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Dick's Toolbox (cont.)
.. be situated exactly where it was meant to land. No chance of it landing there.
Now with the latest versions of GPS you will know where you are to within thirty centimetres. But up until know we haven’t had the words to describe where that was.
But of course you may be familiar with expressing latitude and longitude, degrees and minutes and your partner and friends are qualified navigators so you might have little difficulty describing where you actually were. You are a minority, an infinitesimal minority When we are familiar with the landscape or a city location is not a major problem. We can tell our friends at least approximately where we are. When you can see familiar landmarks all is not too difficult though I wonder how even Venetians do in Venice.
When you want to tell someone where you were going to meet you could say “I’ll be outside the National Gallery of Victoria”, resisting the temptation to say “I’ll be at Latitude 37°49'21.11"S Longitude 144°58'9.63"E” at 1300 hours.
But if you wanted to be really precise you might have said “Let’s meet at zealous.silk.sugars at one o’clock“ . And with those three words you would have marked your position within a 3 metre square. Three variable but simple words in a unique combination that describe everywhere in the world. Anywhere. Amazing and to me one of the most elegant solutions to any problem to come my way in the past decade.
“So what,” you might say “What use is that?”
If you live in Melbourne, and know all of Melbourne like the back of your hand Melbourne, not all that much use perhaps. Just ask any taxi or Uber driver, they can find anywhere without looking at a map ……. and anywhere is where you can end up.
But what say you are in the middle of the Botanic Gardens and want someone to find you?
Or if your car breaks down, or if you like me you fall off your bike in the Victorian Alps, what is a more accurate description of your position. “I’m on the road between Omeo and Falls Creek or “I’m at ‘mailing.compiler.scarily’”. I certainly wasn’t like feeling like getting out the sextant and taking an observation because mailing.compiler.scarily’ isn’t a bad estimate of where I did a high speed head plant a few years ago doing large parts of myself and my bike little good. There I was smeared over nine square metres of the road.
Another example: you are somewhere in Melbourne Zoo with the grandchild and you want the family to know where you are. Just texting ‘decay.calm.jets’ will do it. Nobody is lost anymore.
What say you are in Port Philip Bay and the engine of your fishing dinghy fails? Your mobile phone app will give you a position ‘frosted.zodia.snout’ which is more useful than somewhere between Indented Head and Seaford.
Most of the world doesn’t have an address. Street names and numbers are ambiguous – in some places in Japan the house numbers are arranged in the order that the house was built in.
So you may have realised that I’m actually trying to persuade you of the virtues of an app called what3words (http://what3words.com) which the company who developed it says ‘is a really simple way to talk about location. We have divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigned each one a unique 3 word address. It means anyone can accurately find any location and share it more quickly, easily and with less ambiguity than any other system.’
The more people who use it the more effective it becomes. The more public services that adopt it the better. Is it going to conquer the world? Well Mercedes have integrated it into their new cars and TomTom the navigation, mapping system developer are also adopting it this year. But coast guards, police and the fire brigade would also be useful.
But, of course, you won’t be able to tell anyone unless your phone works.
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