Norfolk firm helps to put Romania on the map

A Norfolk business is helping to put Romania on the map after devising a modern postcode system for the country.

A team at RD Research Ltd, based at Eastgate, near Norwich, has been working with Cambridge firm Geo Strategies Ltd to provide its customers with accurate postcode and address data in the East European country.

Geo Strategies uses postcode data to build what is termed socio-economic population profiling (ie what people buy, where they buy, their income bracket, their leisure pursuits etc) for clients looking to expand into Romania. The company has also created the first-ever proper address structure for Romania.

RD Research managing director Paul Williamson said the specialist database company spent around two years working on the project.

The company, which employs five staff and has a �500,000 annual turnover, has a track record developing databases including for the NHS, and also helped developed the Square Bet Lottery project.

But Mr Williamson said the Romania project proved the most complicated it has ever undertaken as it sought to standardise nine million addresses.

'It's probably the most technically challenging project, we have ever worked on,' he said. 'Since Romania joined the EU, a fundamental problem has been that the country doesn't have an address structure we would understand. Bucharest has but that's pretty much it.'

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'The Romanian language is quite flowery and every few years when they change the government, they change the names of the streets and roads, and they make their postcodes up from town to town.

'It was a tangled mess. In Romania when the utility companies want to send bills they employ local people who know where people live. But you can't do business with a country where there are no addresses!

'Each local area and, in some cases, even individual towns or villages, allocated its own address structure, which leads to duplications of addresses. Matters were made worse by the use of people's occupations sometimes forming part of the address and street names being abbreviated, misspelt, omitted and regularly being renamed when there was a political regime change.'

Over the past two years the company has been analysing data, using advanced computer software that it developed specially for the project, that takes the existing poorly-defined addresses and put them into a standardised format, with GPS co-ordinates that can be used by everything from satellite navigation systems and store location planning to courier companies' delivery routing and utilities services provision.

The cutting-edge software not only had to cope with the Romanian language but where part of the address was missing they used powerful computer algorithms known as 'fuzzy matching' to work out by inference the likelihood of a particular street being in a particular location.

He said: 'A couple of years ago I was watching Top Gear when they were travelling across Europe and, according to their satnav, Romania didn't exist because there were no addresses. Well, now, we have put Romania on the map!'

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