why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

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Brucey
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why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby Brucey » 24 Aug 2020, 12:14am

there is an ad running on TV which aims to extol the virtue of the 'what three words' (wtw) app. In which a lost kayaker, in trouble, uses the app to indicate his position (somewhere on the north shore of loch Ericht) to the rescue services and claims that 'it saved his life'.

At first it sounds plausible but when you scratch the surface it doesn't really make any sense. In order to get the relevant three words, your smartphone needs to know the GPS coordinates, which the rescue services will understand perfectly, so why not just transmit those instead? If you use wtw and get the words even slightly wrong (or they ae misunderstood in voice communication), it makes a massive difference to the position; for example using plural instead of singular for one of the words, a chum of mine found that the location moved from the home counties to somewhere in Siberia.

Wtw is meant to be world-wide, but this is surely of little use to non-(native) English speakers?

If transmitting written information, I'd vote for transmitting the GPS co-ordinates.

If using voice communication, I don't think wtw offers any advantage over GPS either; the people that developed this system presumably didn't understand that random words are inherently less intelligible than normal words in a sentence; context and the sentence structure means that there are only so many good possibilities for the following words in a normal sentence. If verbally transmitting numbers for GPS co-ordinates, there are only ten possibilities for each digit, so it is not a hard thing to understand even if the line is bad.

So the whole thing seems pointless to me....

Or am I missing something here?

cheers
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geomannie
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Re: why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby geomannie » 24 Aug 2020, 7:18am

You are possibly missing something. Personally I am not wholly sold on wtw but my understanding is that is was initially set up as a means of locating and commutating addresses across the world, bearing in mind that many dwellings do not have formal street addresses. Think of a Nairobi unplanned development (slum). Three words are arguably a far easier way to verbally communicate an accurate location than a string of numbers.

If, however you are electrically communicating a location, it matters not a jot the format, as long as it's accurate. I do believe that there are other language forms of wtw https://www.google.com/search?q=what+th ... irefox-b-m

I suppose my biggest concern is who owns the database. Consider postcodes in the UK. As an amateur GIS user, I get very irritated that I have to pay a license to get access to the most detailed postcode data. No doubt the wtw database will be heavily tied up in licencing and the owners (who?) will be desperately trying to licence this to any groups that needs to use detailed location services.
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simonineaston
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Re: why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby simonineaston » 24 Aug 2020, 7:51am

w3w is in use with some UK rescue services, at least unofficially. The system is not open source... make of that what you will
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simonhill
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Re: why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby simonhill » 24 Aug 2020, 8:08am

Why gps coordinates Brucey? What's with all that new fangle stuff? How do i find that, help!

Many are more familiar with OS grid ref or lat and long.

What 3 words is meant to be simpler than long numeric or mixed alpha numeric coordinates. I think that's the rationale for Jo public using it. All done via an app.

More of a question is will ALL the emergency services use it. I've tried grid ref to breakdown services and just got a blank. They wanted a verbal description of location.

slowster
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Re: why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby slowster » 24 Aug 2020, 8:11am

From this BBC article:

Emergency services' computer systems - known as computer-aided dispatch (CAD) - usually lack the ability to accurately find 999 callers who are unsure of their location.

But work done on how to get GPS co-ordinates from mobile devices to the emergency service, produced the Advanced Mobile Location (AML) specification, which silently and automatically sends an SMS containing the GPS co-ordinates to the emergency authority. It is available on both Apple and Android handsets.

The problem arises in integrating AML with the CAD, which is difficult, and that's why the emergency services are looking for alternatives.

Whilst that integration might be 'difficult' with the current computer-aided dispatch systems and software, presumably the functionality will be incorporated in the next generation equipment and software. For emergency services use I suspect What Three Words will have a relatively short shelf life before it is no longer needed.

DaveReading
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Re: why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby DaveReading » 24 Aug 2020, 8:12am

geomannie wrote:As an amateur GIS user, I get very irritated that I have to pay a license to get access to the most detailed postcode data.

Geocoded postcodes are free to download, or am I missing something ?

Will
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Re: why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby Will » 24 Aug 2020, 8:31am

The What3Words system is being promoted as a method to be used to locate "amateurs" - i.e. people who don't have any real understanding of latitude and longitude, or how to find their location in that format using their smart phone.

The main problem with using digits (i.e. map coordinates of lat/long) is that it is really easy to get them wrong and still have a legitimate location. It also requires the user to have an understanding of how to find their current latitude and longitude on their phone. You can get your current lat\long from Google Maps, but you need to know how to do it. If you get the details wrong (but provide a legitimate location) then emergency services could be looking for you in the wrong place.

it makes a massive difference to the position; for example using plural instead of singular for one of the words, a chum of mine found that the location moved from the home counties to somewhere in Siberia.


What3Words is tolerant of mistakes and allows the operator to search close matches to find one that matches a location in the general area. The words used are not sequential, so no nearby locations are going to use similar 3 words, so the risk of an incorrect location being given is much reduced.

When you enter a location using the three words it gives you both the plural and the singular matches. The other matches will be so far away that you can tell instantly that they are not a match.

Example:

///cubes.reckons.month is a location south of the summit of Ben Macdui.

If you made a mistake and entered ///cube.reckons.month (cube instead of cubes), you would see the following

///cube.reckons.month - near Prudoe Bay, Alaska
///cubes.reckons.month - near Aviemore, Highland
///cube.reckon.month - near Bordeaux, Nouvelle-Aquitane

You are clearly not in Alaska or France, so the correct location is ///cubes.reckons.month.

The emergency services can send a text message to a person with a smart phone. The text message contains a link to the What3Words website. Clicking on the link will take you straight to the What3Words site and it will give you the 3 words of your current location - The user just has to repeat those three words to the operator.

I don't think it is all that difficult to create a search algorithm that can take the 3 words provided, and an area (say 10km x 10km) and find all close matches and similar words (cubs instead of cubes, moth instead of month, etc.) and then list out all the possible matches.

Will

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simonineaston
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Re: why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby simonineaston » 24 Aug 2020, 8:32am

So the whole thing seems pointless to me....
3 words in English that put you in a 3 metre square that you look up on a smart phone in an emergency. What's not to get?
The ambulance & cabs that failed to arrive when my chum fell down a bank and broke his wrist, would almost certainly have done so had w3w been in the mix.
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Mick F
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Re: why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby Mick F » 24 Aug 2020, 8:45am

There's a long and amusing thread about W3W somewhere. Can't seem to find it ......... which is a bit ironic. :lol:

I think W3W is a good idea, and it's easy to operate and easy to use.
People have difficulties with a string of numbers, most folk don't even know their own phone number.



Edit:
Found it.
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=132191&hilit=what+three+words
Mick F. Cornwall

flat tyre
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Re: why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby flat tyre » 24 Aug 2020, 8:52am

Someone has had the bright idea of commercialising something that is free I.e. latitude and longitude, so if we all start using w3w instead they will become the next Facebook, Google etc.

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Mick F
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Re: why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby Mick F » 24 Aug 2020, 9:02am

Same argument from me as in the older thread that I linked.

It is free.
Downloaded for free.
Free to use.
Free to look up the three words.
Computer or mobile phone.

cars.motorway.bicycle random words I thought up.

https://what3words.com/cars.motorway.bicycle
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Mick F. Cornwall

Navara
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Re: why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby Navara » 24 Aug 2020, 9:17am

Brucey wrote:So the whole thing seems pointless to me....
Or am I missing something here?
cheers

I make a point of reading the local Mountain Rescue annual summary books that many self-catering properties supply along with guidebooks/maps etc.You'd be surprised just how many call outs they get to "we're somewhere up a mountain near Langdale" etc :x :roll:
I think W3W is initially aimed at those who rely on nothing but a smartphone and the fact that they know someone will come to get them if it all goes wrong.You know the type you see up a hill totally unprepared with inadequate clothing and no clue where they are.
Or the type who blindly follow a Satnav in their car but actually have absolutely no idea where they are in the network without the little box telling them.

For the rest of us it's a little bonus if we choose to add it to our knowledge base :)

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geomannie
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Re: why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby geomannie » 24 Aug 2020, 9:19am

DaveReading wrote:
geomannie wrote:As an amateur GIS user, I get very irritated that I have to pay a license to get access to the most detailed postcode data.

Geocoded postcodes are free to download, or am I missing something ?


Please tell me where. The best I can (have) find (found) for free are the postcode centroids at https://www.doogal.co.uk/ukpostcodes.php. The postcode polygons are licence only.
geomannie

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Re: why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby Labrat » 24 Aug 2020, 9:26am

simonineaston wrote:
So the whole thing seems pointless to me....
3 words in English that put you in a 3 metre square that you look up on a smart phone in an emergency. What's not to get?
The ambulance & cabs that failed to arrive when my chum fell down a bank and broke his wrist, would almost certainly have done so had w3w been in the mix.


I can do near as damn it the same with six numbers (half a phone number) that doesn’t rely on mobile phone batteries, works just as well for non English speakers and, even more importantly, is (and will remain) entirely free of charge for all Emergency services & government departments to operate in electric and paper formats - you can’t offer us that guarantee for W3W

Wht 3 words isa great idea for Outer Mongolia. In the UK it’s simply a profit making scam

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simonineaston
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Re: why the 'what three words' TV ad is so annoying?

Postby simonineaston » 24 Aug 2020, 9:43am

with six numbers
Which 6 numbers is that then? Try explaining those 6 numbers to a cold, wet, frightened, shocked, non-numerate teenager / pensioner. And how big's the search area resulting in sharing them? Completely get your point about potential cost of a licensable system, but let's not chuck the baby out with the bath-water at this early stage...
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