[okfn-labs] opening up what3words

Tom Morris tfmorris at gmail.com
Tue Jun 21 23:24:20 UTC 2016

Apparently Google has decided that Open Location Code is mature enough to
promote now because I got the attached on one of the other lists that I
subscribe to:

My name is Doug Rinckes and I work for Google in the Zurich office. We have
a project that we want to tell you about, firstly because it might benefit
some of you, and also because you and your groups can help it be successful.

I've added the road network of some cities
Google Maps, but I couldn't add in the street names, but I hoped eventually
someone else would. Then I learnt that in many countries, it's normal for
streets to be unnamed. This might not be news to you, but it certainly is
news in Switzerland!

A group of us in the Zurich office started thinking about this. We found
that the World Bank believe that half of the roads in cities worldwide
don't have names. We found that mapping and naming projects can be very
expensive. We thought about what would be difficult if we didn't have
street addresses and decided to try to do something about this problem.

We decided that any idea we had, would be open sourced, it would to be free
to use, work offline, and not depend on the city or town being mapped. It
must work in Zurich
and also places like Sennar
Sudan or Al Zaatri
in Jordan.

The solution we came up with encodes a location into a reference like
8G4R78RJ+R4. This represents a latitude and longitude, and can be created
and decoded with a simple library. But we want the codes to be easy to
remember and use, and this is too long. But if we combine it with the town
or city name, we can shorten it and get addresses like "78RJ+R4 Al-Mafraq
<https://www.google.ch/maps/search/78RJ%2BR4%20Al-Mafraq>", or "GJJC+FH
Sennar <https://www.google.ch/maps/search/GJJC%2BFH%20Sennar>".

We called our project Open Location Code. I've been working with the postal
services in Cape Verde and spent time there earlier this year, to talk to
people and see what they thought about the idea. The strongest reaction was
from a small business owner who delivers food - "this will make me money!"
he said to me. (He also told me that I will never pay for pizza in Cape
Verde, but unfortunately he doesn't deliver to Switzerland. :-)

In addition to Cape Verde, we've been making contacts with postal services
and governments in a number of countries, and there seems to be a lot of

If businesses publish their address on Facebook, people might be able to
find them more easily. If they can add an address finder to their web site,
their customers can discover their address and get their deliveries faster.
If people can discover an address for their home, they may be able to get
post or packages delivered. If people can give an address to utilities,
they may be able to do installations and fix problems faster. If the post
office supports these addresses, they could deliver the mail directly to
people's homes.

And this is where I need your help. People need ways to find out their
addresses and know where they can use them. Businesses need to add their
address to their website or facebook page so that people can find them, and
they need to know what to do when someone gives them an Open Location Code
address. Delivery companies need to know how to deliver packages with these
addresses, and their delivery workers need devices or maps showing them
where to take stuff. We can add features to our products and make software
available, but if it's not supported by businesses, nobody will see the

We're really interested in your feedback. So find out your Open Location
Code <https://plus.codes/>, try searching for it in Google Maps, and think
about who in your city or country could use accurate addresses, and how you
could help them. And let us know what you think!


   - Read about it on the Open Location Code site
   - Discover your address with the plus.codes demonstration site
   - Discuss in the public discussion group
   - Download source code and an example android app
   - Look at examples for web developers

Thanks for your consideration,

Doug Rinckes
Technical Program Manager
Google Switzerland

On Sun, May 31, 2015 at 6:48 PM, todd.d.robbins at gmail.com <
todd.d.robbins at gmail.com> wrote:

> I just came upon this useful comparison essay
> <https://github.com/google/open-location-code/blob/master/docs/comparison.adoc> from
> the Google-sponsored Open Location Code <http://openlocationcode.com/>
> project's repo.
> Anyhow, it's exciting to see all of these approaches moving forward.
> –Tod
> --
> Tod Robbins
> Digital Asset Manager, MLIS
> todrobbins.com | @todrobbins <http://www.twitter.com/#!/todrobbins>
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