Friday, July 25, 2014

Wot's That Word?

Here is an interesting take on a better global reference system. What3Words (W3W) divides the world into 3x3m spaces (57 Trillion of them) and assigns each a specific 3-word address. So giving someone your address apparently becomes easier. Or does it? I can see how telling, emailing or texting someone that my location is  'acrobat.explanatory.supper' might sound easier than '6.81726 deg N, 58.15884 deg W'. W3W says 'each square’s address contains totally different words to its nearby squares'. But therein lies a problem. This new global addressing scheme of W3W doesn't do something important that the old fashioned degrees N/S/E/W system provides - context. You can't relate any W3W address to anything else by yourself. You can't tell what a neighbouring location might be (one of mine is 'freehand.construing.uneasy'), etc..

In contrast, saying my location is approx. 6N, 58W allows people from many professions or high-school students to swiftly understand that my location is ... tropical ... West of Greenwich ... around South America. And to easily further figure out that say, Castries, Saint Lucia located at 14N, 60W must be to my North, or that Paramaribo, Suriname located at 5.8N, 55W must be to my East. 

It seems that W3W has uses - e.g. word games, poetry competitions. But a global addressing scheme W3W is not.

So why bother to carefully divide up the globe into 57 Trillion 3x3m squares? Regretfully, I think it has something to do with the following W3W option - 'You can purchase an additional, personalised address for any 3m x 3m square'. Paying US$2 per 3x3m of (cyber)space is a steal. But for whom? Thanks Tony.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

'In contrast, saying my location is approx. 6N, 58W allows people from many professions or high-school students to swiftly understand that my location is ... tropical ... West of Greenwich ... around South America.'

Sure, if you want to know a general area. But what do you then do if you want to find a specific business or address, to actually conduct business or deliver good or request a service?

Vijay said...

Telling you to deliver goods to acrobat.explanatory.supper can't possibly tell you anything. You'd HAVE to look it up.

What3Words is an Unsystematic system. So you can't use the knowledge that you already have about locations. You couldn't know if a location was the house next door or located in Antarctica. The existing systems work well enough - street addresses where they exist and/ or a geographic coordinate for anywhere on the planet.

In GIS it's said 80% of decisions are spatial. Imagine if you and the people you're doing business with have to look up Every decision to know what each other meant. And have to do so Every time.

Anonymous said...

'The existing systems work well enough - street addresses where they exist'. Exactly. Where they exist. But for much of the world they do not.

'...and/ or a geographic coordinate for anywhere on the planet.'

A geographic coordinate which you have to look up presumably, right? Or should a Kenyan postman know where '4.3222° S, 39.5750° E' without looking it up? And should a villager in Diani remember to tell someone they live at '4.3222° S, 39.5750° E instead of three words?

Vijay said...

You must be right. Postmen in Kenya, as you put it over, have obviously not operated as yet and remained helplessly lost - we should make them learn a completely new system that is privately controlled, not systematic and that no one else has used before. It's super-easy like Scrabble. And it has a website.

The alternatives, MapCode which seems systematic and is in use, and Open Location Code which is free and algorithmic, present better cases.