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“what3words”: Encoding a geographic position for easy exchange and emergency cases


#1

FINAL VERSION FOR DOCUMENTATION:

(Version 2018-10-16a)


“what3words”: Encoding a geographic position for easy exchange and emergency cases

“what3words” is a service to encode and share geographical positions. Any position on the map can be transformed into a memorable set of words that can be shared by different means, including phone calls, texts (SMS), and email. A very useful and important feature that could save lives!

What is it - and what is it good for?

There are many situations in which it is necessary or convenient to tell others your geographic position as accurate as possible - for example you are cruising in a group and lost touch, or, much more important, you are cruising by yourself and had an accident far out and need help.

Of course you can give someone your GPS coordinates by call or by text (SMS), by messenger (e.g. WhatsApp) or by email - but remember, how complicated numeric GPS coordinates are, and in a situation of stress it’s quite impossible to do that without the risque of mistakes or misunderstandings.

For that the “what3words” “standard” provides a much easier way to encode a map position - by a simple combination of an unique three (natural) word address which encodes a geografic rectangle of only 3 x 3 meters - accurate enough and worldwide!

Can we have an example?

To illustrate I just chose an arbitrary position on a very curvy and small road in German Hunsrück mountains, just to have an example (you may follow it: it’s at the tip of a sharp u-bend - and let’s hope that nobody will have an accident there ever - but IF):

The GPS coordinates are (according to Kurviger)

50.11301° N 07.36312° E

Imagine you want to tell that position in an emergency case, perhaps injured, by using a keyboard or even by saying in a call …

But with version 1.2, Kurviger gives additionally the what3words code for this position - it is:

express sill masses (in English)

(as what3words code to write you just have to include the 2 dots between: express.sill.masses)

or, in German, should work as well

aufgetaucht beieinander umsetzen (aufgetaucht.beieinander.umsetzen).

(what3words codes of geografic positions are usually leaded by a triple slash (///), but in most cases, as in Kurviger, it is not necessary to add this slashes if you enter the word.word.word code into the search field.)

These only three natural words (words in a natural language) are much easier to remember and to send than GPS coordinates. For example you could send via WhatsApp or you could easily speak them in a phone call.

Everyone who has a compatible app or device can now find your position easily and quickly.

And at least everyone who uses the what3words app on smartphone or opens the what3words map in a browser (have a look: https://map.what3words.com/express.sill.masses) will find your accurate position instantly:

How do I get a what3words position code on the road?

a) In Kurviger (internetconnection is necessary):

  • press on the position in the map same way as to create a waypoint (even if you are not on a road),
  • open More …

– tap on what3words
and in the map the position is shown now with a bubble with the what3words code,
OR
– tap on get address
and in the map you get the postal address including the what3words code.

In BOTH cases

  • the what3words code is stored to the clipboard automaticallly, so you can also enter it into any text field in any app on your smartphone, i.e. WhatsApp, text (SMS) or email,
  • a tap onto the what3words code bubble or the Address bubble on the map opens the context menu, where with More - Share you may share the what3words code too.

b) If Kurviger is not installed or no internetconnection is available, use what3words app:

  • tap on the GPS symbol in the upper right corner
  • what3words code will be shown in the window at the bottom, from where you could
  • share it in the usual ways your smarttphone offers (e.g. by WhatsApp or text / SMS etc.),
  • or start navigation (in my case I then can decide between Kurviger, GMaps and others)

How can a receiver of a what3words code handle the code?

The receiver of your what3words position message may now:

a) in Kurviger:

  • enter the what3words code into the search field of Kurviger,
  • Kurviger adds the leading “///” by itself and offers a list of matching what3words codes,
  • so the receiver has just to choose the correct one,
  • set end to that position and
  • will be leaded by navigatrion to the destination.

b) in what3words app:

  • enter the what3words address into the Search window in what3words sapp and then
  • tap on the navigation sign, and
  • he or she will be offered to be navigated to the position directly by Kurviger (or other navigating apps).

c) If the what3words code was sent by WhatsApp (see below), the receiver gets a WhatsApp message with a OpenStreetMap link, which after a tap opens Kurviger with the position.

d) If the what3words code was sent by text (SMS) or email, the receiver can copy the what3words code to any map app he or she uses for showing geografical positions or navigation.

Have a test with “aufgetaucht.beieinander.umsetzen”! :wink:

(For that it’s also a good advise to push as much people as possible to install the free what3words app!)

What is then the advantage compared to sharing my position by e.g. WhatsApp or GMaps directly?

None :wink: -
as long as the receiver has WhatsApp or GMaps installed and running;
but if not: then what3words has the advantage that is works across platforms …,

and as long as you have a data connection;
but if not and you have at least a mobile phone connection, then you could forward the code by talking even to a home phone (Festnetz) (the what3words app only needs a GPS signal, no internet data connection),

or, let’s imagine, in these previous cases you only have a technical problem but no internet or mobile connection is available, and someone stops to support you, you could just tell him the 3 words and he then could continue his way and foward the 3 words as soon as possible to someone else who may come or send technical support to your position.

More information:
https://what3words.com/about/ (English / Deutsch)


Any more corrections?


#2

Very nice description! :+1: :smiley:


#3

Thanks for the effort Uli, this is a great and very helpful text! I attached a couple of minor comments.

The spelling is “geographic” :slight_smile:

Should we just call it a service?

What do you mean with different media?

Is geocode a synonym/abbreviation of geographical position? BTW: Geocoding is the process of transforming a textual address to coordinates.

I would rephrase this to:

These three natural words (words in a natural language) are much easier to remember or to send than GPS coordinates. For example you could send them via WhatsApp or you could easily speak them in a phone call.

Currently, what3words in Kurviger only works with an internet connection. The what3words app has AFAIK offline support.


#4

That’s the free public way for apps to access what3words API.

There is an offline SDK requiring license agreement and extra database ~10MB, increasing also app size.


#5

Ok, thx! :grin:


#6

“service and an option in Kurviger”?


#7

“communication media, as calls, texts (SMS), messengers etc.”


#8

Not also vice versa? (I took the term “geocoding” from a post of @devemux86)


#9

Yes, better!


#10

That’s perhaps a misunderstanding: To get the what3words code, you need an internet connection - but to forward it, you don’t need, as you can use just a call for example.

That is what I wantd to say …


#11

There are two processes:

  • Geocoding is the computational process of transforming a physical address description to a location on the Earth’s surface (spatial representation in numerical coordinates).
  • Reverse geocoding is the process of back (reverse) coding of a point location (latitude, longitude) to a readable address or place name.

#12

Thanks Uli :slight_smile:

The sentence was:

“what3words” is a tool and option to encode […]

I think it would be easier to read by just writing:

“what3words” is a service to encode […]

I just tumbled over this while reading :blush:

Ok, how about:

“what3words” is a service to encode and share geographical positions. Any position on the map can be transformed into a memorable set of words that can be shared by different means, including phone calls, sms, and email. A very useful and important feature that could save lives!

BTW: As a side node - while Germans try to create long complex sentences, in English it’s almost always better to have several short sentences. Especially for a documentation, you want to keep it simple and easily understandable.

Yes, that’s called reverse geocoding. See the Wikipedia article about geocoding here.

Geocoding is the computational process of transforming a physical address description to a location on the Earth’s surface (spatial representation in numerical coordinates). Reverse geocoding, on the other hand, converts geographic coordinates to a description of a location, usually the name of a place or an addressable location.

While the process is called geocoding, I never heard the term geocode in this context, that’s why I asked :slight_smile:.

Yes, that’s correct. You wrote:

or, let’s imagine, in these previous cases you only have a technical problem but no internet or mobile connection is available, and someone stops to support you, you could just tell him the 3 words

The question in this case is how to fetch the 3 words without internet connection, that’s not possible right now with Kurviger ;).


#13

… and with what3words app as well. I see - we better delete this part of the statement.


#14

I have to correct myself: The what3words does not need a data connection to encode the current GPS information (but map is not shown - what is indeed not necessary to encode the current position).

So we can keep this part of the text.

I tried to consider all your suggestions and corrections - pls have a look to the last version of the “contribution to documentation” in this topic above (you may find see all changes in “see edits” mode).

I hope, I did not forget anything? Then we could add it like it is to the documentation and translate it to German.


#15

Looks good to me! :+1:


#16

Ok, thx for help; so let’s wait some days for more comments, if any, before publishing.


#17

Yes, but this only works with the what3words app. So we should make this clear.


#18

Ok, modified the text this way:


“a) In Kurviger (internetconnection is necessary):
[…]
b) If Kurviger is not installed or no internetconnection is available, use what3words app:
[…]”

[and more below:]

(the what3words app only needs a GPS signal, no internet data connection)


Ok like this?


#19

Better be “If Kurviger is not installed” ?


#20

Even better: “If Kurviger is not installed or just switched off for any reason” ??