Within an hour of posting my last blog on the Variety of Location data, I remembered three other sets of Location data that I did not include but should note: Electronic Addresses, Voice/Phone Addresses and Virtual World Addresses.
Adding in the Electronic World
There's a whole virtual world out there that's grown around us, but you can't attach geospatial coordinates to: the realm on email addresses, IP addresses, and URLs. Should these be considered Locations as well?
I think a reasonable case can be made to do so.
1) Consider a customer: they have a physical address you can ship goods to; and they have an electronic address that you can send a shipment notice to.
- Both represent routes to the customer.
- Both are distinct from the customer and the actual data about the customer.
2) Consider their uniqueness: a given physical address (once you've accounted for subdivisions such as apartments and floors) is a unique place; a given electronic address is also unique - while it might be accessed from many virtual points, my email address or the IP address I'm currently connected to are distinct from any others.
3) Consider that they are routing mechanisms: they serve as endpoints for their relevant protocols to deliver content to.
Generally, the electronic addresses are less complex in content than physical addresses, but I think it worthwhile to consider this set as more of the larger variety of Location data.
And what of the World of Voice?
Phones are an interesting crossing point. Through most of their history they are physical devices, whether in the form of landline phones in your home, fax machines in the office, or mobile phones in your pocket. At any a given point in time, they occupy a physical space which can be described as a Physical Address or as a Geospatial Coordinate.
However, they also have a phone number which serves as a Voice Address -- I can call your phone number to reach you just as I can send a letter to your physical address or an email to your electronic one. Those phone numbers are unique at a given point in time and are clearly distinct from either the user of the phone or the premise at which the phone currently resides. These Voice Addresses are also distinct from the serial numbers that uniquely indicates that your iPhone is distinct from your friend's iPhone.
Now the distinctions start to blur when you consider Conference Numbers and VoIP - these are virtual addresses, numbers you can dial from some other phone or machine to reach someone else but are not necessarily at any specific physical location or linked to any specific device.
Emergence of Virtual Locations
Given the blurring of boundaries between Electronic Address and Voice Address, it may be useful to consider these as Virtual Locations. And that in turn allows us to bring Virtual World Locations in to a common picture as well. I see this aspect in the online games my kids play where they decide which server or world they want to participate in at any given time. Like conference call numbers, these virtual locations have specific identities to select and often restrictions on the number of connections supported at a given point in time.
Why do we want to include these electronic, voice, and virtual addresses in our consideration of Location data? In many instances, these are the only Location data we have for a given customer, client, vendor, etc. Many of our interactions are solely electronic. Where a product is virtual, such as an eBook or a pdf document or even a tax form, delivery of goods and acknowledgment of receipt is based on these locations. Our understanding of customers and suppliers is increasingly shaped by our awareness of the Virtual World as well as the physical one. What do you think? Do you agree with this broad perspective on Location?
In my next post, I'll look take up the increasing sources of Location data and their possible uses and interactions as I think this is a key to determining whether it is worthwhile to turn Location into Master Data, and if so, which pieces.
As always, the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.