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What 3 words and MRT

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 a crap climber 31 Aug 2022

Just saw some interesting comments on W3W from Keswick MRT

https://cumbriacrack.com/2022/08/30/lake-district-mountain-rescue-team-warning-over-what3words/

I vaguely recall seeing someone take a brief look into how likely it is for these kinds of incidents given the list of words used in the app and I think they concluded that there are too many similar words to guarantee you can't get incorrect but plausible looking locations, hence a revised word list or a different system is needed. Not good to see this happening in real life though at least there was a good outcome to this rescue.

I think it's been a divisive topic on here before whether it's suitable for use with emergency services. Personally I'm suspicious of a proprietary location system from a company that markets it for just this kind of situation. I occasionally see (presumably targeted) ads with stories of how someone was rescued all thanks to using W3W. 

Some people claim it's more user friendly for people not familiar with grid references etc, though I can't help wondering if e.g. OS locate was as heavily marketed, would people actually have any difficulty providing a location? It would be interesting to see if there's any statistics for how often a grid reference is given incorrectly vs. getting a word wrong with W3W.

 deepsoup 31 Aug 2022
In reply to a crap climber:

Here's a rather excellent summing up of the drawbacks and flaws in W3W:

youtube.com/watch?v=SqK0ciE0rto&

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 Jenny C 31 Aug 2022
In reply to a crap climber:

I'm a great fan of OS Grid References, but reluctantly installed W3W after chatting with friends who work in a police call centre as it is their preferred system.

What I found was you can set W3W to also display the OS Grid reference (or GPS coordinates), so have both to hand on the same screen and can therefore give both out allowing them to be cross referenced to avoid mistakes.

It's also another argument for registering to text the emergency services, as that way you can simply copy/paste so far less risk of errors.

edit: in an MRT situation I would still go for grid reference as the default (probably off a map rather than OS locate), but for roadside incidents I am coming round to reluctantly accept that W3W is probably preferable.

​​​​​​Very interesting point though about lack of marketing of OS locate, like W3W it's just reading letters off a screen so idiot proof.

Post edited at 13:02
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 deepsoup 31 Aug 2022
In reply to Jenny C:

Here's another alternative to W3W, developed by Google but which also doesn't seem to be actively marketed.  Unlike W3W, Google have made their algorithm open source so it's free for anyone to use, including developers who want to use it in their own apps.  So maybe that goes some way to explaining why they don't promote it much, there's no way for them to monetize it in the future the way the (currently loss-making) W3W hope to.

https://maps.google.com/pluscodes/

It uses an alpha-numeric character set designed to avoid accidentally spelling out words and to avoid confusion between characters.  So that does mean a lot more than three characters - 12 to specify any location to a similar accuracy to W3W, or only 8 if you already know the approximate area and for example can name a nearby town.  (Though it's actually one less really - one of the characters is always a "+" sign.)

It's a little bit clunky, but the Google Maps app handles 'Plus Codes' natively and that's an app which is already installed on a heck of a lot more phones than W3W is.

Post edited at 13:19
 Dave B 31 Aug 2022
In reply to deepsoup:

Plus codes are actually well designed imho.

A good, limited, alphabet really avoid those issues with w3w.

I wish it was much more heavily used, 

In reply to Jenny C:

I pretty much agree with all that. I'm suspicious of W3Ws business model, (Huge advertising budget, a product that encodes your location and needs the end user (emergency services) to adopt the system to find out your location). Currently free to emergency services at present I believe, but what is the end point where they start recouping all that sunk cost?

However, Joe Public doesn't want to learn navigation or understand grid references, they just want an app they can use to call a helicopter if they're a bit lost and tired, or call an ambulance.

I can remember being first on scene at a serious road accident in the middle of the countryside many years ago, (Nokia bricks with stubby aerials were the height of mobile comms) and the call handler kept asking if I knew the postcode, even though I could give a pretty good location description. It's situations like that where W3W has a utility, like it our not.

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 Jenny C 31 Aug 2022
In reply to Ridge:

Agreed, although as stated above with a bit of advertising people could install OS locate for free and read out the alphanumeric code off that instead. 

I know recently of an incident at a local reservoir where a call handler recognised the description and was able to give the W3W location to crew on the ground. He said to me that they don't have access to use grid references, even if we give them out (but will take down any location info available) - yes at what point will it become a charitable service at great cost.

Does anyone remember the early days of mobile phones when the AA advertised that they could locate you just from the call? Police and ambulance don't have this info immediately to hand and apparently have to pay to access it on a case by case basis, so only use it on rate occasions.

 jon 31 Aug 2022
In reply to a crap climber:

That's clever, I'd not heard of it. Is that because I don't live in the UK? Which brings me to my question: does it only exist in English?

 yorkshire_lad2 31 Aug 2022
In reply to deepsoup:

watched this and enjoyed it.  One thing I thought he was going to mention, and didn't really, was how what3words copes with people who may pronounce things differently e.g. some people may pronounce "writs.reds.book" (Alaska) as "wits.weds.book" (Australia)

 deepsoup 31 Aug 2022
In reply to Ridge:

> It's situations like that where W3W has a utility, like it our not.

In almost every situation where it does have a utility, Plus Codes are better imo.  *Especially* any situation in which you might be relying on someone to read out the code over a voice call.  And a *much* higher proportion of people's phones already have the Google Maps app installed than have W3W.

People running emergency services control rooms are susceptible to marketing hype like the rest of us, I don't think there can have been much due diligence done on this one.

But as we're talking about a call to the emergency services as opposed to individuals just arranging a meet-up with a mate, something is fundamentally a bit wrong if you're relying on a caller making an emergency call using a GPS-enabled smart phone to relay the information that they're getting from that phone about their location anyway. 

Calls made to 999/112 are already handled differently to other calls, the voice call is a digital connection and it's entirely possible for the phone to relay its GPS location automatically whilst making the call without requiring any input from the user.  I gather from reading threads like this one in the past that this is already implemented in some other countries.

And then there's something like SARLOC.  If the user has a data connection and the control room want to ask them their location, they can send them a link via SMS to simply click and open in a browser (and perhaps click 'yes' if the phone asks for permission to share its location with the website that they've gone to), with no need to read back a set of coordinates or whatever by phone.

 deepsoup 31 Aug 2022
In reply to yorkshire_lad2:

You're quite right, but he did mention words that are difficult to distinguish even with native English speakers so it's pretty clearly implied that that's something that can only get worse when you're dealing with someone speaking a foreign language (to them) or perhaps with a strong regional accent.

When you're dealing with speech, it's much more difficult to recognise a random word than most people realise.  When we're just chatting with someone we're quite often filling in bits of information we didn't hear correctly from the context, without the context trying to understand what word somebody just spoke can suddenly become extremely difficult.

 Jenny C 31 Aug 2022
In reply to deepsoup:

> Calls made to 999/112 are already handled differently to other calls, the voice call is a digital connection and it's entirely possible for the phone to relay its GPS location automatically whilst making the call without requiring any input from the user.  

A friend is Police 999 call handler. They do not have access to a callers GPS information as it's not a service which that they are subscribed to, apparently they can request it a handful of times in dire emergencies but not for routine calls.

 deepsoup 31 Aug 2022
In reply to Jenny C:

> A friend is Police 999 call handler. They do not have access to a callers GPS information as it's not a service which that they are subscribed to, apparently they can request it a handful of times in dire emergencies but not for routine calls.

Is that GPS information?  Or is it information coming from the network provider based on which mast in the cellular network the phone is communicating with?  I think it's probably the latter.

Anyhow, I agree that they don't routinely have access to a caller's GPS location, I'm saying that they should have.  It's technically not a particularly difficult thing to achieve. 

999/112 calls are already different to other calls in that they can be routed through any network regardless of which network your phone uses for routine calls.  (Or even if the phone doesn't have a SIM card in it at all.)  Compared to that enabling geolocation by default for emergency calls doesn't seem like a particularly big deal.

 Jenny C 31 Aug 2022
In reply to deepsoup:

> Is that GPS information?  Or is it information coming from the network provider based on which mast in the cellular network the phone is communicating with?  I think it's probably the latter.

Not entirely sure, but it's utterly disgusting that emergency services don't have access to everything that would help to locate a caller in an emergency (be that MRT, RTA or whatever) and instead rely on less than perfect commercial services like W3W - wonder what will happen if/when W3W starts charging for the service and can hold the country to ransome as it's become the default locator.

1
In reply to a crap climber:

From my experience, all the various systems have advantages and flaws (some bigger flaws than others). The automatic system is AML https://eena.org/our-work/eena-special-focus/advanced-mobile-location/#:~:text=In%20the%20event%20of%20an,phone%20 from my MR experience we sometimes get these, their accuracy can range from good to totally wild. W3W does seem to be loved by the emergency services, my guess is because they perceive it to be better than "on the B1234 between the cattle grid and ford" or "about 1km along the footpath to wherever". Out of preference, I would take a grid reference but even they are not invaluable to human or machine muddling, ever got the letter wrong that could put you at least 100km out!

So far I have learned the following:

Modern phones are very clever at mixing the GPS location, with other info from cell towers and wifi to give a "location". This is done mainly for battery life and also because the likes of google or trip advisor don't need 10m accuracy to advise you on which restaurants are good nearby. This can mean that in some instances the first location a phone gives isn't that great and forcing it to use the GPS is sometimes needed.

Having 2 pieces of information on location gives you a chance of correcting some of the errors that creep in. For MR we usually ask team members to give us a grid and a description in words for casualties we will often send SARLOC /PhoneFind texts even if we have an AML or W3W from the police.

Post edited at 15:11
In reply to jon:

> That's clever, I'd not heard of it. Is that because I don't live in the UK? Which brings me to my question: does it only exist in English?

Don't know how it works in non-English speaking areas, but it works well in rural parts of South Africa.  You select your location on the W3W app, share it directly to any other app on your phone (like WhatsApp, Gmail, Teams or whatever) and it links seamlessly to generate directions via Google maps.  Ideal for addressless locations on dirt roads miles from anywhere. 

Don't really understand some of the hate for it really.  It's more accurate than a 6-figure OS reference, and works where there isn't even an OS map to use.

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 Jenny C 31 Aug 2022
In reply to Andy DB:

> Having 2 pieces of information on location gives you a chance of correcting some of the errors that creep in. For MR we usually ask team members to give us a grid and a description in words for casualties we will often send SARLOC /PhoneFind texts even if we have an AML or W3W from the police.

Yes that was my experience when I called out MRT. I gave a grid reference and they clearly had a map Infront of them and double checked by giving a physical description. Also as my grid refs were taken off the map verbal clarification corrected any minor errors in the third digest when reading by eye.

 guffers_hump 31 Aug 2022
In reply to a crap climber:

I'm in agreement with the MRT team, OS Locate is excellent. Can change it to Lat and Long in settings as well as 10 figure grid reference. It also tries to give you height on ground as well. I've found it to be pretty accurate on testing.

Post edited at 16:30
 guffers_hump 31 Aug 2022
In reply to Jenny C:

But they must have access to use Latitiude and Longitude which you can do in OS Locate.

In reply to Dave Garnett:

> Don't really understand some of the hate for it really.  It's more accurate than a 6-figure OS reference, and works where there isn't even an OS map to use.

I'm a bit dubious about the claimed accuracy. It's as good as the GPS chip in your phone, the software and terrain blocking/reflecting the signal from the satellites.

My main issue is where this is going. W3W doesn't do anything other than take the GPS data from your phone and encode it so only W3W can understand it. Fine if it's free (but you then have your emergency services reliant on a single company - W3W goes bust and it's useless).

The business model seems to be the electronic equivalent of you phoning me up and giving me an OS Grid Reference, then me giving you a code to give to the police, you then give the code to the police, then the police give me the code and ask me where the location is. The only way that is viable as a business would be for me to start charging the emergency services to reveal the location. 

 Mike-W-99 31 Aug 2022
In reply to a crap climber:

No read the whole thread but does w3w tell you the accuracy in metres of its location? What I use for mapping and os grid tells me this and it can be huge distances out until it refines the fix.

 deepsoup 31 Aug 2022
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> Don't really understand some of the hate for it really. 

'Hate' is a strong word, but there's much about W3W that gives me the eeby jeebies so if you want to put it in those terms I'm a 'hater'.

In part that's because they're a commercial outfit aiming to present themselves as something wholly altruistic.  They've been sinking a lot of money into it so far, and at some point they're planning to recoup that.  Meanwhile they're pretty fiercely litigious, you'll be hearing from their lawyers if they feel you're treading on their toes or infringeing on their patent in any way at all. 

They promote their product quite aggressively, which is fine - but they also promote it as the best thing since sliced bread for emergency situations which it pretty clearly is not.  That seems straightforwardly unethical.  And at best in some other applications they promote their product as the only thing available and it clearly isn't.

Here's the youtube vid I already posted above.  Sums up the downsides to W3W pretty comprehensively.  (And suggests an alternative, 4-word system that would arguably be much better, but can't happen currently because if anyone tries it W3W's lawyers will come down on them like a ton of bricks.)

A couple of examples from your own post:

> You select your location on the W3W app, share it directly to any other app on your phone (like WhatsApp, Gmail, Teams or whatever) and it links seamlessly to generate directions via Google maps.

If you have Google Maps and aren't particularly wedded to using three (English language) words, you don't need another app as well.  (W3W or anything else.)  Google Maps already has that functionality built in, via a 'Plus Code', which is an alphanumeric system that doesn't use words and avoids some of the pitfalls of W3W whilst doing essentially exactly the same.
(Here's the link again: https://maps.google.com/pluscodes/ )

To see the plus code for your current location on Google maps, press the blue dot that indicates your current position on the map, then scroll down to the bottom of the "Your Location" box that pops up.

Unlike W3W, Google haven't patented their algorithm but have instead made it completely open source.  So anyone else who would like to use it, or develop an app to use it, can do so free of charge, forever.  Like W3W it's free to use now, unlike W3W it always will be.

> It's more accurate than a 6-figure OS reference, and works where there isn't even an OS map to use.

If you're using an app, the comparison isn't with a 6-figure OS reference though.  If you're sharing your location by text message from "OS Locate" for example, it's a 10-digit OS grid reference that gets copy/pasted into the message.  (Like W3W, a Plus Code or plain old Lat/Long coordinates, a precise location that's only as accurate as the GPS fix used to generate it in the first place.)

 nniff 31 Aug 2022
In reply to guffers_hump:

I was suspicious of OS locate's grid refs when some proved to be quite a bit out locally.  My OS locate has now switched to lat and long and I don't seem to be able to get it back. Theodolite (about £5) is excellent....

 deepsoup 31 Aug 2022
In reply to nniff:

> My OS locate has now switched to lat and long and I don't seem to be able to get it back.

Click the logo labelled "About" at the bottom, then "Settings" in the menu that pops up, then under "co-ordinates" you can choose between 'National Grid' and 'Lat/Long'.  Does that work?

 jon 31 Aug 2022
In reply to Dave Garnett:

I've answered my own question, my location comes up in French. The next question is, is it a translation of English or is it French language specific?

In reply to deepsoup:

> If you have Google Maps and aren't particularly wedded to using three (English language) words, you don't need another app as well.  (W3W or anything else.)  Google Maps already has that functionality built in, via a 'Plus Code', which is an alphanumeric system that doesn't use words and avoids some of the pitfalls of W3W whilst doing essentially exactly the same.

Ok, the situation was that a friend was trying to  direct us to the end of his drive in the arse end of the Cederberg.  We were driving from the coast.  We didn’t have the appropriate IS maps.  He looked up the position on his W3W and WhatApped a link that went straight into Google maps which plotted a route the exact spot.  It took literally seconds.

3
In reply to a crap climber:

Solution clearly is to use https://www.fourkingmaps.co.uk/

In reply to a crap climber:

IMO W3W is a great idea that's been really badly implemented - the main flaw IMO is that it's not hierarchical, so if you get one of the words wrong you could be on the other side of the globe.

First word should narrow down the location to a region, second word to an area, third word for precision. For MRT the most important word would be the second word since the first word would likely be the same (or only 2 or 3 different words) for their area, and the second would get them close even if they didn't have the third.

And with that system you could also make sure that no 2 adjacent words (for either the 1st, 2nd or 3rd word) were similar; e.g. xxxx.honey.zzzz would never be next to xxxx.money.zzzz etc.

And your 3rd word layout could be the same for every 2nd word and your 2nd word layout could be the same for every 1st word; e.g. xxxx.Buzzard.Apple could be the SW most square of every 1st word.

So in conclusion, W3W - nice prototype, now go and do it properly

3
 Jenny C 31 Aug 2022
In reply to Dave Garnett:

A dropped pin.

Had no idea that it gave you GPS coordinates rather than just a link to Google maps. Thanks, good info.

 deepsoup 31 Aug 2022
In reply to Dave Garnett:

You asked "why the hate" and I did my best to give you an answer. 

The second part of my post wasn't really the meat of it but..

> He looked up the position on his W3W and WhatApped a link that went straight into Google maps which plotted a route the exact spot.

Which is all well and good, nowt wrong with that if he likes the app.  But if you already have Google Maps you don't need W3W as well to do that, it's literally using two apps to do the job of one. 

(Particularly as your mate didn't even send you the "three words", but a link to the pin on the Google Map.)

Press and hold the spot for a second in Google maps to drop a pin, then press the 'share' button to copy the link to the clipboard, send it directly via WhatsApp or whatever. 

Alternatively you can pull up the 'dropped pin' menu to see lat/long coordinates* or a Plus Code - click either of those and it copies them to the clipboard ready to be pasted into a message that you're writing manually.

*(To 7 decimal places, which is rather silly - 4 would probably be enough, certainly no more than 5.  At the equator 0.00001° latitude or longitude is just over 1m)

Edit to add:

Oops - I said "here's the Youtube link" in that post above, and then forgot to add it.  It's the same one I posted up at the top of the thread - it's a really good run down on the potential downsides of W3W.  Well worth a watch: youtube.com/watch?v=SqK0ciE0rto&

Post edited at 19:22
 deepsoup 31 Aug 2022
In reply to Longsufferingropeholder:

> Solution clearly is to use https://www.fourkingmaps.co.uk/

That's fantastic!

But I'm everso slightly disappointed that drink.feck.arse.girls doesn't point to the Parochial House on Craggy Island.

 jon 31 Aug 2022
In reply to Longsufferingropeholder:

> Solution clearly is to use https://www.fourkingmaps.co.uk/

Brilliant!

In reply to Michael Hood:

If they did that, or anything else sensible, it would be really easy to reverse engineer their algorithm and their already tenuous business model would be shattered. They've shown they're prepared to sue the crap out of people who have figured it out.

should just be an open source thing, and done right. What3ducks did just that but it died out.

 Tony Buckley 31 Aug 2022
In reply to Longsufferingropeholder:

So far as I can tell, the address for 10 Downing Street appears to be 

wtf.fubar.rubberjohnny.poxy

Wtf, indeed.  Also, fubar.

T.

In reply to Jenny C:

> Not entirely sure, but it's utterly disgusting that emergency services don't have access to everything that would help to locate a caller in an emergency

Many of them can't even handle OSGB GRs; they insist on a post code. Which I only know for a very small number of locations (where I live, work or have relations). Not to mention the huge area covered by rural post codes.

In reply to Michael Hood:

> IMO W3W is a great idea that's been really badly implemented - the main flaw IMO is that it's not hierarchical, so if you get one of the words wrong you could be on the other side of the globe.

I understood that was a deliberate feature, so a wrong word should give an implausible location that prompts the recipient of the words to ask for them to be clarified. I think they were trying to avoid the possibility of close-but-not-close-enough results that a hierarchical system might give in an emergency. I always thought that sounded quite sensible, although from the link above it doesn’t sound like they were successful with it.

Post edited at 20:06
In reply to guffers_hump:

> I'm in agreement with the MRT team, OS Locate is excellent.

Grid Reference (Arthur Embleton) is tiny. It does what it says on the tin. It works for iOS and Android. You can send an SMS of the location, or send it to other apps.

It's free.

Post edited at 20:14
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> It's more accurate than a 6-figure OS reference, and works where there isn't even an OS map to use.

So does any app that uses the GNSS receiver in your phone to get a position fix. Those apps will give you a 10-figure GR (1m resolution, accuracy... well, just as good as it is for W3W).

Reading a GR from a map requires you to figure out where you are on a map & read the GR correctly. Reporting a GR to the emergency services requires you to read that GR correctly. So there are plenty of opportunities for error.

But an app that computes the OSGB GR from GNSS fix and sends it, without human interference, to the emergency services is as good as W3W sent in a similar manner.

If only the emergency services had GIS that were equipped to use the long-established National Grid Reference system, developed by the national mapping agency, and used for all their national mapping... FFS....

 Dave B 31 Aug 2022
In reply to jon:

Stupidly, its language specific, so you cannot translate easily between languages without the tool. 

In reply to Longsufferingropeholder:

I can only upvote your post the once. Life is truly unfair

In reply to captain paranoia:

> Grid Reference (Arthur Embleton) is tiny. It does what it says on the tin. It works for iOS and Android. You can send an SMS of the location, or send it to other apps.

> It's free.

The finest grid ref app, IMHO.

In reply to Dave Garnett:

> Ok, the situation was that a friend was trying to  direct us to the end of his drive in the arse end of the Cederberg.  We were driving from the coast.  We didn’t have the appropriate IS maps.  He looked up the position on his W3W and WhatApped a link that went straight into Google maps which plotted a route the exact spot.  It took literally seconds.

Alternatively cut out the middle man (W3W) and just share your location in Whatsapp, which does exactly the same thing

In reply to a crap climber:

I recently had to call the police to ask them to mobilise the local MRT. My wife had suffered a very bad fall on the fells*, some distance from help and called me in some distress. She sent me a what three words location and the police call handler welcomed the information (I asked my wife to text it rather than say the words, I was able to spell out the words to the call handler).

* Orthopedic surgery and four nights in hospital, but fully recovered now apart from a whopping great scar and no nerve endings.

1
 deepsoup 01 Sep 2022
In reply to The New NickB:

Crikey.  Glad to hear she's made a good recovery.

Of course the police control room welcomed the information, as did the MRT no doubt, her precise location in any format they can use would have been an absolutely crucial piece of information.

And by getting her to text the coordinates to you so that you could relay them carefully and calmly, spelling words out if necessary, they also knew that they had the best possible chance that no mistakes had been made.

Chances are it probably didn't make a difference, but there's no way to know for sure - you might potentially have saved a fair bit of time by doing that.  You side-stepped the biggest potential problem (and also the supposedly greatest selling point) of the W3W system.

Your mention of the text message reminds me.  Have we all registered for the emergence text service?  (I know this is old news on here but bears repeating.)

https://www.emergencysms.net/

It's intended for deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired people, but it just so happens that an SMS message will often get through successfully when you have a phone signal too weak or intermittent to make a voice call.  You need to register the phone beforehand, so for anyone who might need to call 999 in a location with just a wisp of a weak signal there's no better time to do that than right now.

All the various geolocation apps (including Google Maps, which most of us already have by default) have the facility to copy/paste your location, in whatever format, into a text message.  So it seems like a no-brainer to include that in the message, especially if you can 'export' the location directly into the messaging app to avoid any possible transcription error. 
(But if starting the GPS app from cold, maybe give it a minute to get a fix first.)

 dan gibson 01 Sep 2022
In reply to a crap climber:

I was involved in an incident in the Brecon Beacons last year that required Mountain Rescue assistance. 

After dialling 999 and asking for Police Mountain Rescue, the controller I spoke to refused to accept my six fig grid reference and insisted on me using W3W. They said they will call back in 5 mins, and hung up on me.

We did just about have sufficient signal to load up the app and provide the W3W.

I fed this experience back to the MR team leader when they arrived. They were livid with the police controllers response.

In reply to dan gibson:

Unbelievable. (We'll, it isn't, but it should be). Absolutely appalling.

 fred99 01 Sep 2022
In reply to dan gibson:

Somebody needs "retraining" - though maybe sacking might be the only way of preventing possible deaths in the future.

 Pedro50 01 Sep 2022
In reply to deepsoup:

> Here's a rather excellent summing up of the drawbacks and flaws in W3W:

I can rarely  be bothered to follow links to lengthy videos but this was excellent. 

 LastBoyScout 01 Sep 2022
In reply to jon:

> That's clever, I'd not heard of it. Is that because I don't live in the UK? Which brings me to my question: does it only exist in English?

The entire world, I think - certainly on land/inshore locations.

One of the later updates to the satnav on my phone (Navmii) includes an option to display W3W codes and that worked in Portugal - at least until I turned it off, as not required.

In reply to deepsoup:

I was aware of issues around similar sounding words confusing the process, which is why I asked her to text me the information.

It definitely helped because otherwise she was only able to give a general description of her location. It was the app that she had installed that could give an accurate location, any other app that could do the same in an accessible format would have done the same.

In reply to dan gibson:

> After dialling 999 and asking for Police Mountain Rescue, the controller I spoke to refused to accept my six fig grid reference and insisted on me using W3W.

As I said earlier, many emergency service centres cannot use OSGB GRs in the incident management GIS; there is no code to interpret a GR postion. It's an absolute disgrace. But, surprise,  surprise, someone has integrated W3W into their system.

 Dave B 01 Sep 2022
In reply to captain paranoia:

Lat and long? Can they be interpreted?

 mondite 01 Sep 2022
In reply to captain paranoia:

> But, surprise,  surprise, someone has integrated W3W into their system.

W3W does seem to have quite a bit of cash behind it currently and looks to be going for the "tech" start up model of burning through a bunch of cash trying to get itself built into everything before go "okay now start paying up".

In reply to Dave B:

> Lat and long? Can they be interpreted?

No idea; I've never used lat/long. Why would I when we have a far more easy to use grid reference system printed on our national mapping?

But I suspect not. Again, you'd need to know the geoid. So many ways for 'lat/long' position to be incorrectly interpreted.

 mondite 01 Sep 2022
In reply to captain paranoia:

> No idea; I've never used lat/long. Why would I when we have a far more easy to use grid reference system printed on our national mapping?

the "problem" with grid reference is it is UK only. Which is where the "tech" companies generally try to insert themselves with a one size fits all for the entire world (which doesnt normally work but...).

The other "problem" with OS grid references is they dont have the marketing budget to try and sell themselves as a solution.

In reply to mondite:

> the "problem" with grid reference is it is UK only. 

The UK emergency services are UK only. Plenty of services manage to support OSGB entry or presentation. And not just global software "tech" companies. As I said earlier (or was it in a similar thread?), anyone specifying an incident management GIS for GB emergency services that doesn't mandate OSGB entry as an utterly basic function should be sacked. And preferably flogged...

OSGB is, of course, only applicable to GB...

Internationally, zoned UTM is an equivalent to OSGB.

 mondite 01 Sep 2022
In reply to captain paranoia:

>  As I said earlier (or was it in a similar thread?), anyone specifying an incident management GIS for GB emergency services that doesn't mandate OSGB entry as an utterly basic function should be sacked. And preferably flogged...

Whilst I dont really disagree the advantage W3W has is that they are spending lots of money to convince everyone they are needed. Whereas for OSGB you dont have the same sales force.

So unless you have someone competent doing the speccing or a lead dev giving that person some unsubtle hints the useful free solution gets lost. Sadly chances are most of the incident management systems requirements and then build are sent out to the normal suspects whose technical skills are minimal vs the contract lawyers.

 Jenny C 01 Sep 2022
In reply to a crap climber:

I've just been playing and it appears that if you put an OSGR into W3W it can actually read it - locates you on the map and gives you the W3W name.

You do need the correct format (eg SK352882), so all capitals and no spaces. But it means there is no excuse for anyone with W3W to claim they can't use an OSGR.

In reply to mondite:

I suspect most incident management GIS predate W3W. Certainly, my experiences of them being unable use GRs, but insisting on postcodes predate W3W.

Which means someone has added W3W entry somehow...

I remember asking if the operator had internet access, and telling them to go to Streetmap.co.uk, since that has always had a versatile coordinate entry/conversion facility.

 mondite 02 Sep 2022
In reply to captain paranoia:

> Which means someone has added W3W entry somehow...

My assumption would be W3W offered it on very favourable terms quite possibly free including installation. If they get it embedded in the emergency services then people start downloading it on the phone just in case. Which in turn makes it easier to sell to everyone else.

 wintertree 02 Sep 2022
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> Don't really understand some of the hate for it really.

My primary dislike is as with Ridge's comment - we're in the "burn investor cash" phase of their business model.  What comes next?  Clearly, someone somewhere its going to be charged to use the conversion algorithm, and I doubt it's the people reading words on their phone screens.  Monetise Everything As A Service.  BMW are now doing heated car seats as a subscription.  [rant deleted.] 

My secondary dislike is that if you set out to design a way of exchanging locations verbally over sometimes poor quality links, you wouldn't come up with anything like W3W.  You'd come up with something with a minimal alphabet of well separated characters and either forwards error correction or a built in redundancy check.  

In reply to captain paranoia:

I once had to call in someone having jumped from the Clifton Suspension Bridge while I was climbing in the gorge. The emergency operator was most put out that I couldn't give them a postcode for the middle of the river where the person (probably just body) was now floating. A sad experience all round but highlights that it's a wider problem than just W3W. Emergency operators should have enough local knowledge to pinpoint a spot that's both an iconic landmark and a noted suicide spot without demanding a postcode from the caller. And the tools and knowledge to accept any reasonable location ID system.

In reply to wintertree:

> BMW are now doing heated car seats as a subscription.  

WTF - you buy a physical object outright, but you can only use part of it if you pay a subscription to enable it?

You cannot be serious [a la John McEnroe]

That's a whole step change from needing a subscription to access latest software updates or latest maps, etc. It's paying continually to remove a blockage.

In reply to Luke90:

And I think "below" a major regionally (if not nationally) highly known landmark is a "reasonable location ID system" - I suspect that every single local emergency responder (i.e. any one in the police, ambulance & fire services who would be needing to go there) would either know exactly how to get there, or would have no trouble immediately pinpointing it on something like Google maps.

 wintertree 02 Sep 2022
In reply to Michael Hood:

> You cannot be serious [a la John McEnroe]

https://www.bmw.co.uk/en/shop/ls/dp/Seat_Heating_SFA_gb

Not an April fools.

 Dave B 02 Sep 2022
In reply to captain paranoia:

I use lat long as its native to marine navigation and hence set up on my watch as a two button fast access system.

Mca cope well with it, I just want sure about other emergency operators.

In reply to Michael Hood:

> WTF - you buy a physical object outright, but you can only use part of it if you pay a subscription to enable it?

Heard a lot about this on a (mostly US oriented) hifi forum. All sorts of features, already fitted to the car, only accessible via subscription.

In reply to Dave B:

> I use lat long as its native to marine navigation 

Indeed. But, again, it depends on the geoid and datum used. If you're using GPS, it will report using WGS84 geoid. But you could use NAD27. Or any of the other geoid/datum models. The same lat/long pair in the different geoid/datum systems will refer to different locations. I bet you can set your watch to use a different datum; see how it changes the quotes lat/long.

With the universal use of GPS, mist people will assume a lat/long is WGS84.

 mondite 02 Sep 2022
In reply to Michael Hood:

> WTF - you buy a physical object outright, but you can only use part of it if you pay a subscription to enable it?

Yup although they do offer it as a one off purchase as well. So basically standard option approach which, assuming the feature doesnt cost much to make, means they can have a far simpler supplychain and also production line. No need to keep track of different seat types.

Plus once it starts getting accepted they can tie it to an individual user/account and so when the car is sold they get to sell it again.

In reply to Dave Garnett:

> Don't know how it works in non-English speaking areas, but it works well in rural parts of South Africa.  You select your location on the W3W app, share it directly to any other app on your phone (like WhatsApp, Gmail, Teams or whatever) and it links seamlessly to generate directions via Google maps.  Ideal for addressless locations on dirt roads miles from anywhere. 

Why not just use 'Share my location' in Google/Apple maps? I never understood why people want to put another layer between communicating your location with mates/emergency services/customers when your phone already knows where it is and can easily communicate this.

Additionally, W3W needs a decent 4G connection to work whereas gps is far easier to get almost anywhere since it comes from satellites. Echo SOS or an app like that can communicate your location to the emergency services on almost no signal.

Alan

In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> Why not just use 'Share my location' in Google/Apple maps? I never understood why people want to put another layer between communicating your location with mates/emergency services/customers when your phone already knows where it is and can easily communicate this.

> Additionally, W3W needs a decent 4G connection to work whereas gps is far easier to get almost anywhere since it comes from satellites. Echo SOS or an app like that can communicate your location to the emergency services on almost no signal.

> Alan

I agree there are other ways to do it, although unless you have a dedicated gps device I don't know anything that so easily allows someone to select and communicate an exact reference (other than where they are at the time) and it's usually possible to come up with something amusing/relevant that is easily memorable - our daughter's a vet and automatic poodle rescuer seems pretty appropriate!

2
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> ... although unless you have a dedicated gps device I don't know anything that so easily allows someone to select and communicate an exact reference.

But that's the point, your phone is a dedicated gps device. W3W offers you nothing that you can't get on a map app simply by opening it. You will appear as a blue dot which you can share, or tap the map where the injured person is and share that point. 

> and it's usually possible to come up with something amusing/relevant that is easily memorable - our daughter's a vet and automatic poodle rescuer seems pretty appropriate!

Don't understand. You don't decide the three words?

Alan

In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> Don't understand. You don't decide the three words?

No, but given the number of squares available you can usually find something amusing and memorable close by.  The example I gave is on our drive. 

1
 deepsoup 02 Sep 2022
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> Why not just use 'Share my location' in Google/Apple maps?

Quite.  Though the Google app is slightly unhelpful here in that when you're trying to share your own current location it defaults to trying to set up 'location sharing' in real time.  (ie: sending a link to a map with a pin for your current location that updates, so that the person you're sharing your location with can 'dot watch' as you move around.)

Also it'll attempt to do the same thing if it has no data signal.  (And fail, because unlike obtaining a location that is a function that does require the use of a bit of mobile data.)

As a one-off it's easier to 'share' any location other than your own current position.  To do that you have to copy/paste the lat/long or ULC ('Plus Code') location in to whatever messaging app you use.

> I never understood why people want to put another layer between communicating your location with mates/emergency services/customers when your phone already knows where it is and can easily communicate this.

Ignorance.  People are used to using a map app to navigate by, but not to get a fix on their location to pass on to someone else.  So they're just not aware the functionality is there.

The 'three word' thing obviously gets some traction because it's simple and (at least seems to be) clever.  The 'find my current location' aspect of it is something that most people simply don't realise they already have on their phone in one or more of their existing apps.

That's understandable.  What's less understandable is emergency call handlers leaving people struggling to come up with a W3W 'address' instead of being able to talk them through getting a GPS fix with the mapping app they already have.  (ie: Google - almost everybody.  Apple - everyone else.)

What's really unforgivable is when call handlers have people trying to download the W3W app in an emergency situation.  The battery life and connectivity of their phone is a vital, precious and limited commodity at that point and squandering it like that could have extremely serious consequences.

There's an example up thread of a poster who experienced that, and one of the first stories I read about W3W was an extreme example.  (Which first formed the opinion that I still hold, that the company behind it are profoundly unethical.)

Someone whose battery was low just barely managed to download and install the app, obtain an 'address' and relay it as instructed by a police control room - and this was being presented on social media as a success story!  Not, as it was in reality, as an example of the call handler in the control room almost getting somebody killed by using far more power and bandwidth to get a location than was actually required through sheer ignorance and just barely getting away with it.

If someone has a data signal there's no need for a 60Mb-odd download and an installation process even if obtaining a W3W 'address' were absolutely vital.  The phones internet browser is also capable of geolocation - all they have to do is navigate to the W3W website and give the browser permission to access the phones current position when prompted.

But better yet - the same functionality is available without relying on the user to manually pass on the location at all by using something like SARLOC.  As Mountain Rescue teams regularly do - send the user a link by SMS, user clicks the link and grants the browser permission to access the GPS location if prompted, job done!

> Additionally, W3W needs a decent 4G connection to work whereas gps

Not true.  I thought the same but was, but was corrected above.  It turns out the app works fine 'standalone' - the algorithm is relatively simple and the dictionary is stored on the phone, so it'll produce the 'address' with no signal only slightly less efficiently than another app might produce an OS grid reference.

(I assumed there would be a 'lookup' process to prevent it from being reverse-engineered.  Actually it's much less random that it seems and has already been reverse-engineered.  (See "What Free Words")  Even though that's legal, the company behind W3W have so far been able to suppress the reverse-engineered open source version by issuing legal threats, 'cease and desist' letters and the like.)

 gld73 02 Sep 2022
In reply to Luke90:

> I once had to call in someone having jumped from the Clifton Suspension Bridge while I was climbing in the gorge. The emergency operator was most put out that I couldn't give them a postcode for the middle of the river where the person (probably just body) was now floating. A sad experience all round but highlights that it's a wider problem than just W3W. Emergency operators should have enough local knowledge to pinpoint a spot that's both an iconic landmark and a noted suicide spot without demanding a postcode from the caller. And the tools and knowledge to accept any reasonable location ID system.

The call taker isn't necessarily local. For example, someone phoning 999 in Scotland and asking for the ambulance service could get a call taker at any of the control centres, whoever is free to take the call immediately rather than have a caller wait for a vaguely local call taker to be free ... so an incident in the Highlands could have a call taker in Glasgow who doesn't know the place description or how to spell it. The post code is the easiest way for them to send an ambulance quickly because, like filling in your post-code online and a box of addresses coming up, the call taker can immediately click on the correct address and the nearest available ambulance will be seen by the dispatcher and will get dispatched. Of course, it's not always possible to know the post code, but if you do know it, it removes getting road numbers or whatever mixed up in the stress of the moment and all the emergency services heading to the A82 instead of the A83. 

I've had a handful of W3W descriptions come through on my radio, and it means nothing to me, we don't have the software in the ambulances - but the control room can plot it on our vehicle sat nav/maps, which is what we need if we can't get an updated description (e.g. on the canal towpath between X bridge and Y road). The latter is useful for local crews, but we all get jobs when we're away from our "home" areas and are just blindly following satnav!

Post edited at 22:12
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> W3W needs a decent 4G connection to work

Does it? I thought the encoding was done by the app. W3W is just a means of encoding the GPS/GNSS fix.

Post edited at 22:16
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> I agree there are other ways to do it, although unless you have a dedicated gps device I don't know anything that so easily allows someone to select and communicate an exact reference (other than where they are at the time) 

What are you on about? OSGB GRs can be read from any OS map, or mapping application, for any location. Globally, the same is true for a UTM GR.

In reply to gld73:

> The call taker isn't necessarily local.

I'm sure that's true, but it's not necessarily ideal (though natural enough under the constraints on the system). Still, the landmarks I was using are regionally famous and also easily visible on any map or satellite image. A call handler in Glasgow would probably still have heard of Edinburgh Castle.

> The post code is the easiest way for them to send an ambulance quickly because, like filling in your post-code online and a box of addresses coming up, the call taker can immediately click on the correct address and the nearest available ambulance will be seen by the dispatcher and will get dispatched.

I can totally see the value in the postcode for probably 99% of calls they receive. But I think call handlers should have the flexibility of mind or process to recognise that when the location being described is in the middle of a major river, postcode might no longer be the most appropriate tool!

In reply to captain paranoia:

> What are you on about? OSGB GRs can be read from any OS map, or mapping application, for any location. Globally, the same is true for a UTM GR.

I guess.  Perhaps you could lend me a suitably accurate map for the Klein Winterhoek area?  And one for my friend too.

Post edited at 09:16
In reply to Dave Garnett:

If you don't have any mapping, no position reference is going to help you; they will give you equivalently accurate position fixes, but will not be related to ground features. I don't see how W3W improves things over, say, UTM, in this case.

Post edited at 12:40

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