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Small Cabin Forum / Off Topic / what3words, an app for location ID
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# Posted: 19 May 2023 00:13

I learned something interesting and potentially very useful today. I was at an emergency services meeting. We all know that GPS coordinates are great for nailing down a location precisely. However, sometimes numbers get mangled in reciting over a phone call. People inadvertently switch two digits, or there is confusion with decimal degrees and degrees-minutes-seconds. Etc.

There is an app that can locate any 3 meter square plot anywhere in the world with three words. It is "what3words", available for ios and android. Webpage at for a fuller explanation.

The local emergency services SAR used it today to zero in on the location of a solo hiker who broke a leg in a fall.

# Posted: 19 May 2023 08:28

Interesting idea that could definitely help in emergency situations.....

There are also different horizontal datums that can further complicate the situation with lat/long....

# Posted: 19 May 2023 09:46

Our local Emergency Services have been promoting this for a few years. At one point we had the kids memorize a three word address for the house so if they could not remember the address (scared/stressed) they only needed the three words. Because each combo only covers about 3 m, it was easy to move around and find three easy to remember words. Had them posted at the telephones.
I have an app on my running watch. I know if I go down on a trail I could figure out my lat/lon but easier to communicate just three words.

# Posted: 20 May 2023 16:43

It’s a brilliant idea.

I’ve had the app on all our phones for a number of years. (I can’t see any downside to having it at the ready.)

# Posted: 1 Jun 2023 07:24

Being a GIS and math geek myself, I love the idea. That said, they don't exactly play well with others (see, to the extent that the open source GIS community (QGIS, GDAL, etc) is a bit loathe to adopt wholeheartedly.

I respect the principle that inventors should be able to protect what they've invited and profit from it. But the combination of a private company without clear business model, proprietary algorithms, aggressive IP pursuit (not just protecting their IP but stifling free speech about to what extent is it protectable), makes me more keen to be an observer waiting for the next-generation idea it spurs than an all-in adopter.

I might feel differently if my location was harder to pinpoint. As it happens, being in Ontario, my disreputable driveway entry has a street address anyway. And on my land, cell reception is iffy for voice but SMS and data are more likely go get through, so if I need help back yonder I'm just as fine sending GPS coordinates or similar.

# Posted: 1 Jun 2023 10:08

I've noticed the GIS system used by our municipality displays those three-word phrases as you navigate around the map. I never thought about the safety/emergency response aspect of things. Three words would certainly be easier to remember or dictate than a long string of digits.

# Posted: 16 Jul 2024 07:31 - Edited by: davidmmke7

It's such a crucial topic these days, especially with all the online transactions and security concerns floating around. I've had my fair share of experiences with different services, and let me tell you, finding the right one can be a game-changer.

Personally, I've found that a good identity validation service not only secures your online accounts but also gives you peace of mind. It's like having a digital bouncer at the door of your personal info! But hey, I'm curious about your experiences. What services have you all used, and what do you look for when choosing one? I'm all ears (or eyes, in this case)!

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