Monday, May 9, 2016

Explaining holes in Postcodes 2016 coverage

When displaying Postcode Boundaries, Australia 2016 on a map you will notice that there is a lot of “empty space”. The expectation is that postcodes should cover the entire country, yet this is not the case for the reasons explained below.

Defining postcode boundaries should be a straightforward exercise since:
  • Australia Post officially declares that “postcode numbers are applied only to officially gazetted localities”, and since
  • gazetted localities cover, without overlaps, almost the entire continent, therefore
  • combining gazetted localities with a list of allocated postcodes should allow creating postcode boundaries that cover Australia without the gaps.
Simple, right? Not quite…


Australian Postcodes 2016 coverage

The reality is that:
  • There are places around Australia which do not have officially gazetted localities. For example, there are places with no permanent population (in the case of North West South Australia for example) or which have no formal recognition by local authorities for whatever reasons (in the case of Canberra surrounds). Hence, no postcodes can be allocated to those areas.
  • There are places which have gazetted localities but, for unknown reasons, those locations are not recognised by the Australia Post. So, they do not have postcodes assigned to them. This happens mainly in NT and Queensland but also for locations such as national parks or similar, mostly remote and uninhabited places.
  • There are places which are not officially gazetted localities so have no defined boundaries, yet they have assigned postcodes by the Australia Post. Point in case is the locality of Majura near Canberra with the allocated postcode number 2609. To make things more complicated, this locality also covers the officially gazetted locality of Pialligo (with the same allocated postcode number so, no big drama) but it also partially overlaps Canberra’s suburb of Watson which has a postcode number 2602.
  • Then there may be cases of locations that could be on the Australia Post postcode list but are not referenced with a postcode number in publicly available version of the list. So, such locations cannot be identified outright - unfortunately, Australia Post does not licence freely its information.

As you can see, despite all the good intentions, the reality is quite messy. Therefore, the only way to deal with this complexity is to stick to a strict definition of what postcode boundaries should be. That is, to the Australia Post defined relationship between postcode numbers and locations where: “Postcodes are only allocated to localities officially gazetted by State land agencies”.

This way all major metropolitan areas are well covered with postcode boundaries and the issue of “gaps in coverage” is limited mainly to small, rural communities. The downside is a map that appears to have large chunks of Australia not covered in postcodes.


Using postcodes as a “widely recognisable and understood spatial reference to locations” is a deceivingly attractive proposition. In particular:
  • postcode numbers are part of an address, hence, theoretically, postcodes can be easily linked to specific locations;
  • everybody knows their postcode so it is very easy to solicit that information from clients or respondents to a survey, or from persons enquiring about a service, etc.
  • it is easy to use postcode groups to define sales territories or franchise areas,
  • postcodes are convenient for information aggregation purposes, without the need to resort to time consuming and potentially expensive geocoding of input data,
  • postcodes are large enough to provide good level of anonymity, so input data cannot be attributed to its sources (ie. inputs can be “confidentialised”),
  • at the same time, postcodes are small enough to highlight differences or similarities between local neighbourhoods. 

However, using postcodes boundaries is not without some serious issues due to:
  • ambiguity of how postcode numbers refer to locations,
  • existence of many versions of data at any particular point in time, and
  • their constant change.

You will find additional informaion on the limitations of postcode boundaries in our earlier articles on this topic:

Australian Postcodes User Guide
Comparing ABS Postal Areas 2011 and Postcode Boundaries 2016


All in all, gaps in Postcode Boundaries, Australia 2016 are the result of the methodology applied in creation of this dataset. MapDeck version of postcode boundaries may not suit all purposes and users should have a proper understanding of the limitations of this data set if they intend to make any use of it. 

Our recommendation is that, it is best to avoid postcodes (any version) and use instead more voluminous (in terms of count and data size) but more stable over time gazetted localities boundaries.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Comparing ABS Postal Areas 2011 and Postcodes 2016

Postal area boundaries, created by the ABS for the purpose of publishing 2011 Census statistics, are becoming dated. No updates have been announced as yet so, the question is, should you still be using this dataset?

You will need to consider two issues to answer this question:
  • what data are you going to reference to postcode boundaries, and;
  • whether there is a material difference between the 2011 representation of postcodes and their more up-to-date version in the area of your interest.

Despite the fact that ‘Postal Areas’ data is more than five years old, it is still the only option to use with Census 2011 statistics. It will be more than a year before any data from the upcoming Census 2016 is made available. So, the 2011 version of ‘Postal Areas’ will continue to be relevant for a while yet.

However, if you are working with other data, such as ATO statistics or recent survey data that reference respondent postcodes, then the more up to date representation of postcodes is the recommended option - choose ‘Postcode Boundaries, 2016’ edition then.

Both datasets are available for free perusal with MapDeck apps and the 2016 version can be downloaded in .shp format for a small fee.

Rural Victoria: Postal Areas 2011 in red and Postcodes 2016 in blue


The difference between these two versions of postcode boundaries datasets can be quite dramatic in rural areas (as the above example demonstrates) but it is generally less pronounced in long-established metropolitan areas.

Sydney Metro: Postal Areas 2011 in red and Postcodes 2016 in blue


You can compare how both boundaries  match in specific locations using a free version of the Thematic Mapper app (available to registered MapDeck users). Contact aus-emaps.com for an invite code to sign up for the MapDeck platform.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Australian postcode boundaries 2016

A new, free dataset showing spatial extents of Australian postcodes has just been released for use with MapDeck apps.

Australian Postcode Boundaries are approximations of Australia Post postcodes and are current as of February 2016.  The product is based on a collection of open source data, such as recently released PSMA Suburbs - Localities February 2016 data and listings of postcodes by locality from Geonames.org.

Australian Postcode Boundaries 2016 edition


Gazetted Localities with Postcodes, Australia Feb 2016, a by-product generated in the production of postcode boundaries, is released as a separate product.

All input data has been cleaned and topologically corrected so postcode and locality boundaries are suitable for further spatial transformation and reprocessing.

Both datasets: Postcode Boundaries, Australia 2016 and Gazetted Localities with Postcodes, Australia Feb 2016, have undergone a significant transformation and are considered value added products. They can be downloaded from MapDeck in SHP format for a small fee.

Postcodes are very popular and convenient reference to locations. They are often used for publishing social statistics as well as for defining sales, service, franchise or dealership territories.

There is no single, authoritative representation of Australian postcode boundaries and several different versions are in use. For example, Australian Bureau of Statistics publishes in 5 year intervals a set of Postal Area boundaries, specifically for use with Census statistics. These boundaries are compiled using Statistical Area Level 1 geometry. They approximate official Australia Post postcode coverage at the time of publishing. MapDeck users can access this version of postcode boundaries under the name of Postal Areas, Australia 2011. It is free for use with MapDeck apps.

There are also a number of private companies that produce and regularly update their own versions of postcode boundaries. These can be imported into MapDeck for private use if required. Since the cost of obtaining these products can be substantial, we recommend comparing and weighing the benefits and limitations of each option against your specific requirements.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Postcodes maps now available on MapDeck.com

You can now access the aus-emaps.com series of PDF postcode maps for Australian Capital Cities and for State and Territories on MapDeck platform.

Payments can be made by Visa and MasterCard and the simplified purchasing process means that you will have access to the information in under a minute. An itemised tax invoice is automatically provided for your records. 



The current collection of PDF maps is very small to start with but we will be adding more items as suitable content becomes available. To preview the list of PDF maps in the catalogue just go to the mapdeck.com front page, click on the filter icon with two arrows pointing in opposing directions and select the “file” option. 

MapDeck is very versatile in terms of the content it catalogues and serves.  In particular, it allows for the search and discovery of not only apps and data for use online, but also for the distribution of file-based content, like PDF maps or data in spreadsheet or spatial formats which can be downloaded for printing or use in desktop software.  Content on MapDeck can be free to use or download, or can be provided on a commercial basis as time-based subscriptions or one-off payments.

This capability allows any publisher of spatial web services, PDF maps or spatially referenced data and information, the opportunity to explore MapDeck as a potential new distribution channel.

Remember: good information is an essential ingredient of success… locate, map, act!

Contact aus-emaps.com on info@aus-emaps.com for an invite code to sign up and create your personal account on MapDeck.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Psst! MapDeck has been launched

Our brand new spatial marketplace and collaboration platform is live and ready for business. You are invited to try it now – it costs nothing to sign up and there is lots of free content to play with! No special skills or expertise in GIS required.

MapDeck was created with a vision that it will be the go-to place for spatial information and simple-to-use, task-oriented tools to support research, planning and operational activities - be it business or investment related, environmental, community or policy focused.


By collecting the most useful spatial data in one place, and providing simple tools to interact with it, we make it easy for anybody to take advantage of location intelligence capabilities and to derive invaluable, personalised information for decision making.

Our aim is to support spatial capabilities that range from simple map creation and visualization of spatial information for situation awareness, to advanced data processing for situation analysis.

MapDeck motto:
Good information is an essential ingredient of success… Locate, Map, Act!
Mapdeck has been launched with just a basic set of tools and information. Product range will expand over time to meet a growing list of user requirements.

Our initial focus is on supporting franchise industry as well as marketing and sales related activities with applications like the Sales Area Management Tool or Thematic Mapper, and popular datasets like postcodes/zip codes and demographic statistics. But there is more to come.

MapDeck has been fully operational since late December 2015. January was very busy as we transitioned our current clients from legacy apps to the new platform. Now we are inviting members of the public to take advantage of MapDeck capabilities.  

Contact us for a unique access code to find out for yourself how you and your organisation can benefit - please email your request to info@aus-emaps.com.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Creating thematic maps with Sales Area Management Tool

As hinted in one of our earlier posts, Sales Area Management Tool (SAMT) can be used in many creative ways. In this article we demonstrate its use as a simple thematic mapper app.

Firstly, a brief overview of what thematic maps are and what they are used for.

Very often it is desirable to review the information available on hand in a summary format, for example to highlight the main patterns or trends otherwise buried in the details. One simple technique when dealing with spatially distributed phenomena is thematic mapping (or, as it is technically known, choropleth mapping). Wikipedia provides a comprehensive definition:

A choropleth map (from Greek χώρο ("area/region") + πλήθος ("multitude") is a thematic map in which areas are shaded or patterned in proportion to the measurement of the statistical variable being displayed on the map, such as population density or per-capita income.

The choropleth map provides an easy way to visualize how a measurement varies across a geographic area or it shows the level of variability within a region.

To create thematic map you will need:
  1. spatial data representing areas as polygons (e.g. postal areas or zip codes)
  2. attribute information about those polygons (e.g. Census statistics)
  3. mapping software to create a map (e.g. Sales Area Management Tool)
  
If you already have a summary dataset (e.g. information on family incomes from Census or similar source) which can be referenced to a specific boundary data (e.g. postal areas), it is only a matter of simple “copy and paste” to create thematic map with Sales Area Management Tool.

Example of thematic map created with Sales Area Management Tool 


In particular, you can create 4 different “territories”, each representing postcodes with attribute values belonging to a specific data range (e.g. quartiles of weekly family incomes). Just copy the list of postcodes for each data range from your spreadsheet to SAMT as comma separated values, then style the polygons in a given group, and it’s done! You have a thematic map that can be copied into your documents or printed for further perusals in a hardcopy format.

SAMT is a very handy tool for quick generation of thematic maps with public data like Census statistics, or with your own information derived from, for example, user surveys or sales statistics.

The above map is just an example to illustrate that even simple apps like SAMT can be used for a variety of tasks (i.e. can be "repurosed" in many creative ways). Low cost of such tools and ease of use means these apps offer a great value for money for the end user.


There are more advanced tools on MapDeck for creating thematic maps dynamically from large datasets.  We will describe them in detail in future posts.


Contact aus-emaps.com on info@aus-emaps.com to arrange a free trial of SAMT.

Related Posts:
Sales Area Management Tool 2015 Upgrade
Sales Area Management Tool makes tedious tasks easy - and fast!

Mapping territories for multi-category franchise 
15 complex tasks Sales Area Management Tool will make easy 

Friday, December 18, 2015

15 complex tasks Sales Area Management Tool will make easy

Sales Area Management Tool (SAMT) is very versatile in terms of possible applications.

At the core of SAMT functionality there is a very simple mapping widget that enables manual selection of polygons and compilation of those polygons into user defined groups. However, the overall capability of SAMT can be utilised in many creative ways.

One of many potential uses of the tool: defining delivery zones


SAMT is one of the first advanced productivity improvement tools released on MapDeck platform. We have unveiled the latest version about a month ago and since then we have promoted its virtues in several posts. Today we present an extended list of potential uses for SAMT: 
  1. defining sales areas, franchise or dealership territories based on common administrative boundaries, like postal areas/ zip codes or suburbs;
  2. generating images of individual territories for inclusion in contracts for sale of franchises or other reports;
  3. testing territory composition or rebalancing existing territories based on polygon attribute information, such as number of clients, potential market size or actual revenue form a given location;
  4. creating simple lists of postcodes/ zip codes, suburbs, etc. administrative areas that fall in X km radius from a given location;
  5. creating lists of polygons (e.g. suburbs) contained in a larger administrative area (e.g. Greater Sydney);
  6. defining catchment areas for retail operations bases on distance from the location;
  7. defining catchment areas based on the distribution of clients in the surrounding postcodes or suburbs;
  8. defining delivery zones based on the distance from a location;
  9. defining delivery zones for different days of the week;
  10. creating maps outlining work areas for market research staff  or charity donations collectors;
  11. creating simple thematic maps for documents and reports, (e.g. based on sales and revenue, or visitor statistics that can be matched to postcodes/ zip codes or suburbs);
  12. highlighting geographic extents of interest for regional organisations (e.g. based on LGA boundaries);
  13. recreating land planning zones based on Census mesh blocks and information from local authorities;
  14. visualising TV and radio broadcasting reach for local advertising campaign purposes;
  15. defining localities affected by natural disasters (like storms, bushfires, floods) and highlighting the severity levels;

When explaining benefits of a product it is always a good idea to present real life examples to illustrate how users are actually gaining advantage by utilising available functionality. However, we value privacy of our clients and will never disclose who is using various tools on MapDeck platform, and for what purposes, as this may reveal certain operational advantages to their competitors. Therefore, we will only present generic use cases when demonstrating where MapDeck tools and data could be potentially utilised.

Education of current and future MapDeck users about the benefits of location intelligence is an important part of our mission so everybody who registers on MapDeck is well informed how to make the most of what is available – with the least effort and at the lowest cost.

Contact aus-emaps.com on info@aus-emaps.com for access code to test SAMT with your use case scenario.

Related Posts:
Sales Area Management Tool 2015 Upgrade
Sales Area Management Tool makes tedious tasks easy - and fast!

Mapping territories for multi-category franchise