Location accuracy for business: Where the streets have no name
Whether you run a delivery service, ecommerce company or a tow truck business, knowing your customer’s exact location is key to the efficiency of your business operations.
Postal codes and GPS systems have helped, but in an increasingly mobile world, advanced tools and techniques are needed to manage unique business challenges. What do you do when a building doesn’t have an address or a road doesn’t appear on a map? There’s new tech that can help…
Location, location, location
There are many diverse scenarios where precise location services are vital.
For example, your company technician may have trouble finding the location of a customer who is temporarily operating out of a construction site. A delivery driver could show up at the wrong entrance of your building to drop off a parcel — while your mailroom is on another side. Your salesperson could end up at the wrong address for a meeting due to a mix up in GPS input. Or you might want a taxi pick-up at a new land development site with unnamed roads.
In each of the above situations, service levels are inextricably tied to location accuracy.
Our current addressing systems may have fallen short, but now there’s a better way. Using geocoding systems, two systems called “plus codes” and “what3words” have divided the entire world into uniquely identifiable grids.
“Plus codes” help break down coordinates
Google’s initiative called plus codes was initially launched to address the lack of street names in developing parts of the world. Complicated latitude and longitude coordinates are broken down to 14×14 metre grids and given unique ten-character addresses — plus codes — which follow a region/neighbourhood/building hierarchy.
On an Android or iOS device, follow these simple steps to find the plus code for your location:
- Enable location services on your smartphone
- Open Google Maps and look for the blue dot that shows your location
- Touch and hold the area on your screen to drop a pin
- Scroll down to the bottom of the screen to see your plus code
For reference, the Winnipeg Jets play at 86X4VVV4+2G, which some may recognize as Bell MTS Place.
What3words: Addressing the world
What3words approaches geocoding differently. It assigns a unique three-word address to every 3×3 metre grid of land in the world.
The three-word format is considered more straightforward to remember and easier to use than postal codes and GPS coordinates, especially in places where there are no conflicts with existing addresses. What3words integrates with Google Maps and others to help you navigate to a location using the three-word address.
Widespread future uses
From a use case perspective, various industries and services including automotive, navigation, travel, logistics, emergency and postal services can leverage these advanced addressing systems.
A 3×3 metre or even a 14×14 metre grid for location identification may feel like overkill. However, when you consider the fact that intelligent machines such as drones will play a significant part in future commerce, it begins to make sense. For instance, a drone-based pizza delivery may need to know the exact spot for the pizza drop off — whether it’s the front door or the backyard.
Both plus codes and what3words are easy to use and are offered for free. These addressing systems are global, consistent and are not tied to geopolitical boundaries. If a road gets renamed or a region gets annexed by a country, the address remains the same.
Businesses are always looking for a competitive edge. If an innovative tool can give you the advantage, it’s indeed an avenue worth exploring.