[okfn-labs] opening up what3words

Ingmar Schlecht ingmar.schlecht at unibas.ch
Wed Jun 22 14:00:37 UTC 2016

Hi Stef,

their code website (http://openlocationcode.com/) lists a few advantages 
of https://plus.codes/ when compared to e.g. Maidenhead. The one that 
first strikes me is not to use characters that can easily be confused, 
i.e. no O vs. 0 things.

Quoting from the website:

"*Why didn't you just use X?*

The first thing we did was to work out what attributes of addresses were 
useful. Once we had that list, we looked at a lot of existing location 
coding methods to see how well they matched our list. Once we'd done 
that, we decided that it was worth to at least define a new one, and 
then see if it was well received.

The other methods were mostly designed with different ideas in mind, and 
so this isn't a criticism of them.

*What makes Open Location Codes different?*

  * The codes aren't case sensitive and don't include easily confused
    characters. We've selected the characters to make it difficult to
    impossible to spell words in any language.
  * Codes are generated from latitude and longitude, so they already
    exist for everywhere. Nobody has to set them up or pay for them.
    Each place has only one code.
  * Codes that are similar are located closer together than codes that
    are different.
  * Open Location Codes represent an area, not a point.
  * The size of the area depends on the length of the code. Long codes
    are more accurate than short codes.
  * Dropping characters from the end of a code gives you a larger area
    that contained the original code.
  * Codes are 10 or 11 characters long (8FMGP9FW+6M), but if you're in
    the local area (within 50km), the leading four characters of the
    code can be omitted (P9FW+6M) making the codes even shorter.
  * The short code can be used together with a place name (like P9FW+6M
    Pisa, Italy)."


On 22.06.2016 11:36, stef wrote:
> in the subject you mention what3words, but i gather this is a completely
> separate project? again, just as with what3words, the question, why reinvent
> the wheel? why not use the maidenhead locator system?
> On Tue, Jun 21, 2016 at 07:24:20PM -0400, Tom Morris wrote:
>> 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
>> <https://www.google.ch/maps/place/Al+Junaynah,+Sudan/@13.4469466,22.4389738,13524m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x1133300d1d348fbb:0x824617b06d74f03a!8m2!3d13.447898!4d22.4649083?hl=en>
>> to
>> 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
>> <https://www.google.ch/maps/@47.3645065,8.5249763,833m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en>,
>> and also places like Sennar
>> <https://www.google.ch/maps/place/Sennar,+Sudan/@13.5381179,33.6023175,5698m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x16f58fb64d155429:0x6e7433e8c7f47d3f!8m2!3d13.0317108!4d33.9750018?>
>> in
>> Sudan or Al Zaatri
>> <https://www.google.ch/maps/place/Al+Zaatri/@32.2978155,36.321236,1469m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x151ba3169c784927:0x4659e77940a5da45!8m2!3d32.3035094!4d36.3222082?>
>> camp
>> 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
>> interest.
>> 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
>> advantages.
>> 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!
>> Resources:
>>     - Read about it on the Open Location Code site
>>     <http://openlocationcode.com/>
>>     - Discover your address with the plus.codes demonstration site
>>     <https://plus.codes/>
>>     - Discuss in the public discussion group
>>     <https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/open-location-code>
>>     - Download source code and an example android app
>>     <https://github.com/google/open-location-code>
>>     - Look at examples for web developers
>>     <https://jsfiddle.net/user/openlocationcode/fiddles/>
>> 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>
> ---end quoted text---

Ingmar Schlecht

Wissenschaftlicher Assistent / Doktorand
Forschungsstelle Nachhaltige Energie- und Wasserversorgung (FoNEW)
Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät (WW|Z)
Universität Basel

Tel  +41 (0)61 207 33 45

Peter Merian-Weg 6
CH-4002 Basel

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