What3words geolocation

I'd never heard of the starting from zero version so every day is a school day.
it's been hiding in plain sight for year :smile:. if you look at the corners of a paper map you'll see the two numbers required to convert that particular sheet.

Those who only ever use edgeless digital maps will never see those .. or get to see and learn the wonders of the map legend ;)
 

mjr

Comfy armchair to one person & a plank to the next
Considering there are two main ways of describing a grid reference in this country and 3+ ways of doing the same with lat and long, anything that makes it easier for the public to locate themselves is a good thing IMO.
Except that w3w is never going to replace those 5, so if it keeps spreading, we'll have a sixth not-trivially-compatible way. I'm reminded of https://xkcd.com/927/

What3words can give an accurate location to the size of a room in a house (3x3m) quite simply and accurately.
Maybe it can, but it often doesn't. Over on another forum where it was being promoted recently, one of its gullible marks proudly claimed to be stood in some remote field far from the building where they were. I don't think we ever worked out whether it was another case of singular/plural confusion, homophones or the app misfiring. ETA: while some of us might have some idea that an app is putting out nonsense if it's not near 52,0 or starting 9F42 (for my home area), no-one can tell if a w3w is wildly wrong just by looking at it.

For the vast majority of the great unwashed who only have a phone to give them any idea of where they might be, then IMO it is a great asset. Compare this against a rambler derived OS grid ref which will be a accurate to a 100x100 square, assuming you have a map, romer to hand and a clue about what you're doing.
Why's that the comparison, rather than long press on a phone map and "share my location"?

We're seeing far more instances of locations being given via 3 words and it's quicker and far more accurate and means we're wasting time not going inspect things only to find we've been given duff info. If lives were at stake then I can see why the emergency services are championing it
How is the 3m w3w grid more accurate than the sub-10cm one used in most geo: links?

Also, I can give location of a defect in three different ways (street address, road number and offset, and geo: lat/long) along with GPS-tagged photos and still have workers waste my time claiming they couldn't find a 6m x 2m hole in the road. I doubt having another format to misuse will stop inspectors claiming submitted info is duff.

And if lives are ever at stake, I doubt it'll be w3w's bosses's lives.
 
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mjr

Comfy armchair to one person & a plank to the next
Maybe that should be publicised better because, until this thread, I had no idea that facility existed, nor had I heard of plus codes.
One challenge for free/open systems like "share my location" and plus.codes and even geo: links to overcome is that speculators will pump money into the likes of what3emojis.com or what3ducks.com in the hope that they will be the one to successfully enclose the common knowledge of location and can then charge access fees to recover their stake many many many times over, whereas there's no monopoly opportunity in the likes of plus.codes - which is one reason why it's so galling that public services seem to be promoting the one which could extract most money from the public. Way to defeat ourselves(!) :sad:
 

Bazzer

Setting the controls for the heart of the sun.
If they have their phone then they can send a geolocation easily, there is no need for W3W. Andoid and iOS even include Emergency Location Sharing (ELS).
Another one like @glasgowcyclist who was unaware of this facility.
I downloaded w3w because of past experience of trying to get emergency services to me. Lying in the middle of a remote country road, at 1.30am, with a leg broken in two places and trying to explain to the ambulance service where I was, when they seemingly did not even recognise the nearest town let alone village, was to say the least frustrating. Fortunately in my case a police car happened to be driving along the same road at the same time as my frustrations with the ambulance service were just about at their absolute limit.
Nothing was said to me about ELS by the emergency services, so when I became aware of w3w, I took the view that it could only have been better than a repeat of the exercise I had previously been through.
 

Dogtrousers

Kilometre nibbler
Well ... after reading all this. I think it's far from a stupid idea. And it probably has quite a few use cases in which it could excel - specifically where a person needs to remember the location for a short while then repeat it - over the phone, probably. "Dog sausage helmet" being easier to commit to briefly to memory than a plus code, a grid ref (one of many grids), a postcode (one of many systems), UTM or lat/long co-ordinate, Maidenhead co-ords etc. - if that is what you need to do.

Probably the most significant of its drawbacks is that is that you need to be online to derive the phrase from the current location. So if you are calling for help and don't have at least a 3G signal, and the specific application, you are stuffed. There are many other drawbacks outlined above, but this one seems to me to be the standout.

In other circumstances, where there is no need for a person to commit the co-ords to memory and then repeat them, it has no particular benefit and its other disadvantages come into play. These seem to include closed standards, opaque pricing, the fact that there is pricing at all, failure of internationalisation, and the fact that outside the "commit to memory" use case there is always a better way.
 
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glasgowcyclist

Charming but somewhat feckless
Location
Scotland
Probably the most significant of its drawbacks is that is that you need to be online to derive the phrase from the current location.
I've just tried it while offline and it still works. I'm sure one of the selling points was that this was possible so you didn't need internet available to get your location, only a GPS signal. This link confirms it.

https://support.what3words.com/en/articles/2212844-does-what3words-work-offline

"The entire what3words’ system is very compact, and so it can work offline when you don't have a data connection - you only need a GPS signal. Often your phone will still have a GPS signal even when you don't have network reception, or a data (internet) connection. The map on the screen may not load with a GPS signal alone, but if you press the 'current location' button your 3 word address should update. "
 

mjr

Comfy armchair to one person & a plank to the next
I've just tried it while offline and it still works. I'm sure one of the selling points was that this was possible so you didn't need internet available to get your location, only a GPS signal. [...]
"[...] The map on the screen may not load with a GPS signal alone, but if you press the 'current location' button your 3 word address should update. "
That probably varies with the app used and w3w can only speak for their app, of course. The w3w dictionary is their secret sauce, they have sued others to discourage its publication and some apps claiming to offer w3w only do online lookups - presumably not trusted to distribute copies of the dictionary in their apps. The instructions linked from "Developer" at https://docs.what3words.com/api/v3/ seem to be online lookups only.

Also, as mentioned earlier, without its map on the screen, it is difficult to check whether the w3w address is your current location or an app/phone fart.
 

Dogtrousers

Kilometre nibbler
I've just tried it while offline and it still works. I'm sure one of the selling points was that this was possible so you didn't need internet available to get your location, only a GPS signal.
Interesting, thanks. I didn't realise that. You still need their app though. So if you have a Garmin, Yahoo, TomTom etc or if you have a phone but haven't installed their app you're still stuffed.

Not that it changes my personal conclusions much. It still has a very limited set of use cases (where it's necessary for a person to temporarily memorise the co-ordinates) For any scenario where the location is transmitted machine-to-machine it's pointless.
 

Broadside

Veteran
Location
Fleet, Hants
I like it for its simplicity in use. We used it at the weekend for a kids birthday party treasure hunt where they had to work out the words from clues. There were 6 places for them to find and they managed it all without getting lost and without any grown up intervention.

Compare that to a Scouts adventure trail earlier this year that my kids attended where 8 groups of kids were sent out with grid references and every one of them got utterly lost. It turned out the Scout leader had transposed two digits on the instructions so the whole thing fell to bits.

W3W may not be better than other systems but for many people it is simpler to understand and get right and that’s where it has it’s use.
 
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