What is location data?

Getting to know the basics

Platforms which deal with spatial data - like CARTO - are able to translate encoded location data into a geographic location on a map, allowing you to visualize and analyze data based on location. This includes mapping where something is, and the space it occupies.

There are two main ways that "location" is encoded.

  1. Geographic Coordinates (Geography): Geographic coordinates, also known as geographic or unprojected coordinates, use latitude and longitude to specify a location on the Earth's curved surface. Geographic coordinates are based on a spherical or ellipsoidal model of the Earth and provide a global reference system.

  2. Projected Coordinates (Geometry): Projected coordinates, also referred to as geometriesy or projected coordinates, utilize a two-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system to represent locations on a flat surface, such as a map or a plane. Projected coordinates result from applying a mathematical transformation to geographic coordinates, projecting them onto a flat surface. This projection aims to minimize distortion and provide accurate distance, direction, and area measurements within a specific geographic region or map projection.

The choice between geographic or projected coordinates depends on the purpose and scale of the analysis. Geographic coordinates are commonly used for global or large-scale analysis, while projected coordinates are more suitable for local or regional analysis where accurate distance, area, and shape measurements are required. Furthermore, web mapping systems may often require your data to be a geography, as these systems often use a global, geographic coordinate system.

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