Point Of Call Reference Data

Point Of Call

Canada Post publishes data that lists the official valid mailing addresses in Canada. The most recent version of this data is referred to as “Point of Call”. What is Point of Call data and what does it mean for your organization? Read on to find out…

Two Views Of Address Reference Data

Prior to January 17, 2011, Canada Post published only one single set of data which represented the official list of Canadian mailing addresses. This is called the “Postal Code Address Data” product, or PCAD. Just about anyone who wants to license this data can do so, with a few restrictions and at various pricing levels, depending on how the data is to be used.

As of January 17, 2011, a second data set has been published by Canada Post. This new data set is called the “Point of Call (Range Based) Address Data” product, or PoCAD. This new product is a second, more detailed view of the official mailing addresses for Canada. There are very severe restrictions on the use of PoCAD data. It can only be used in SERP-recognized software and only for very specific purposes.

How Does Postal Code Address Data (PCAD) Work?

The PCAD data is a list of postal code ranges. A typical postal code covers part of one side of a street. For example, the postal code L8P1K5 covers odd numbers between 401 and 463 on Main Street West in Hamilton, Ontario. This means that any odd numbers between 401 and 463 are theoretically valid as far as the PCAD data can tell us.

This is the simple view of things, insofar as postal codes aren’t always just one range of numbers on one side of one street.  Postal codes can consist of multiple ranges on one or both sides of one or more streets. They can also be for just a single place, like an apartment building or a business. In rural areas postal codes can also be for ranges that aren’t streets at all, like PO Box ranges and rural routes.

The important thing to keep in mind about PCAD data is that it is based on ranges of addresses. If we look at the example postal code L8P1K5, there is nothing in the PCAD data to warn us that the real house numbers in this range are: 401, 405, 415, 433, and all odd numbers from 447 to 463. There are a lot of gaps in the overall postal code range (401-463) and the PCAD data doesn’t tell us anything about where these gaps are – or even that they exist at all.

What Is Point Of Call Data (PoCAD)?

The primary difference between PCAD and PoCAD data is that PoCAD data is more granular and provides enough detailed information to distinguish true delivery points from delivery points which exist only in theory within a block face or postal code range.  This means that PoCAD data can tell us that in L8P1K5, “401” is a real number, but “403” is not and so on.

Of particular interest is that many apartment buildings which previously had no unit range information now have this additional detail in the PoCAD file. Whereas most apartment numbers cannot be validated using PCAD data, with PoCAD data most apartment numbers can be validated.

Canada Post has noted that their intention is to complete the rollout of this granular point of call data at some future date.  For the initial release, the more granular data covers a significant proportion of Canadian addresses, but not 100%. Canada Post isn’t saying exactly how much of the country is covered at the point of call level yet, but they have hinted that about three quarters of urban addresses are covered as of June 2011. There is no immediate plan for improving on the extent of rural addressing by migrating to urbanized addresses. There are no changes to rural addressing rules with PoCAD data.

While PCAD data will continue to be published and nCode will continue to support PCAD data-based address quality operations, PoCAD data will now be used for producing SOA reports.

For highly debatable business reasons, CPC has chosen to consider PoCAD data sensitive and strategic intellectual property. As such, they have imposed very severe restrictions on the use of PoCAD data. Nova and all other vendors of SERP-recognized software are required to uphold these restrictions. For this reason PoCAD data will not be available to users of the nCode Programmers Toolkit API. PoCAD data cannot be used for any interactive application, including address data capture, nor can it be used, even in batch mode, unless the purpose of the batch is to generate a Statement of Accuracy Report for a mailing that is to be delivered by Canada Post. Therefore, PoCAD data will be used by the nCode Batch Processor when generating SOAs, but all other uses of PoCAD data are expressly forbidden, on pain of losing SERP recognition and the right to employ Canada Post data in our products.

What Is The Benefit Of PoCAD Data?

Canada Post’s stated goal is to improve the quality of addresses used for mailings, especially to apartment buildings. Poor unit number information has apparently been a significant deliverability challenge. By providing more detailed reference information, albeit only in limited circumstances, Canada Post expects that mailers will be able to eliminate address errors that have not been resolved using the traditional PCAD data that they have been publishing for years.

In order to benefit from PoCAD data, you will have to take the address quality results provided by the nCode Batch Processor when running your SOA report and feed it back into your master address database.

What If You Are Doing Your Address Quality At Capture Time?

If you are presently using nCode as part of your address data capture processes, then you are following the best practices recommended by Nova and by Canada Post. Applying data quality tools at data capture time is the most economically efficient way to ensure that your addresses are the best that they can be. It’s also the best way to deliver optimal customer service.

It would make sense, from Nova’s perspective, for you to be able to use the more granular PoCAD data as part of the upfront address data quality processes that you are already using. Unfortunately, Canada Post believes that its interests outweigh any potential benefits that might accrue to mailers and users of SERP software by making PoCAD data available for interactive applications, including upfront address data capture. Therefore Canada Post has forbidden Nova and other SERP software vendors to permit access to PoCAD data for any purpose other than SOA generation.

Nova does not support Canada Post in this but we are bound by legal agreement to enforce Canada Post’s usage restrictions.  However, should Canada Post be convinced to lift these restrictions in the future, Nova is ready to make PoCAD data available to your interactive applications through the nCode Programmers Toolkit API by simply replacing your nCode license file. There would be no changes to your applications.

Learning More

If you want to know more about point of call reference data or about what nCode can do to help you with your address data quality, or if you want to discuss the options open to you for handling your specific address quality challenges, contact Nova Marketing Group. We’re here to help.

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