Location, location, location



We were having the best time at the Farnborough Airshow. The kids were running around excitedly looking at all the planes, helicopters and every other flying machine imaginable when my father started to feel unwell. Given his age, we weren’t sure how serious it was.

Farnborough airport

I hurried to find a steward who immediately contacted the Operations Centre to request help. He asked me to describe where we were. The best I could do was “We are just to the left of the white plane, the one with blue pattern on its tail. I’m not sure if that is our left or not. Actually, there are three white planes; we are the second from the left. Our left.”

Thankfully this didn’t happen and my father remains in good health but imagine if this was the description that your safety or health depended upon, just because you had been taken ill at an event where there was no better way of telling staff or the emergency services where you were.

Receiving help during the golden hour – the first sixty minutes after a serious injury – is considered critical, if the outcome of a traumatic event is to be successful. Any delay could have potentially fatal consequences.

Finding anyone in a place that has no obvious addressing information such as street names, and that is packed full of people, presents huge challenges not only to the emergency services but for more routine activities as well, such as equipment delivery or site cleaning. The description above really isn’t that unusual but how else could you easily describe where you are instead of a complex series of letters and numbers that make up GPS coordinates?

w3w logoWell, an innovative new solution from the UK is now on hand. Earth-i has teamed up with a company in North West London – or index.home.raft as they prefer to describe the location of their offices – that has created a system that allows anyone to provide a three-word name for their location, anywhere in the world and be accurate to within three metres. Working together – the company – called what3words, and Earth-i have developed the solution to the problem described at the start of this blog.

what3words has covered the surface of the planet with a virtual grid of 3m x 3m squares and given each square a unique, randomly-generated three-word name. So now instead of having to recite  long Latitude/Longitude coordinates, with obvious opportunities for errors to creep in, or provide hopelessly inaccurate descriptions, such as the one we started with, with what3words it is a simple matter of calmly saying; “we are at parks.mugs.frame” – which happens to be halfway along the Farnborough Airport runway!w3w

But that only solves half the problem; to be fully integrated with the needs of all the different teams within the Operations Centre, the grid needs to be matched up with what’s actually on-site. That’s where the team here at Earth-i stepped in. Their data experts collected detailed aerial imagery of the entire airport and created a very high resolution image of the entire site onto which the what3words grid was integrated.

The imagery Earth-i created allowed airshow staff using the what3words technology to be sure of their location in relation to their local surroundings and be able to communicate that position using the simple to remember three-word name back to the Operations Centre. The Operations team at the airshow were delighted with their new capability and keen to expand on it for future events as the most effective way to deliver services and support to show exhibitors, visitors and the emergency services.

Often people take their location for granted until they have to describe it to someone else in a stressful situation. The combination of the what3words innovative technology and the expertise of the staff at Earth-i in collecting and processing very high resolution imagery of any location on the planet, means that now anyone can provide that crucial information quickly and easily to the people who need to know.