Camden What3words
What3words provides a more precise way to talk about location, by assigning a unique three-word address

Tag every object in UK, says Geospatial Commission

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Nicola Byrne

The government’s dedicated agency for geographic information systems has recommended that every building, waterway and road should have a unique identifier or code to help deliver better data sharing.

Linked Identifiers Best Practice Guide GeospatialThe best practice guide was produced to encourage the joining together of data on the UK’s infrastructure and natural features, to enable organisations looking to access information which is typically spread across different datasets. Examples of this include managing a road network, responding to an emergency or buying a house.

Thalia Baldwin, director of the Geospatial Commission, said the guide is part of the Geospatial Commission’s £5m investment into its partner bodies to “make the data held by them more easily discoverable, simplifying their licensing landscapes and identifying ways of linking data from different agencies.”

Simon Hart, minister for implementation, said: “This guide makes gathering together different pieces of information relating to one place or object easier and quicker.

“Organisations that follow the guidance will really help to start unlocking the value of this data for the benefit of users, innovators, businesses, and ultimately the wider UK economy.”

The Geospatial Commission sees these recommendations as ways to help save time and money for organisations working with datasets.

London-based what3words is already trying to do something similar. Founded in 2013, the company provides a more precise way to talk about location, by dividing the world into a grid of 3m by 3m squares and assigning each one a unique three-word address.

It differs from most other geocoding systems by displaying the three words rather than long strings of numbers or letters.

What3words’ vision is to become a global standard for communicating location. People can use the app to find tents at festivals, direct emergency services to the right place and more.

In October, Transport for London introduced what3words to help compliance policing and on-street operations officers, CPOs, identify precise locations during their everyday operations.

From reporting issues like potholes, failed traffic lights or broken-down buses to being deployed to their locations, having a way to communicate location accurately is an important part of conducting their roles efficiently and safely, according to TfL.

Rikesh Shah, TfL’s head of commercial innovation, said: “Innovation is central to everything we do at TfL and we work closely with a wide range of innovative companies such as what3words to help keep London moving. Using what3words to quickly and accurately report issues such as potholes and broken traffic lights will make a real difference to our officers’ vital work in keeping our transport network safe for everyone.”

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