that occasionally crop up on HERE 360 and other location-related sites.

API

Although not strictly location related, API is a term you'll see a lot on this blog, as it relates directly to what HERE does. API stands for Application Programming Interface, and it's a set of protocols and functions which make it possible to create other applications. Effectively, APIs work as building blocks for developers, and sharing HERE APIs is what makes it possible for developers to integrate our maps and other location-based data into their applications.

Geocoding and reverse geocoding

Geocoding is the process that's used to convert written addresses into geographic lat-long (see below) coordinates, which can then be used to highlight specific locations on the map. Reverse geocoding, as the name suggests, is the opposite, converting coordinates into a format that people can understand.

Geospatial

Geospatial is the term used for data that's associated with a particular location, and you'll often also see it associated with location-based companies.

GIS

GIS stands for Geographic Information System, which is typically a platform designed to store, analyse and present location-based data. It's a term you'll see lots of, with plenty of our partners using HERE data and GIS software.

GPS

GPS (Global Positioning System) is a term you're no doubt already familiar with, but it's also the one term that no location-based glossary would be complete without, with the navigation technology we use based on the network of GPS satellites that are currently orbiting the Earth.

The satellites enable your GPS device (which could be a smartphone, a dedicated personal navigation device, your car, a fitness tracker or something else) to locate exactly where it is on the planet, by sending unique signals between the device and satellite and measuring the time it takes for signals to be received.

Latitude (Lat)

Latitude is a measure of a position on the Earth's surface, with the number of degrees (north or south) it is from the equator helping to pinpoint a vertical location. It's used alongside longitude (see below) to pinpoint the exact location, with lat-long coordinates making it possible to find a specific point anywhere on the planet.

Longitude (Long)

Longitude is a measure of a position on the Earth's surface, typically measuring the number of degrees (east or west) it is from the Greenwich Prime Meridian (see above). It's used alongside latitude (see above) to pinpoint the exact location.

PND

Personal navigation devices (PNDs) were the gadget of choice a couple of years ago when it came to navigating unfamiliar areas, and although we've seen smartphones and apps like HERE WeGo become far more popular in recent years, PNDs from the likes of Garmin are still a safe bet if you want to go traveling and your car doesn't have integrated navigation.

Sat-nav

A colloquial term in some countries for a personal navigation device (see above).

Triangulation

Triangulation is the process used to calculate the distance between different places using basic trigonometry. It all starts with a virtual triangle and three locations, but as long as you know the distance between two of those locations, it's possible to use triangulation to work out the unknown distance to the third. It's then possible to use triangulation on a much bigger scale, using the distances you already have as virtual baselines for other triangles.

Trilateration

Using specific equipment, trilateration takes the known speed of light (299,792.458 km per second) and the time it takes for a wave of light to travel a set distance to work out how far away you are from a specific location. It's incredibly accurate and it can also help you to measure angles, making the process of triangulation a lot quicker. Check out our guide on Triangulation, Trilateration and Traversing for a more in-depth explanation.

Traversing

Traversing is used where triangulation and trilateration struggles: hills, where it may be physically impossible to see between two different locations in a triangle. Once again it uses the same equipment as trilateration, but throws in more location points to negate any hills. The downside it that by adding different shapes it's no longer possible to double check angles using basic trigonometry, so it's easier for mistakes to be made.

Think we've missed something? If there are any other terms you're left wondering about, or there's something you know we've missed out, leave a comment below and let us know.

Topics: Features, Location glossary, Weekend reads

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