[LINK] Google's 'Plus Codes' for Locations

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Wed Apr 4 10:14:42 AEST 2018

[Below is an article on Google's 'Plus Codes' scheme for locations:

[As seems to be the norm these days, the documentation is wafer-thin,
and there's no indication of the extent to which it's purely
proprietary, proprietary based on international standards, or is being
proposed as an alternative open international standard.

[The article does say that "Google has open-sourced the underlying
technology", but that begs the question of the spec for the code itself,
and how it differs from, and maps to, the many different geographic/lat-long and cadastral representations.

[Given that the pages refer only to an app, it appears it may be
targeted solely at handhelds (plus of course near-future desktops and
laptops reduced to appliances).  Codes can, however, be discovered on a
desktop or laptop from https://plus.codes/map/ ]

Why Google wants to change your address
New system pinpoints any location on earth with 11 characters.
David Braue
Information Age
Apr 03 2018 11:36 AM

If you live in an urban area, you probably take the use of addresses for
granted: odd numbers on one side, evens on the other, unit numbers where

But in rural spaces and less well-demarcated urban areas, vague or
inaccurate addresses can be a major problem - which is why Google is
hoping a new addressing system will become a ubiquitous online index to
the physical world.

Google's Plus Codes system foregoes conventional street-based addresses
and breaks the world's surface into a grid, on which locations can be
described using a short sequence of alphanumeric codes.

Under the new system, locations are described using a four-character
local code, the + symbol, and one or more additional characters
depending on the level of accuracy required. A Plus Code exists within
the confines of a particular city, which can be described using its name
or using an additional four-character area code.

For example, Google's interactive Plus Codes mapping site reveals that
the code for Parliament House within the Canberra region area code
(4RPF) is M4RF+PQ. However, zooming in for a higher-accuracy reading
allows an address to pinpoint, for example, the Parliamentary Library at
M4RF+F9M, or the Parliament Shop at M4VG+239.

Area codes define a 100km2 region, while six-character codes are
accurate to 14m2 and the optional eleventh character increases accuracy
to 3m2.

Google has already rolled out the identifier within Google Maps and
Google Search, where typing "M4VG+239, Canberra" will bring you straight
back to the Parliament Shop. You can also prepend Canberra's area code
(4RPF) to provide a complete, standalone Plus Code address - 4RPFM4VG
+239 - that will be mapped back to conventional street addresses and
longitude/latitude coordinates. Addresses can also be embedded within
URLs, as with https://plus.codes/4RPFM4VG+239.

Because the system uses a consistent global grid, nearby locations have
similar codes. It also operates independently of political boundaries,
avoiding complexities and regional idiosyncrasies in addressing schemes.

Saving lives, and finding them

It may seem redundant in countries that are well accustomed to
established street address systems, but residents of many countries have
no such luxury.

Google has pointed to the lack of consistent addressing in high-density
slums, for example, as a built-in use case for Plus Codes. They could be
used to provide a sense of place for refugees in teeming camps; to guide
people in crowded Indian cities where just 30 percent of addresses
reference a specific location; or in smartphone apps that would allow
lost hikers to convey their exact location to rescue services.

Emergency services responders regularly struggle with inconsistent
street numbering systems or vague locations that waste critical minutes
as ambulances cruise streets. One recent Queensland University of
Technology study of address accuracy noted that such delays have been
blamed for seven deaths in Queensland alone, and regularly result in
everything from "minor inconveniences to avoidable fatal tragedies".

Inaccurate address information raises commercial issues as well. For
example, errors and inconsistencies in Australia's centralised G-NAF
(Geodetic National Address File), which is used as a baseline by all
manner of geospatial services, caused major slowdowns and promulgated
errors in the early planning and rollout of the National Broadband
Network (NBN).

The system could also help improve the accuracy of conventional package
and mail delivery - which struggles with the free-form nature of
conventional addresses - by reducing every point on earth down to a
fixed-length series of characters.

Such addresses could be easily and consistently stored in
package-tracking systems, and used to avoid ambiguities around addresses
that are missing, inaccurate, obsolete, or use non-standard numbering
systems. This could reduce the cost of package handling, redeliveries,
customer complaint handling, and other side-effects of misdeliveries.

Plus Codes aren't the only system to try applying an alphanumeric code
to real-world addressing - regional efforts like India's eLoc and Zippr,
among others, have developed their own schemes - but Google's heft could
help its system stand out. In November, for example, it was adopted as a
digital-addressing standard by the government of Ghana as it works to
formalise its economy.

To promote real-world applications for Plus Codes, Google has
open-sourced the underlying technology and does not charge any costs for
use of the codes.

More information can be found here, or use Google's Plus Codes map to
find out your own Plus Code address.
Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 2 6288 6916                        http://about.me/roger.clarke
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/ 

Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Law            University of N.S.W.
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

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