Author Topic: Is the What3words App any good?  (Read 2022 times)

Offline ZombieCake

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Is the What3words App any good?
« on: August 21, 2019, 12:16:16 am »
There's been a bit of publicity about this recently e.g. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-49319760
Essentially they've divided the world in to 10' x 10' squares each with a unique 3 word location code.
Plod is recommending it and many forces are adopting.  Seems other areas are a bit patchy, for example if you live in Mongolia or drive  new Merc  the software says it will find where you are.  If you use TomTom then there is no chance at all despite 'promises'.
Does it actually work or is it really ponzi scheme vapour ware?

Offline mikem

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2019, 06:27:53 am »
It works if you have the app.

Offline SamT

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2019, 08:48:31 am »
might well have saved this guys life??

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-49393668

""Help me, I see the sea but I don't know where I am," he told authorities."

Offline 2xw

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2019, 08:52:24 am »
Pros:
- Can be used by thick people
- Easy to use on bad radio connection versus latlong
-  Is free

Cons
- Is not open source
- Cannot be used to measure distance
- Requires charged cell phone

Offline Alex

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2019, 08:57:27 am »
Quote
Essentially they've divided the world in to 10' x 10' squares each with a unique 3 word location code.

I believe it's 3x3m squares.

Essentially the authorities are starting to use them now and I have been on a couple of shouts where what 3 words has been used as the location (along with a grid reference). However, the biggest problem with what three words is, is there is no way of knowing if you are approaching the location like there is with 10 fig grid references, this was noticed at a recent nav practice. Each square on W3W has no relation whatsoever to it's neighbour. So what I personally do is put W3W words into Viewranger to give me the grid location and then use that to navigate. This is also because view ranger has OS maps loaded and the W3W app don't. So really it means I spend longer with nav faff.

The other issue is W3W is no good if your phone battery has died, can't plot it onto a physical OS map.

So not convinced myself, but I think it has its uses such as out at sea.
Anything I say is represents my own opinion and not that of a any club/organisation that I am a member of (unless its good of course)

Offline mikem

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2019, 09:18:05 am »
3m = 9.84ft (c.10)

& the biggest problem with grid refs was that people couldn't be relied on to give them correctly, so you might end up miles from where required...

Mainly aimed at people who don't know where they are in towns. However, smart phones can now locate you without needing What3Words.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2019, 09:26:59 am by mikem »

Offline yrammy

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2019, 09:32:21 am »
There is a possible new cave near Bath? deep.cave.exit    :clap2:

Offline SamT

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2019, 10:02:21 am »
Tried a few derbyshire cave entrances..... bit disappointing .. was hoping for "dirty squalid hole" or some such.

Online grahams

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2019, 11:25:54 am »
Pros:
- Can be used by thick people


It's of use to anyone who could get lost in Hamsterley Forest with its signposted mountain bike single tracks and myriad signposted walking routes, not to mention the fire roads and tarmac which run into the centre of an area that's a mere 5 x 3 miles. The rest of us can use basic navigation skills.
Sceptics wanted!

Offline Cave_Troll

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2019, 04:00:14 pm »
not mentioned on the advert on BBC (news reports) was the delay of 20 mins while the police got the people to download the W3W app over a slow data connection

"what three words will save your life" ? Cardio pulmonary Resuscitation

like many "good ideas" they gain traction by convincing you that you can't do something without them.
bit like making a payment online without having a paypal account

the same problems of "did you say MN 123 456, or MM 123 456" will still be there with
"did you say chimp.just.pots or chimp.just.lots or chimp.just.pops ?"  (Kirlees, Barnsley, Rotherham)

Offline glyders

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2019, 04:51:16 pm »
This again! It's been around years and failed. Now they've convinced some urban emergency services to push it for them in favour of superior and non-profit alternatives. Scottish Mountain Rescue's statement pretty much says it all: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2339541036083375&id=337733089597523
I've also read recent accounts of people trying to use it because they'd seen all the publicity but been met by a very confused operator because they weren't in one of the areas that's adopted it.

Offline TheBitterEnd

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2019, 08:50:48 pm »
We discussed this a few years ago  ;D

https://ukcaving.com/board/index.php?topic=15431.0
'Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.' — Mark Twain

Offline Alex

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2019, 01:04:37 pm »
Quote
https://ukcaving.com/board/index.php?topic=15431.0

Wow time flies, and I still have not been to Lost.Caving.Gear to get my gear back, well it's probably on fire now anyway.
Anything I say is represents my own opinion and not that of a any club/organisation that I am a member of (unless its good of course)

Offline tom1

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2019, 07:26:48 pm »
Hello, a Geographer here! I've had a few interesting debates with colleagues over the years about this organization's product.

I'm not a fan - I don't see why latitude/longitude given in decimal degrees using WGS84 is so different. It's built into pretty much every consumer/professional GPS receiver, mobile phone operating system and popular mapping websites, and often marked on maps. It is internationally recognised and already standard in aviation and maritime services. The only drawback is that the relatively long series of digits is prone to transcription errors, particularly over poorly readable telephony links. For safety-of-life applications, emergency service operators and SAR teams already have solutions to this problem, include text messaging and the SARLOC app.

It certainly could have advantages in countries without adequate addressing systems, and I can see how developing postal services may wish to use this instead of postal codes, although the system isn't nested or hierarchical like, for example, the UK postal code system, so its use for sorting or other statutory functions (e.g. census) is limited.

Offline aardgoose

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2019, 08:57:15 pm »
Some interesting points raised here. 

https://shkspr.mobi/blog/2019/03/why-bother-with-what-three-words/

Specifically language variants, earthquakes aren't really a UK problem.


Offline Inferus

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #15 on: August 22, 2019, 10:21:56 pm »
Didn't like it the first time it got an airing. Still don't like the concept.

Not.for.me. (God knows if that's an actual location or not)
Awkward, grumpy sod.

Offline SamT

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #16 on: August 23, 2019, 08:51:35 am »
I think the point that some people are missing is the fact that a lot (most?) people would only understand half the words in the following sentence

"I don't see why latitude/longitude given in decimal degrees using WGS84 is so different. It's built into pretty much every consumer/professional GPS receiver, mobile phone operating system and popular mapping websites, and often marked on maps. It is internationally recognised and already standard in aviation and maritime services. The only drawback is that the relatively long series of digits is prone to transcription errors, particularly over poorly readable telephony links. For safety-of-life applications, emergency service operators and SAR teams already have solutions to this problem, include text messaging and the SARLOC app."

Most people read "wha wha wa wha wa wha wa wa wa waaa wha wha"

My dad is 82, quite a good geographer, but he cant tell one end of his smart phone from the other, he can just about turn it on.  I think the concept behind the app is to cater for this strata of society, who wouldn't know what "latitude/longitude given in decimal degrees using WGS84" was if it ran up and whacked them over the head with a signpost.

He'd struggle to navigate to the app (ha!) on his phone but would probably stand more chance than digging out the lat/long etc from the settings on the phone.



Offline Cave_Troll

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #17 on: August 23, 2019, 10:09:02 am »
but i'm sure he'd cope with the OSLocate app which simply gives you a Grid ref.
then you can show him how that can be plotted on a map

Offline SamT

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #18 on: August 23, 2019, 10:33:05 am »
Agreed.  He'd be find with a paper OS map no bother (geography lecturer!!), its working his phone that is the issue!

But is OSlocate global, or just UK specific.  (not actually looked at the app)

Offline Bob Mehew

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #19 on: August 23, 2019, 11:09:12 am »
A positive for SARLOC is that it tells the rescuers where you are.  But it does rely upon a charged phone with signal and as has been pointed out elsewhere, an ability for the rescuers to communicate back to the lost soul.  The only reliable means of saying I am lost (on the surface) is a Personal Locator Beacon, see http://www.mountainsafety.co.uk/EP-PLB.aspx for example.  I vaguely recall that modern versions have two way coms to indicate message received and some one is coming out to you.

Offline Cave_Troll

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #20 on: August 23, 2019, 03:33:55 pm »
OS locate gives you UK Grid or Lat / long
next verison with also aparently have W£W

If you have a compass on your phone it will simulate a silva compass, use the camera to make the phone see through and allow you to swivel the bezel to set a bearing.

Offline snoboy

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #21 on: August 23, 2019, 07:30:49 pm »
If the person has a phone and service, you can use this to get their location:

https://bluetoque.ca/products/yourlo-cation/

You just send them a text, they visit the link embedded, and you get their location. It prompts them to turn on the phone's GPS if needed. No transcription errors, no app install required.

Online Jenny P

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #22 on: August 25, 2019, 01:05:05 am »
I can recall a situation where what3words would have been immensely helpful if the Ambulance Service had been using it in the Peak District.

We had a very serious medical emergency at our Club Cottage in the Peak District.  The Cottage is reached by a half-mile track directly from a main road but it can't be seen from the road and we are one of 4 isolated buildings in the area which share the same post code but are reached by lengthy tracks from 3 different roads.  The Ambulance Service insisted that they required a post code, although we explained why it would not help them; we described the location of the entrance to the track from the main road and gave them the correct grid reference for this point.  They insisted that they did not use grid references, only post codes.  There was a 2-hour delay before they finally reached us, even though we had sent someone up to the main road to flag down the ambulance when it came.  If they had been using what3words we could have given the location of the track entrance and of the Club Cottage and the Ambulance might have reached us that much quicker.

We have since checked and find that the local Ambulance Services do not use it, although the Police are considering it at present.  It doesn't require us to have the app on a mobile phone, as long as we can quote the location to emergency services if needed and they are using it.

Offline mrodoc

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #23 on: August 25, 2019, 11:55:32 am »
A certain amount of ageism and intellectual snobbery seems to have crept into this thread. We are leaving in an era of accelerated developments in technology and this is leaving many people behind who are not necessarily unintelligent. It cuts both ways. I was recently asked for GPS positions of caves I had visited in Morocco nearly 40 years ago. I had to point out that the system was only a glimmer in a techie's eye at the time!

Online Topimo

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Re: Is the What3words App any good?
« Reply #24 on: August 25, 2019, 07:19:53 pm »
A certain amount of ageism and intellectual snobbery seems to have crept into this thread. We are leaving in an era of accelerated developments in technology and this is leaving many people behind who are not necessarily unintelligent. It cuts both ways. I was recently asked for GPS positions of caves I had visited in Morocco nearly 40 years ago. I had to point out that the system was only a glimmer in a techie's eye at the time!

While the GPS hardware in space may be of modern creation, the concept of a latitude and longitude has been in development and understood for quite some time with the Phoenicians and Polynesians using "old timey" heavenly bodies aka stars to determine global position/lat-long.

GPS is just a refinement that automates this, improves accuracy, and adds altitude relative to some mean spherical interpretation of the earth surface.

GPS is just what3numbers, lat/long/alt...