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Thread: What3words

  1. #1
    Yes, I've got the T-shirt Sparkgap's Avatar
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    What3words

    I came across this app a while ago but this weekend I actually had a practical application demonstrated.
    Yesterday I was running comms at a checkpoint for the Exmoor Stagger, a 16 mile run including an ascent of Dunkery Beacon, the highest point in Somerset. We also had a local scout group handing out water and refreshments to the runners as they passed. About two hours in we had a message from the next checkpoint that a runner had fallen and was injured somewhere between the two points and required first aid. Not knowing the exact location we were not sure which checkpoint to send the ambulance to however as they were only a couple of km away I radioed them to come to mine. In the meantime two of the leaders set off down the path with a first aid kit to locate the casualty.
    When the ambulance (Landrover 4x4) arrived one of the paramedics set off down the path with their emergency kit while the other waited for a more definite location. Shortly afterwards we got a phone call from one of the leaders using the what3words app https://what3words.com/ which confirmed their location as about 800m from the CP and that the person would need to be stretchered out. The ambulance driver set off down the track (he later said it was a bit challenging to his suspension!) and about 40 minutes later they arrived back with the casualty and transferred him to the NHS ambulance which took him to hospital.
    Talking with the crew later they said that all emergency services were using or would soon be using the what3words app as apparently they can navigate straight to where they are needed rather than rely on inaccurate postcode or NGR data (having had an ambulance turn up to an incident on summer camp 400m from where they were needed I know what they mean).

    I would recommend if you haven't already done so, you look into this app with your sections as it could save lives.
    Andy
    SL 1st Wellington
    www.wellingtonscouts.org

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    Senior Member Shaun's Avatar
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    I was thinking of running a game, where I send them out to a Grid Reference, they collect the Three Words.

    Once they come back they then have to write a story, this time of year a Halloween theme.

    But only two of the scouts have a mobile phone, so would be a bit restricted in numbers who can play.


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    Shaun

    SL
    Hanging Heaton Scout Group

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    I looked at this a while ago. For games and general navigation, it's a great idea. But I thought for serious navigation, it was a bit faddy. You can already share map locations via Google Maps. Although i don't know for sure with what3words - I don't think either will work with patchy signal, so really, you'd be back to paper maps and grid references in that eventuality.

    What it does do (if you can persuade Scouts to install it on their phones), is provide a decent activity.

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    Assistant Beaver Leader Keith's Avatar
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    It's a great app and all our local emergency services are using it and publicising it to raise awareness of how useful it is.

    For those who don't know what it is, it devides the map up into 3mx3m squares and gives each one a unique name. You simply give those three words and whoever you've given them to will be able to go on the app and then accurately locate you.
    Keith "Hawkeye"
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    This is a commercial company attempting to monetise something that already exists in the public domain for free. Their product is a closed proprietary product protected by intellectual property law, trade marks, copyright etc. While individuals may be able to use their product for free, the company charges larger users, which is presumably all part of their business model.

    They have an aggressive PR and marketing campaign that is trying to drive adoption of their product for their financial gain by seeding social media and the press with 'it saved my life' stories.

    There are a number of other issues with their product e.g. it is language specific (currently 36 languages).

    In the UK Ordnance Survey's OS Locate app achieves the same result for free and fits better with Scouting teaching navigation skills.

    https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/shop/os-locate

    There are a growing number of articles raising concerns over this product e.g.:

    Why bother with What Three Words?
    https://shkspr.mobi/blog/2019/03/why...t-three-words/

    What3Words app slows us down, say mountain rescue crews
    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/w...rews-c25fgh3h2

    CONCERNS OVER ‘MUST-DOWNLOAD’ MOUNTAIN APP WHAT3WORDS
    https://www.tgomagazine.co.uk/news/c...pp-what3words/

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    I use a simple app, that gives Two letters, and two three digit ( or four digit) numbers its a bit basic, theres no flashy PR behinfd it, the only downside is that its UK specific: https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...et.blerg&gl=GB

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    GSL & AESL shiftypete's Avatar
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    I don't understand is there something wrong with grid references? There are plenty of apps which will give you a UK grid reference from where you are including a free official OS one and I know Mountain Rescue teams for one have stated this is their preferred location information.

    With a grid reference you can use a map to see where your casulty is and work out a route to get to them if needed.

    Peter Andrews ESL of Headingley Pirates ESU, Group Scout Leader & Webmaster of Falkoner Scout Group
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    Please note all views expressed are my own and not those of any organisation I'm associated with

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    Senior Member big chris's Avatar
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    Remembering 6 numbers, under stress can be difficult. Remembering three words is obviously easier.

    sardines spires waltzed. My scout hut entrance.

    Ask a user to go to w3w.co and they will have an location for the emergency services in seconds.

    Sarloc is also rather brilliant for emergency services

    Sent from my ONEPLUS A5010 using Tapatalk

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    Isn't it horses for courses? If you understand map references and live in a country that has a map reference system then map references are excellent. If you live in the two thirds of the world that doesn't have a map reference system, or the half of Africa where houses don't have addresses, then you need something else. Other systems have been launched in some places but what3words scores for being easy and accurate.

    I've got the OS Locate app on my phone. It tells me with great accuracy what 100m square I'm in. What3words lets me tell somebody else to the same accuracy (presently +/-10m) where I am. Which could be useful, maybe even life-saving. When you're thinking about "serious navigation" how much more serious do you want it to be?

    (One obvious question, of course, is why is OS Locate deliberately limited to 6 figure references?)
    John Russell
    ex-CSL now ACSL 1st Pinhoe Exeter Devon
    Cubs don't care how much you know, but they need to know how much you care.

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    The problem with any app is pretty obvious. (It relies on good signal and batteries and others knowing what you're on about).

    After having thought about it, giving three words is going to be a lot simpler than a six figure GR or lat/long. However, if you've got signal, it's just as easy to share your location. (There are emergency apps that do that and that only).

    The problem is, when people outsource common sense and old fashioned knowledge to an app, which might not work. I can see why Mountain Rescue get miffed. If you're going to be out and about, it's better to have a clue than have an app.

    Flogging it as an emergency rescue tool is probably a bit not ideal.

    So to speak.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnR View Post

    (One obvious question, of course, is why is OS Locate deliberately limited to 6 figure references?)
    Its worth noting, phone GPS can be a wee bit iffy in places. It could be misleading if W3W is having to extrapolate. Sometimes the hardware simply won't be able to pinpoint with that level of accuracy.

    I don't know why OS only goes to 6 figs, but it may be to do with that, and efforts to indemnify themselves.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    Its worth noting, phone GPS can be a wee bit iffy in places. It could be misleading if W3W is having to extrapolate. Sometimes the hardware simply won't be able to pinpoint with that level of accuracy.
    Every time I use GPS on my phone the phone suggests I turn on wifi to 'improve accuracy'. Tosh! I had wifi on when I was working away once: the GPS responded quickly and told me I was 400km away from where I was. The wifi at the powerstation I was at was connected to the public network over a communication link on the HC transmission line to a substation 400km away, and the GPS insisted I was there. I turned off wifi, the GPS took longer to find me, but at least found me in the right place. Is that why you find phone GPS a wee bit iffy, maybe? Like all GPS I find the phone is accurate if you have a clear view of the sky and stand still for a little while. But turn off wifi first.
    John Russell
    ex-CSL now ACSL 1st Pinhoe Exeter Devon
    Cubs don't care how much you know, but they need to know how much you care.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnR View Post
    Every time I use GPS on my phone the phone suggests I turn on wifi to 'improve accuracy'. Tosh! I had wifi on when I was working away once: the GPS responded quickly and told me I was 400km away from where I was. The wifi at the powerstation I was at was connected to the public network over a communication link on the HC transmission line to a substation 400km away, and the GPS insisted I was there. I turned off wifi, the GPS took longer to find me, but at least found me in the right place. Is that why you find phone GPS a wee bit iffy, maybe? Like all GPS I find the phone is accurate if you have a clear view of the sky and stand still for a little while. But turn off wifi first.
    There are all sorts of variables, not just signal strength. Software will be one, bandwidth will be another.

    The wifi will just augment how the software presents where you are - Google Maps minus WiFi (or 4G) will show you on a blank map, there will be no context. But there are also designed-in limitations on some systems. There is also the time it takes to centre itself. I don't know how W3W works exactly, how it refreshes for example. You could be giving your three words and it could be total mince - same goes if you share your location via Google Maps.

    Which is why it's probably a better idea to not rely solely on apps. In built up areas with reliable signal, it'll probably work well enough. But up some windy glen... Hmmm.

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    I'm a bit baffled as well. Grid references work whether there's signal or not - you can use a paper map or OS Locate, your choice. What3words only works for as long as your battery lasts out.
    SL, 11th Hitchin

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    Quote Originally Posted by DKRSL View Post
    I'm a bit baffled as well. Grid references work whether there's signal or not - you can use a paper map or OS Locate, your choice. What3words only works for as long as your battery lasts out.
    We've used What3Words with kids for various activities - including wide games! Great fun.

    The big plus point of w3w compared to a grid reference is that it directs you to a 3m x 3m square. A six figure grid reference will take you to a 100m x 100m grid.

    Where i'm sat right now, i can see everything within 3m of me - indeed i can see up to about 20m from me. But beyond that is hidden by hedges, trees, and the summit of a hill.

    Yes its possible to get more accurate, but only really by using GPS data or a very high resolution map.

    The real key to W3W is calling the emergency services to relatively remote locations - as its easy to provide a simple easy to remember plaque at that location. So for example remote farms on scottish islands, or even a plaque on each style along a long distance footpath.

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    Quote Originally Posted by campwarden View Post
    We've used What3Words with kids for various activities - including wide games! Great fun.

    The big plus point of w3w compared to a grid reference is that it directs you to a 3m x 3m square. A six figure grid reference will take you to a 100m x 100m grid.

    Where i'm sat right now, i can see everything within 3m of me - indeed i can see up to about 20m from me. But beyond that is hidden by hedges, trees, and the summit of a hill.

    Yes its possible to get more accurate, but only really by using GPS data or a very high resolution map.

    The real key to W3W is calling the emergency services to relatively remote locations - as its easy to provide a simple easy to remember plaque at that location. So for example remote farms on scottish islands, or even a plaque on each style along a long distance footpath.
    Thing is though, in relatively remote locations, you're probably not going to be able to access the app.

    If you're going to be out and about in any meaningful sense. When the emergency services do eventually find you, and you say you couldn't access the W3W app to get the three words for where you were.

    It's in interesting tool to have, but I wouldn't tell my Scouts to rely on it.

    We're off out again this weekend. I know where we're going has no mobile phone signal. GPS will work, but the phone (presumably) won't be able to contact W3W's servers to get the three words for where we're going to be - or D/L any maps.

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