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What3Words again

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
 JohnnyW 10 Feb 2020

I was introduced to this App at a recent First Aid course, so downloaded it. As a full time leader, I wasn't convinced of its advantages over traditional OS refs, but reading more on it, I am swithering back the way.

Then I saw this on FB - https://www.facebook.com/lochabermrt/posts/2673958622653324, and so I suppose that is QED.

What are the thoughts out there? Any MRT folks got any comments? Another tool to embolden the recklessly inexperienced, or a real lifesaver we all should embrace?

2
In reply to JohnnyW:

If they've used a phone to call for help we can usually get their position using sarloc, so not really sure what extra value w3w adds? If someone in trouble reports their location using w3w rather than a grid ref it would suggest part of the reason they are in trouble in the first place is an inability to read maps.

2
 DaveHK 10 Feb 2020
In reply to JohnnyW:

You probably already have the ability to give MRT your location as a grid reference so why switch to W3W?

 colinakmc 10 Feb 2020
In reply to JohnnyW:

I’m not convinced either but Lochaber MRT are giving credit to the app and the other circumstances of today’s adventure would suggest that the rescued party collectively didn’t know a from e. For them, therefore, it was important to their safety. No idea why it was more useful than the gps tracer in the phone, maybe an MRT member could help us out with that.

Huge respect to the team that were out in those conditions. 

In reply to JohnnyW:

They have a suspiciously large marketing budget and hassled us so much last year that we had to tell them to leave us alone since we were getting spammed on an almost daily basis. 

It isn't open-source, which it really should be if their aims are as noble as their marketing pitch makes out.

I don't really see the point of it. The app just adds an extra unnecessary step into the navigation process. Our app goes straight from crag map to navigation app in one tap. The printed books do it from one scan of a barcode. Google maps has a very quick share a pin option. Why bother going through a separate app to do this?

From the mountain rescue point of view, you are much better of using an app like EchoSOS  ( https://www.echo112.com/en/ ) which calls the emergency services and tells them where you are as you make the call without you doing anything else.

Alan

MarkJH 10 Feb 2020
In reply to DaveHK:

> You probably already have the ability to give MRT your location as a grid reference so why switch to W3W?

If you had to communicate a position manually (i.e. voice or text) W3W is superior to grid references.  However, my understanding is that this is rarely necessary when you have a data signal.  If you already have it installed, then there are probably more situations where it would be useful.

4
 DaveHK 10 Feb 2020
In reply to MarkJH:

> If you had to communicate a position manually (i.e. voice or text) W3W is superior to grid references.  

Not convinced by that. 8 or 10 numbers Vs 12+ letters.

1
In reply to MarkJH:

OS Locate (other versions available) has a share button so you can text your grid reference without any risk of the transcription error that W3W claims to reduce. Text may be needed when there is not enough signal for a phone call. If your phone is registered on TEXT999 so much the better.

MarkJH 10 Feb 2020
In reply to DaveHK:

> Not convinced by that. 8 or 10 numbers Vs 12+ letters.

It isn't about that; it is the format.  With grid refs, many likely errors (transpositions, substitutions etc) give credible positions. W3W errors would probably give you different continents.  If you are trained in radio communications, a great deal of emphasis is placed on read backs and (more importantly) assessing read backs.  For someone who is untrained and possibly hypothermic effectively communicating a grid positions accurately is not as easy as it seems.

If I was trying to call for help and had the option of W3W or grid references, I would always choose the former.

Post edited at 22:17
11
 Angry Bird 11 Feb 2020
In reply to MarkJH:

> It isn't about that; it is the format.  With grid refs, many likely errors (transpositions, substitutions etc) give credible positions.

There are very few places in the UK where a transposed grid reference would give a credibly alternative location, especially if combined with a brief description of the location. e.g.: "NGR NJ029046, by stream junction" is obviously NJ046029, once you look at the map and see the former is on the shoulder of a mountain.

> If I was trying to call for help and had the option of W3W or grid references, I would always choose the former.

W3W is just another tool. If it does save a life, great, but it's not the wondrous thing it's being made out to be. Firstly, trying to navigate to a W3W location can be bloody difficult. The precision of the grid (approx. 3.3m squares) exceeds the accuracy of any civilian gps unit. Combined with the proprietary nature of the grid system, it is neither clear nor intuitive which direction you need to go in to find the correct location. Sure, in most cases, if you get within a hundred metres of your target location you'll be able to find a misper... ...but what then is W3W offering that isn't done better by a basic grid reference app? The other real world problem with W3W, over a poor mobile phone or radio signal, is actually understanding what is being said. Words are open to being misheard and miscommunicated much more readily than numbers. Three simple words might appear more comforting to the navigationally challenged than an obscure grid reference, but the latter is more fit for purpose. Yes, MRTs can use W3W, but we won't be using it to navigate to you. As has been mentioned, SARLOC will be our first choice if you've got a mobile signal. It's just that it doesn't need to be marketed to a gullible public. 

Post edited at 01:31
1
 DerwentDiluted 11 Feb 2020
In reply to JohnnyW:

"What three words does your phone say?"

"One-percent-left"

 DaveHK 11 Feb 2020
In reply to MarkJH:

> If I was trying to call for help and had the option of W3W or grid references, I would always choose the former.

I wouldn't because it means nothing to me whereas as a gr does. In an emergency I'd probably be getting my gr from a device (GPS watch or hand held unit in my case) and double checking it against the map so that I can supply further details from that. I've not used W3W much, does it show your location on a high quality topographic map so you can do that?

It seems to me that the only real advantage of W3W is the one illustrated by yesterday's rescue; that it's easier for inexperienced users to use. That can certainly save lives but it highlights a number of other issues around reliance on technology and what constitutes appropriate equipment.

Post edited at 07:08
1
 Ridge 11 Feb 2020
In reply to Angry Bird:

I think we're purely seeing this through the lens of mountain navigation. The average member of the public doesn't understand OS grid refs, can't read an OS map and certainly won't have one on them as they travel round a largely urban environment.

Although emergency call handling has improved since the time I had to keep repeating that I didn't know the post code of the tree with a car full of injured people wrapped round it to someone (who also didn't understand the concept of OS grid refs or "x miles east of y on the unclassified road between y and z"),  I can see the utility of an app like this for reporting accidents and incidents.

IMHO its not a sensible option for contacting MRT, but is probably a much  better option for roads, parks or urban areas without street signs.

 elsewhere 11 Feb 2020
In reply to DaveHK:

> It seems to me that the only real advantage of W3W is the one illustrated by yesterday's rescue; that it's easier for inexperienced users to use. 

You mean it's good for somebody who can't navigate. Sounds perfect.

 DaveHK 11 Feb 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

> You mean it's good for somebody who can't navigate. Sounds perfect.

Yes, exactly that. But see the last bit of my post.

1
 Angry Bird 11 Feb 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

> You mean it's good for somebody who can't navigate. Sounds perfect.

Not really, because as was seen yesterday it probably encourages people without the skills, experience or equipment to feel confident to attempt things they never should, in the misguided belief that rescue will always be able to pluck them to safety. (Is it very cynical of me that the thought that yesterday's rescue might have been a marketing stunt by W3W actually crossed my mind?) It flies in the face of the representative bodies' participation statements, and ultimately this attitude will cost lives, not save them.

"If not duffers won't drown."

6
In reply to JohnnyW:

W3w works, but the massive down side is that it's just something else that implies to less frequent hill goers they don't need to learn to navigate properly or learn to read a map. There'll always be some cairns, a path, other people, a sign post, Sat nav, w3w, bread crumbs... to follow. 

1
MarkJH 11 Feb 2020
In reply to DaveHK:

> I wouldn't because it means nothing to me whereas as a gr does. In an emergency I'd probably be getting my gr from a device (GPS watch or hand held unit in my case) and double checking it against the map so that I can supply further details from that. I've not used W3W much, does it show your location on a high quality topographic map so you can do that?

Having meaning for you would only matter if you were trying to navigate.  If you are trying to  unambiguously (and manually) communicate a position, grid references are not ideal.  Anyone who has had to process user entered data will know that some single digit transpositions are very common, and in the case of grid references could put your position out by a few hundred meters.

 W3W is not the only way of doing this, but it is effective.  Regarding the 2nd question: it is a displayed position format; nothing more.  Your GPS device does not store position formats in a way that you would understand and the format that it outputs your position in has no bearing on whether it can also display it on a map (or even output in two distinct formats so that you can check on a paper map yourself).

2
 JohnnyW 11 Feb 2020
In reply to Ridge:

> I think we're purely seeing this through the lens of mountain navigation. The average member of the public doesn't understand OS grid refs, can't read an OS map and certainly won't have one on them as they travel round a largely urban environment.

> Although emergency call handling has improved since the time I had to keep repeating that I didn't know the post code of the tree with a car full of injured people wrapped round it to someone (who also didn't understand the concept of OS grid refs or "x miles east of y on the unclassified road between y and z"),  I can see the utility of an app like this for reporting accidents and incidents.

> IMHO its not a sensible option for contacting MRT, but is probably a much  better option for roads, parks or urban areas without street signs.

I think this sums up my initial thoughts. We had a go at using it in quite benign terrain down in the borders, and although I can see the reasoning, I wasn't keen on it, predominantly down to the odd mapping and the fact it is 'another gizmo' to replace/supplant conventional navigation skills it appears to me.

It was Lochaber's comments that prompted my post, suggesting how useful it was in this instance, so maybe I am a luddite.

And as for those numpties yesterday........!😲😠

Post edited at 08:42
 Tom V 11 Feb 2020
In reply to DaveHK:

I think of words as single units so it's What3words, not What12letters , for me at least.

Post edited at 08:49
 Ridge 11 Feb 2020
In reply to Tom V:

> I think of words as single units so it's What3words, not What12letters , for me at least.

I think the OP was assuming you might have to use the phonetic alphabet to confirm what the words were if reception was bad or W3W came up with a word that the caller or operator had never heard of.

 Toerag 11 Feb 2020
In reply to Ridge:

I believe the w3w system is designed so that ambiguity is impossible, so if someone calls and says they're on Ben Nevis and their w3w position is wood-bough-tree (which could be would-bough-tree or any combination of wood/would bow/bough) the emergency services would soon work out which spelling it is.

Post edited at 11:34
5
 tlouth7 11 Feb 2020
In reply to JohnnyW:

People seem to be conflating the ability to navigate with the ability to give an OS grid reference unambiguously.

I consider myself pretty good at navigating, but since the majority of that has been using orienteering maps or nautical charts and when hiking I have not needed to communicate my position to anyone, I have not been required to give a grid reference since primary school geography.

Something about eastings coming before northings?

 MJAngry 11 Feb 2020
 mullermn 11 Feb 2020
In reply to MJAngry:

I believe the W3W dictionary has been picked to avoid homophones where possible. I seem to remember reading that the layout of the works is not random, either. Similar sounding words are deliberately not placed anywhere near each other. 

Judging by this thread most UKC-ers must address their post and give driving directions using grid references. 

 MJAngry 11 Feb 2020
In reply to mullermn:

The problem being if you say 'book' over the phone and they type in 'buck', does it come up and say 'did you mean....'

 DancingOnRock 11 Feb 2020
In reply to JohnnyW:

The problem with mountains is signal. Sometimes you can get a phone signal but not a data signal. If you can get a data signal then W3W and OSG have no advantage over each other. You just send the data the app gives you. 
 

If you have no Data signal then GPS works anywhere and you can still just send the data the app gives you via text. There’s no human input so no human error. 
 

The only error that can creep in is if you’re using a paper map and typing co-ordinates in. 
 

The only advantage of paper map and OSG is if there’s absolutely no signal you can pencil your location on the map and one of you can run up or down the mountain to get help. W3W isn’t going to be any help other for the rescuers to find the person who has the phone with phone signal.
 

Unless the lookup table is held in the App? Does anyone know?  eg. Does the app even open if you don’t have a data connection? The web page just freezes. 

Post edited at 13:29
 morpcat 11 Feb 2020
In reply to JohnnyW:

It's not the right tool for the job, but it's a simple system that's easy to learn and MRT teams should be prepared to receive locations in W3W on an occasional basis. 

The real potential in W3W is for addresses in developing markets where road and postal address systems are incomplete or vague. This is a very real challenge for businesses that rely on delivery services in countries such as India. 

Unfortunately as Alan pointed out, their decision not to go open-source is likely hindering wider adoption. If a certain large-scale online retailer added functionality to use W3W in their emerging markets (as has already been suggested to them at the senior level) it might tip the scales here, but so far that hasn't happened.

 galpinos 11 Feb 2020
In reply to DancingOnRock:

Just tried it on my phone with GPS and wifi on, mobile data turned off. I got no map to "confirm where I am, it did give me a three word location. I did it three times and it gave me three different codes that were within 400m of my current location. It's "wrong" enough that if I'd called for an ambulance, it's a LONG way round to get from my W3W location to my actual location.

(Just tried with mobile data turned on and it's no better, though at least I can see that it's wrong)

Post edited at 13:43
 mullermn 11 Feb 2020
In reply to galpinos:

Could that be GPS error rather than the app? I just went in to airplane mode and tried it, having not run the app in months, and it got me spot on inside a building (next to a large window). I’ve definitely never used the app here, so it must have atleast a chunk of the DB locally. 

1
 elsewhere 11 Feb 2020

Should there be an operating system default that texts or calls to 999, 112, 911 etc. are accompanied by an SMS of location? No need for unfamiliar apps that may or may not be there, it's just there.

 galpinos 11 Feb 2020
In reply to mullermn:

Definitely GPS error. I've realised, if I'd zoomed out I would have got the map that would have made me realise it was incorrect.

 DancingOnRock 11 Feb 2020
In reply to galpinos:

Is it working on last known location though? The app presumably runs in the background to get a quicker fix.
You’d need to fully test it by turning data off and travelling somewhere to test it. 

 mullermn 11 Feb 2020
In reply to DancingOnRock:

That’s effectively what I just did. I haven’t run it in ages, it was definitely not in the background (I am a habitual periodic app-closer), I turned on airplane mode, so definitely no data of any type, then ran the app. 

It located me and was able to give a 3 word reference. 

I then clicked the navigate button, which turns the 3words in to lat/long and passes it to Google Maps, turned airplane mode back off so that Google Maps could load the map and then checked where it was trying to take me. 

 galpinos 11 Feb 2020
In reply to DancingOnRock:

I'll turn data off before cycling to the wall tonight and see!

Like most on this thread I see it as a useful tool for those who can't read a map or for dealing with emergency services in locations where a grid ref would mean nothing to the receiver of the info but am concerned by the closed source nature of the database.

I can read a map to get a grid ref, have a GPS watch plus OS Locate as a backup on my phone and would use that in the first instance when dealing with MR but also have W3W installed if required.

 Luke90 11 Feb 2020
In reply to galpinos:

> I did it three times and it gave me three different codes that were within 400m of my current location. It's "wrong" enough that if I'd called for an ambulance, it's a LONG way round to get from my W3W location to my actual location.

Sounds like an imprecise GPS fix rather than a problem with the app. In which case, sarloc or a grid reference app would have exactly the same problem. Were you indoors?

Like others have said, it's one more tool and it has some advantages. It's not a case of judging it to be superior or inferior to grid references all cases. There are circumstances where it can be useful and others where it's not. Nobody's going to propose that MR abandon grid references and switch entirely to W3W.

 mullermn 11 Feb 2020
In reply to JohnnyW:

Most of the technical questions are actually covered in the Wikipedia page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What3words#Design_principles

In summary, it sounds like genuinely good tech hampered by being owned by a defensive company hoping to get rich. What’s interesting about that is they’re not really doing anything wrong, just wanting to make money off a thing they’ve built, but it does undermine the value of the service somewhat. 

 teh_mark 11 Feb 2020
In reply to Angry Bird:

> it probably encourages people without the skills, experience or equipment to feel confident to attempt things they never should, in the misguided belief that rescue will always be able to pluck them to safety.

Is there any real evidence to support this argument? I'm not having a dig; I'm genuinely curious as it's an argument which is wheeled out on a regular basis.

 DancingOnRock 11 Feb 2020
In reply to teh_mark:

Mobile devices certainly give people a sense of security and they’ll try things they wouldn’t normally try knowing that “Help is just a phone call away.” 

 teh_mark 11 Feb 2020
In reply to DancingOnRock:

Yes, but, is there any evidence to support that notion? I've heard it dozens of times, but I've never seen any evidence in support of it being a common mindset or factor in people getting into trouble in the hills. It just appears to be conjecture that is wheeled out any time a MR thread crops up.

Again I'm not having a go or looking to start an argument. I'm genuinely curious to know whether there is something more robust than conjecture to support what is a very common assertion.

Post edited at 15:26
 Dave B 11 Feb 2020
In reply to DaveHK:

We don't know the set of words that are being used - but I do know that some plurals of words are also in there in the singular.

homophones are in there which will no doubt cause confusion. WIth the unknown 'alphabet' this makes it hard to determine which alternative homophones / plurals might be in use for an incorrect location.  All the words bill, bills, hill, hills, sill and sills are all in use.. as are mills (but not mill), milk, (the k could be dropped on a noisy channel)...

Different language versions have different word sets! So are not directly translatable from one system to another.

The vocab is too large and too similar for voice comms. 

At least using a restricted system users only have to learn say 26 words / 10 digits in a given language.

It solves one 'problem', but introduces large numbers of other ones IMHO. Notably, it allows you to do the 'locate' yourself on a high technology platform, but not to do on the ground navigation from one location to another easily.

E.g If the casualty is at jelly.lime.pile (it didn't have pie) and I am at urgent hill clues how far away from them am I? without resorting to tech?  

By the time, i've spelled the place id phonetically (remember the issue with homophones) I might as well have read out a 10 figure grid reference or a lat long of similar accuracy - and then I only need a vocab of 11 words (10 plus 'decimal').

 galpinos 11 Feb 2020
In reply to teh_mark:

> Yes, but, is there any evidence to support that notion?

Anecdotally, following MR Teams on social media, there are frequent cases of people rescued who have struggled to use their phones to navigate in inclement weather* whilst also having no map/alternative GPS to back them up.

I've no idea if that accounts for more callouts but the impression is that the teams are called out more now than they used to be.

 mondite 11 Feb 2020
In reply to JohnnyW:

In theory its main advantage is its world wide use and so you have one app for the world and dont need to worry about the different grid systems.

Although that then faces the problem of different languages. Whilst it does support multiple languages not sure how well the "easy to say" holds up. I can say the three words in English to a Chinese only speaker but they wont necessarily find it that easy to understand. So I could switch the app (maybe?) to give me the three words in Chinese at which point they will find it even harder.

The closed source model is also rather problematic. Given its venture capital backed cant help but suspect if they do get a decent foothold and people start expecting it to be baked into apps like Rockfax then the prices will start increasing rapidly.

Post edited at 16:41
 John2 11 Feb 2020
In reply to mullermn:

So tell me, how do the evil bastards make money from it? It's free to use.

 teh_mark 11 Feb 2020
In reply to galpinos:

I don't doubt that whatsoever, but it's somewhat tangential to the original point: that just being able to easily call for help makes people more likely to do something stupid, get into difficulties and call for help.

 galpinos 11 Feb 2020
In reply to John2:

Companies, like TomTom etc, pay them to use their software.

 wercat 11 Feb 2020
In reply to teh_mark:

> Yes, but, is there any evidence to support that notion? I've heard it dozens of times, but I've never seen any evidence in support of it being a common mindset or factor in people getting into trouble in the  hills. It just appears to be conjecture that is wheeled out any time a MR thread crops up.

not about this app but phones in the hills - I've seen lots of parties out in the lakes navigating by phone and the most extreme case as in  poor visibility with Helvellyn having a hardpacked snow cover on the summit.  A solo girl who looked Chinese was walking stooped in the mist looking only down at her phone screen and when she looked around the shelter area asked other people if she could go down with them as she wasn't sure of the way in the mist.  Phone Myopia?

I've also turned back a fairly thankful young couple who were similarly following the phone in damp conditions and mist and looking for the "path" down from Blencathra their phone was showing.   They were just about to get on to the steeps of Foule Crag and then Sharp Edge of which they were unaware.  Seen groups following phones on Striding Edge as well as other places.

Post edited at 17:33
 Brown 11 Feb 2020
In reply to mondite:

I'd agree that the effective privatisation of latitude and longitude / grid references is a worrying step.

It's the monetisation of something that is currently highly functional and free. 

The advertising budget is used to convince people that 3 words is better. There is no counter narrative as nobody stands to gain from the use of grid references or lat/long so nobody has an advertising budget for it.

Once established as the best option 3 words then needlessly creams off value from the process. I can't see how this is a positive thing for anyone other than the owners.

 Toerag 11 Feb 2020
In reply to mondite:

> In theory its main advantage is its world wide use and so you have one app for the world and dont need to worry about the different grid systems.

Lat&Long is also global. It's not as user friendly as a kilometre grid, but anyone wanting a really accurate position in a hurry is going to be using the GPS on their phone anyway.

 Dave B 11 Feb 2020
In reply to John2:

They don't. They are burning through investment capital, failing to make any money. The had been about 12million investment made over 4 years and no profit. Yet. 

Last year they lost about nnnnn money and earned about £300,000in the uk.

They try to sell their services for those who use them a lot, and are keen on selling their services to poorer countries with weak address systems in place. 

They are like do many other tech companies. They may eventually sell sufficient services... Or they will go under.

 deepsoup 11 Feb 2020
In reply to John2:

> So tell me, how do the evil bastards make money from it? It's free to use.

From their FAQs:

"We’ve developed a business model that works for everybody. what3words is not open source and our focus is on having the right commercial solutions for different users: the system is free to use for most people, while companies that use the service to make money pay a fee. This approach ensures both the scalability and sustainability of the what3words solution."

It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that an MRT falls within their definition of "companies that use the service to make money".  On their website they list emergency services, NGOs and charities among the organisations that can use their services to "improve efficiencies" and "enhance customer experience", but don't give any indication of what they actually charge.

 Tom V 11 Feb 2020
In reply to galpinos:

And Mercedes Benz.

 Tom V 11 Feb 2020
In reply to teh_mark:

You could apply that thinking to owning a set of waterproofs. The person without would see sense and turn back: the person so equipped would be more inclined to push forward in inclement and even dangerous weather conditions.

2
 davepembs 11 Feb 2020
In reply to John2:

As far as I know emergency services including mrt have to pay to access the location point of the 3 words they have been given - whether this information is in the form of a GR or lat and long I don’t know. Hopefully mrt can claim the money back off those they rescued!

1
In reply to davepembs:

> emergency services including mrt have to pay to access the location point of the 3 words they have been given 

Well that's put me right off! I use it to log mushroom hunting spots in hard to remember areas, and can see how it would be easy for a punter to give an ID to friends or emergency services if you were injured in a big park or field where you didn't carry an OS map (I mean, do you carry an OS map when you go for a wander in Richmond Park or down your local MTB trails? "I'm by the tree near the road") but this should really be an open source app.

 davepembs 11 Feb 2020
In reply to purplemonkeyelephant:

Just use the (free) os locate app, it gives you the GR and even altitude and you can share the location - easy and free! 

 Deleted bagger 11 Feb 2020
In reply to davepembs:

> Just use the (free) os locate app, it gives you the GR and even altitude and you can share the location - easy and free! 

I've been trying OS Locate this afternoon. Working well with my phone on airplane mode.

 deepsoup 11 Feb 2020
In reply to davepembs:

There are lots of others too. 

eg: an Android app called simply 'Grid Reference' - also free and a fraction of the size of 'Locate'.  It's very stripped-down and simple, you turn it on, it displays the UK OS grid reference for your current position and you can text that grid ref to somebody directly without having to copy/paste or type it back in.  (Or 'share' by various other means.)

 deepsoup 11 Feb 2020
In reply to Deleted bagger:

I just had a look and it seems to insist on displaying a compass, which is not ideal for me because my phone doesn't have a compass.  (So it's just fixed at due North and doesn't move.)

 Rob Parsons 11 Feb 2020
In reply to davepembs:

> As far as I know emergency services including mrt have to pay to access the location point of the 3 words they have been given

Why can't they just look the location up using the free app?

(Genuine question: I've never used the thing.)

 davepembs 11 Feb 2020
In reply to Rob Parsons:

I could be wrong as I haven’t used it either but I presume it gives you the 3 words as your location fix and doesn’t work the other way round so to speak. I was told it cost to get the the location by an mrt/first aid trainer who wasn’t recommending it because of this.

1
 Agar Jelly 11 Feb 2020
In reply to davepembs:

I have the app and you are able to type in the three words (separated by full stops) and it will bring up the location - so it does work both ways round.

 Rob Parsons 11 Feb 2020
In reply to Agar Jelly:

> I have the app and you are able to type in the three words (separated by full stops) and it will bring up the location - so it does work both ways round.


In what form does it display the location? Does it indicate a point on the map on-screen? Or some other way? (And are there options to have the thing emit a UK grid reference, for example?)

Thanks.

 Agar Jelly 11 Feb 2020
In reply to Rob Parsons:

The screen shows google maps with a 3m by 3m grid over it with a blue dot in your square, there is also a 'navigate' button that brings up the various navigation apps you may have installed, Waze, Google Maps, Road Warrior etc

 Rob Parsons 11 Feb 2020
In reply to Agar Jelly:

Got it, thanks.

So I guess their business is to have it embedded in commercial applications.

 wintertree 11 Feb 2020
In reply to JohnnyW:

Is it like the Stargate chevrons where you add a 4th word for another planet and a 5th for another galaxy?

With the amount of marketing hype it smells like a venture capitalist funded startup trying to deliver on their promises to the investors...

Its also not much use in Wadiya where every square is AladeenAladeenAladeen.

1
 Dogwatch 12 Feb 2020
In reply to pancakeandchips:

> If they've used a phone to call for help we can usually get their position using sarloc, so not really sure what extra value w3w adds? If someone in trouble reports their location using w3w rather than a grid ref it would suggest part of the reason they are in trouble in the first place is an inability to read maps.

Does it? It's not all about hill-walkers or climbers. Last year a paraglider pilot on a cross-country flight had problems, threw the reserve and ended up high in a tree. W3W worked well for him. If he was carrying a paper map, it would likely be a 1:250,000 aviation chart. 

2
 Bob Kemp 12 Feb 2020
In reply to JohnnyW:

I notice that the four ill-equipped punters rescued from the Ben yesterday used What3Words to locate themselves for mountain rescue:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/feb/11/ben-nevis-climbers-extremely-lucky-to-be-rescued

 Agar Jelly 12 Feb 2020
In reply to Bob Kemp:

They weren't entirely ill prepared then. Without the app they'd be brown bread!

 Ridge 12 Feb 2020
In reply to Bob Kemp:

> I notice that the four ill-equipped punters rescued from the Ben yesterday used What3Words to locate themselves for mountain rescue.

That's why the OP started this thread 🙂

 SteveX 12 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

I heard the guys who found W3W on the radio a year or two ago, or if it was not them something very very similar.

What he was saying was this. In most of the developed world (can we use that phrase?) a business needs to get a product from themselves to the customer, and its actually very easy because of Zip Codes, Post codes et al. 
Now think of eg Africa, a huge potential market, many have nowt, so they want lots and lots of stuff. They can pay because in Africa and maybe elsewhere, they use mobile phone payments.
The problem is that they do not have addresses, ie the corrugated tin shack half way down the mud alley in the ghetto, is not much use to UPS or AMAZON. This is where W3W comes in, they give every 3mx3m square an address that can be used for delivery and W3W own all these addresses, now as you know a data source is money. 
So I would imagine that they are now sat reading brochures for Super Yachts and waiting for Jeff Bezos to come a knocking on their door.

1
 Doug 12 Feb 2020
In reply to SteveX:

Many years ago I had a post card sent to me from Nepal with the following address (or very similar)

Doug
the white cottage just before the roadabout on the road to Alloa
Stirling
Scotland

it arrived in about 5 days

In reply to SteveX:

> I heard the guys who found W3W on the radio a year or two ago, or if it was not them something very very similar.

Yes, I heard something similar. In this aspect, W3W has something to offer. My objection is that they are pitching it in the UK (aggressively to us as mentioned) as a solution to navigation and not the accurate address idea you describe since that isn't really such an issue here.

Their ventured-capital-funded marketing is inflating its appeal and pushing other better, simpler and more open source options out of the park. 

The problem isn't that hard. A phone knows where it is and you don't need three words and an app to confirm that.

I agree with your point that the investors are probably just sat there fattening up their turkey and waiting for Christmas. My fear is that we will end up adopting a system that is less flexible and more corporate than the really straightforward alternatives. However, it wouldn't be the first time the online world has been seduced into adopting something that looks a bit sexy but ended up being an all-consuming data beest.

Alan

 mondite 12 Feb 2020
In reply to SteveX:

> The problem is that they do not have addresses, ie the corrugated tin shack half way down the mud alley in the ghetto, is not much use to UPS or AMAZON. This is where W3W comes in, they give every 3mx3m square an address that can be used for delivery and W3W own all these addresses, now as you know a data source is money. 

Especially since the design is such that you cant really useful reverse engineer it and will have to be very heavily dependant on their services even for high level planning. Unlike a postcode or grid reference you are unable to quickly see the relationship between two addresses. You have to call their api to get back an actual location and figure it out from there.

 mullermn 12 Feb 2020
In reply to mondite:

It has been reverse engineered, apparently - check out whatfreewords - though w3w seem to be doing all they can to crush it.

 DancingOnRock 12 Feb 2020
In reply to Agar Jelly:

So that’s where the data connection comes in. 
If you’re on a hill with no data. It’ll give you three words but you have to trust the phone thinks you’re in the right place. 

 DancingOnRock 12 Feb 2020
In reply to mullermn:

Ha. Probably not hard to do with a GPS simulator set to run up and down the country and a web scraper capturing the data from their website. Better hope they have their patent and copywrights sorted.  

 DancingOnRock 12 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

You’ll be in an emergency situation but have to watch a 1 minute paid-for-ad before you can locate yourself but with no data connection to serve the AD. 😂

Post edited at 11:07
 elsewhere 12 Feb 2020
In reply to mondite:

National governments could adopt W3W idea as official postcode in developing countries. No need for mapping or surveying of buildings that needs continuous updates.  

Generate an official set of 3 words or use something more "postcode" like.

W3W is very very clever as 3 simple words encode 16* digits precision of latitude/longitude. 

*Earth circumference 40,000,000m broken up into 13,000,000 lengths of 3 m is 8 digit precision

Post edited at 11:08
2
 mullermn 12 Feb 2020
In reply to DancingOnRock:

You can use the ‘share’ function in the w3w app to transcode the location in to a lat/long, so you can verify that in some other app if you want. 

I imagine there are apps that will convert lat/long to a uk grid reference too, if you want to go full circle.

I think the discussion has gotten overly hung up on the emergency location aspect of the system. It’s actually just really handy to have an easily communicated (by voice), easily memorable (relative to a long string of numbers) fairly precise method of encoding a location.

There are plenty of times that’s useful where you’d never have a map... in a crowd at a festival, somewhere on a beach or out walking in a non-wild environment. Finding the right entrance in a large building, finding your car in a car park etc..

2
 mondite 12 Feb 2020
In reply to mullermn:

> It has been reverse engineered, apparently - check out whatfreewords - though w3w seem to be doing all they can to crush it.


good point. I was thinking more of casual looking at the values and figuring out relationships.

 mondite 12 Feb 2020
In reply to mullermn:

> There are plenty of times that’s useful where you’d never have a map... in a crowd at a festival, somewhere on a beach or out walking in a non-wild environment. Finding the right entrance in a large building, finding your car in a car park etc..

You still need the "map" though. What use is "Apple Banana Cherry" to me in finding someone at the festival. I need to be able to convert that to a physical location in relation to my current location so we both need an app with mapping capabilities. At which point why not just have the app share the location?

 elsewhere 12 Feb 2020
In reply to DancingOnRock:

> Ha. Probably not hard to do with a GPS simulator set to run up and down the country and a web scraper capturing the data from their website. Better hope they have their patent and copywrights sorted.  

Coding information into words like "Raspberry" (real example) meaning execute a certain anti-submarine manoeuvre is not patentable as it perhaps thousands of years old. I'm sure in antiquity somebody must have said "when I say +++ it really means *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***".

If it is a new application of an ancient technique  it sounds like the sort of thing I think is not patentable but is.

 Dave B 12 Feb 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

> Coding information into words like "Raspberry" (real example) meaning execute a certain anti-submarine manoeuvre 

Is that the opposite of a safe word...  

 elsewhere 12 Feb 2020

Anybody worked out the information content and the number of different words.

To represent 510e12 sq m in 9 sq m blocks needs 5.7e13 areas. Cube root 40,000 so need dictionary of 40,000 words. That seems an impractically large vocabulary for humans. Have I made a mistake?

 DancingOnRock 12 Feb 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

There’s 171,000 words in the English language. Apparently. I think the average person knows more than 40,000 although I may have read that on Facebook somewhere. 

 DancingOnRock 12 Feb 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

When my daughter started talking I wrote down all the words as she learned them. It grew very very quickly. I stopped at 3 columns on an A4 lined sheet when it became impossible to keep up with how quickly she was learning them. That would have been 180+ in only a few weeks by the time she was 2. It was remarkable. 
 

That was 20 years ago now and wonder how smart phones are affecting this nowadays. 

Post edited at 12:38
In reply to mondite:

> > The problem is that they do not have addresses, ie the corrugated tin shack half way down the mud alley in the ghetto, is not much use to UPS or AMAZON. 

Now they just have to convince a whole community - used to walking for basic necessities - that they need doorstep deliveries - as opposed to the parcel drop point at the local market.

I can see the parcel delivery notes now - "No answer - so left in nearby tin shack...."

 elsewhere 12 Feb 2020
In reply to DancingOnRock:

When I learnt German as an adult I used to dream of the language skills of a two year old!

 DancingOnRock 12 Feb 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

Probably best to live there for a year. It’s amazing how quickly you learn when you can’t eat, or get anything else you need, if no one understands you. 

 Simon Caldwell 12 Feb 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

https://my.vocabularysize.com/ reckons an average of around 20,000 word families (so nation, nationalise, nationally, denationalise, nationalising, all count as one)

 Rob Parsons 12 Feb 2020
 Bob Kemp 12 Feb 2020
In reply to Ridge:

> That's why the OP started this thread 🙂

That’s what comes of giving up Facebook!

 SteveX 13 Feb 2020
In reply to JohnnyW:

I just used it in real life. Walking along the river Irwell, and the bank has been washed away and exposed a length of what could be a brick built sewer. I used W3W to give an accurate location to the EA.

The EA were happy to take the reference and eggs, tribe, proper is easier to remember than 2 , 6 digit numbers.

Is there a simple way I could have got a grid reference with my phone?

 Jenny C 13 Feb 2020
In reply to SteveX:

> Is there a simple way I could have got a grid reference with my phone?

Yes. Several free apps which just rely on location (not data signal). 

 SteveX 13 Feb 2020
In reply to Jenny C:

Could you recommend one, please?

 galpinos 13 Feb 2020
In reply to SteveX:

> Is there a simple way I could have got a grid reference with my phone?

OS Locate app, it gives you a six figure grid plus the two letters at the start for the 100km square grid.

ie, I am currently at SJ 877 885 according to my phone. This is a 100m x 100m square though, not the 3m x 3m square claimed by W3W.

 SteveX 13 Feb 2020
In reply to galpinos:

For this purpose 100m square could put you on the wrong side of river with no view of the issue 

 Jenny C 13 Feb 2020
In reply to SteveX:

I use one called grid reference, its very basic which is all I wanted as I'm a big fan of map and compass for navigating.  Gives a choice of up to 10 figure references. 

OS locate is very popular and has more features. 

Post edited at 13:39
In reply to SteveX:

> Is there a simple way I could have got a grid reference with my phone?

Open any of the map apps - Apple, Google, whatever - it will zoom to where you are. Tap and hold on it where you want to locate (you can scroll) and a pin appears. Share pin.

Alan

Post edited at 13:46
 SteveX 13 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Thanks, that's handy.

 Frank R. 13 Feb 2020
In reply to SteveX:

> For this purpose 100m square could put you on the wrong side of river with no view of the issue 

That's the beauty of grid ref - just add two more digits and you have a 10m x 10m square, add two more and you have 1m x 1m square. For example, SJ 8779 8851 and SJ 87792 88514. There is a similar system for the whole world, the UTM grid.

 NBR 15 Feb 2020
In reply to JohnnyW:

In an ideal World everyone in the hills should be able to use a map and compass, give a GR etc but we don't live in an ideal World. I don't believe that being a bit of a numpty should carry a death sentence.

If w3w was an open source non-profit type affair i would be a lot more comfortable with it but its not so the only real question is will it do more good than harm?

In reply to NBR:

What prevents an open source version of it? We have, after all, such versions of lucrative offerings like Office and Matlab.

 SteveX 15 Feb 2020
In reply to mbh:

What do you do for a job, do you give its away for free?

1
In reply to pancakeandchips:

But what if the casualty's location was in a position without a mobile phone signal and another group member had to walk some way to contact the MRT armed with the w3w location. Easy to remember, don't need to write it down. People can venture into the hills and be pretty well prepared and things can go wrong. This is a useful app no question.

1
In reply to JohnnyW:

Not withstanding its emergency use, we live in a remote, sparsely populated location and we are about a third of a mile from our post code location and our house is up a long steep track and I have used this app twice now to direct people exactly to our house. Mobile coverage is patchy so a 'I can't find you' call is not always possible.

1
 John2 16 Feb 2020
In reply to pancakeandchips:

So someone has produced a free to user app which has in at least one case saved several lives. What a bastard, eh?

2
In reply to SteveX:

Well I don't work for free, but neither does Microsoft which I am sure employs a few lawyers, yet there is at least one pretty decent open source version of Office out there (LibreOffice) as well as Octave, which is the open source version of Matlab, plus QGis for ArcGis and no doubt others.

I don't know how these and other wonderful (eg R, Python) open Source creations sustain themselves, though I suppose it is a mixture of altruism, vision, self-interest and self-organised criticality.

If all these are out there, what prevents an open source version of W3W?

 Dave B 18 Feb 2020
In reply to mbh:

Whatfreewords project website was shut down over ip rights.

I think they are looking at how they can publish still.

 bouldery bits 18 Feb 2020
In reply to JohnnyW:

Just downloaded W3W to give it a go. Quite an Interesting idea. Can see how it could be useful in a pinch for a navigationally challenged novice or in certain other specific situations. Can't see it being much better than OS locate tho unless you're dealing with someone who doesn't have an OS to hand or doesn't understand grid refs. 

Post edited at 08:45
 galpinos 18 Feb 2020
In reply to bouldery bits:

> Just downloaded W3W to give it a go. Quite an Interesting idea. Can see how it could be useful in a pinch for a navigationally challenged novice or in certain other specific situations. Can't see it being much better than OS locate tho unless you're dealing with someone who doesn't have an OS to hand or doesn't understand grid refs. 

The bits in bold are exactly who it's for.

 mondite 18 Feb 2020
In reply to mbh:

> If all these are out there, what prevents an open source version of W3W?

Depends how much of it they have managed to patent.

Plus the usefulness of it vs other free options is debatable especially when you dont have a massive marketing budget to try and swing the debate.

> I don't know how these and other wonderful (eg R, Python) open Source creations sustain themselves, though I suppose it is a mixture of altruism, vision, self-interest and self-organised criticality.

Many of the larger projects have very heavily involved corporate sponsors.

 Ridge 18 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> Open any of the map apps - Apple, Google, whatever - it will zoom to where you are. Tap and hold on it where you want to locate (you can scroll) and a pin appears. Share pin.

Assuming you have a data connection, which is where people who navigate by phone in the hills go wrong.

 elsewhere 18 Feb 2020
In reply to Ridge:

No data connection required, GPS needs no data to put pin on blank map. Share by SMS which might work even if no data and no voice signal. SMS to 999 for emergency use on any network.

It works when I switch off wifi & mobile data, although it did show cached map so I've not tested without cached map.

 Ridge 18 Feb 2020
In reply to John2:

> So someone has produced a free to user app which has in at least one case saved several lives. What a bastard, eh?

Pretty much my thoughts. In an earlier post I made the point that it's simply another tool to give a location.

It's of limited utility in the hills but useful in an urban/rural environment for the vast majority of the population who can't read a map, let alone understand coordinate systems but need to give the location of a car crash or stabbing in a hurry.

This seems to have generated:

Outrage that either our navigation skills are being questioned or we'll be forced to adopt w3w.

Outrage that there may be a small cost to the emergency services, (who of course receive all clothing, equipment, buildings and infrastructure, vehicles, fuel and comms free from altruistic suppliers).

Post edited at 11:09
1
 Ridge 18 Feb 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

Fair point, but not really intuitive to someone wanting to give a location.

In reply to Ridge:

> Assuming you have a data connection, which is where people who navigate by phone in the hills go wrong.

Actually you don't need a data connection for gps, that signal is much stronger and comes from 21 satellites of which you only really need to be able to see around 6 or 7 and they don't get obscured in bad weather. Yes, to see the map you may need data (if you didn't download it earlier) however your GPS pin will still be available for sending via weak SMS/phone signal. 

Maps can be downloaded in advance so that data connection becomes irrelevant. The OS app is great for this.

W3W needs a data connection as well to present a map.

Alan

In reply to Ridge:

> Pretty much my thoughts. In an earlier post I made the point that it's simply another tool to give a location.

> It's of limited utility in the hills but useful in an urban/rural environment for the vast majority of the population who can't read a map, let alone understand coordinate systems but need to give the location of a car crash or stabbing in a hurry.

If it was just another tool to provide locations and addresses then fine - people could take or leave it. Having been on the receiving end of their marketing I can tell you that they don't see it as just another tool. They see it as a new standard that we should all adopt. They are vigorously marketing it to the tech community with a huge budget. However, they are not doing what they should in this respect and making it open-source. 

This is an example of another tech company taking us in and subtly gaining our data and a place on our devices in order to sell out to Google/Amazon/Apple/Facebook which will add to their control over our lives.

Alan

1
 Simon Caldwell 18 Feb 2020
In reply to galpinos:

> The bits in bold are exactly who it's for.

But OS Locate with its option to send the grid ref by SMS would give exactly the same functionality surely?

 Ridge 18 Feb 2020
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

> > The bits in bold are exactly who it's for.

> But OS Locate with its option to send the grid ref by SMS would give exactly the same functionality surely?

It would, as would Arthur Embletons Grid Reference and about 50 other Grid Reference Apps for Android and iOS.

You understand Grid References, I understand Grid References, anyone reading this thread understands Grid References.

A lot more people have never heard of them, let alone have one of the apps on their phone. 

Taking it at face value, W3W is an attempt to introduce a simple system that can be used by anyone to provide a location.

Obviously Alan has had a less than positive experience with them that leads him to believe it's something far more cynical with ulterior motives, which may or may not be the case.

Post edited at 13:03
1
In reply to Ridge:

> Obviously Alan has had a less than positive experience with them that leads him to believe it's something far more cynical with ulterior motives, which may or may not be the case.

I don't always support Adobe however if you look at what they did with PDF and DNG (digital negative) then you can see the proper way to do this sort of thing. Create a standard, open it up, then make great products that use it.

That is what W3W should have done but instead, they aggressively market and shut down potential competitors like WhatFreeWords.

Alan

 mondite 18 Feb 2020
In reply to Ridge:

> Obviously Alan has had a less than positive experience with them that leads him to believe it's something far more cynical with ulterior motives, which may or may not be the case.

If they didnt have those motives then, as Alan says, there is a very simple way for them to demonstrate it by open sourcing the db.

They are going to be looking for a return on all that money they have been throwing about so it isnt unreasonable to be cynical about what will happen if they do achieve significant market share and expectation that companies will link to their system.

 bouldery bits 18 Feb 2020
In reply to galpinos:

> The bits in bold are exactly who it's for.

I know, I'm class Me. 

 elsewhere 18 Feb 2020
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

> But OS Locate with its option to send the grid ref by SMS would give exactly the same functionality surely?

The Google Play store OS Locate says has 100k+ downloads so we can assume 97-99% of Android users don't have it. That makes it irrelevant for 97-99% of emergencies involving Android users. 

In contrast I think Google Maps installed on near 100% of Android phones. Most Windows PC & Android users are familiar with Google maps. Alan James's instructions "Open any of the map apps - Apple, Google, whatever - it will zoom to where you are. Tap and hold on it where you want to locate (you can scroll) and a pin appears. Share pin." were sufficient for me to try it for the first time on Android. Purists will like that the shared Google map link clearly uses latitude longitude. 

I can't comment on Apple users as I've barely touched Apple since 1986-1995, but they'll be just as familiar with their default map app as Android users are with their default map app and I assume they can zoom, tap, share on their default app too.

Post edited at 13:52
In reply to JohnnyW:

 Are young person explained what an app was and how three words would help after some time I explained 2 words will do 

 Latitude longitude 

Post edited at 13:49
 Ridge 18 Feb 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

> Purists will like that the shared Google map link clearly uses latitude longitude. 

Not in proper degrees, minutes and seconds it doesn't...

Post edited at 13:56
 elsewhere 18 Feb 2020
In reply to Name Changed 34:

Words are a better user interface than numbers for addressing, which is why we have www.ukclimbing.com rather than 134.213.141.148 and Professor Name Changed, 34 Name Changed Street, Name Changed Upon Whatever rather than inmate* 343434 at 34.34N, 34.34E.

*;-)

Post edited at 14:04
1
 elsewhere 18 Feb 2020
In reply to Ridge:

> Not in proper degrees, minutes and seconds it doesn't...

Good as I don't know where degrees is on my keyboard!

 Dave B 18 Feb 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

Try it without the 34 and have every address on a street as a name...

Most address systems are hierarchical. We can see the relationships between locations to some extent.

Its much harder to use when they are not.

E.g. I can tell that, address is likely in the same locale as my friends as we share a postal town; the same as my work as it shares a postcode starting letter sequence AND a county. It breaks slightly when I try to determine if someone in a different town is close to me - if I don't have geographical knowledge of that relationship

What three words is not hierarchical at all. It deliberately breaks hierarchies to force you to use the technology to decode an address. This is its greatest weakness in terms of readability for users, but its 'strength' in terms of reliance on high-tech. So three words have the appearance of randomness - even though they are not. 

Words are not easier inherently. They may be used to form an easier system. Whatthreewords is not an easier system for many navigational tasks compared to alternatives that could be developed.

 elsewhere 18 Feb 2020
In reply to Dave B:

I think words have advantages - you have a vocabulary of 20,000+ words but you don't remember 20,000+ supermarket bar codes or phone numbers.

W3W has weaknesses, but then you might not use it outside number 34 Name Changed Street where there is a hierarchy of urban addresses or when you have an OS type map. But few people have an OS  map 24/7.

It makes more sense where you don't have the hierarchy of urban addresses ("off road") or the addresses are in a language you don't understand (more difficult to remember).

Paper navigation - W3W pretty useless.

Addressing - memorable and concise, an app does the navigation, in the same way a domain name is user friendly and the tech does DNS and IP addresses to navigate from a to b.

The best proof that words are good for addressing is the domain name system vs IP addresses - nobody can seriously argue the latter is a better user interface.

Phone navigation - it's just an (internal?) data format and makes no difference, the user might not know if shared link is W3W, lat/long or OS Grid Ref.

Post edited at 21:28
1
 mondite 19 Feb 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

> The best proof that words are good for addressing is the domain name system vs IP addresses - nobody can seriously argue the latter is a better user interface.

It depends on the job at hand. There is a reason IP addresses are behind the scenes.

Something the W3W has in common with both of the above though is there is no real logical connection between different addresses (leaving aside historically IP addresses did have and still do in some scenarios) which all spatial address systems have. There is absolutely no way to use their system without using their technology.  At which point do you really need it eg the several alternate choices Alan has listed all of which allow quicker navigation given the same tools. The reason those arent as well known is they dont have the advertising budget behind them.

> Phone navigation - it's just an (internal?) data format and makes no difference, the user might not know if shared link is W3W, lat/long or OS Grid Ref.

Aside from in the former the chances are you will need to cough up cash to them.


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