Aug
02

Strange and wonderful possibilities with Universal Addresses

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This article is shamelessly lifted from the recently despatched July issue of The Prescott Report. We republish it here to encourage some discussion around the subject of deployment of this system and to what extent it has been used in existing products now out there. Charles Prescott

Yet Another Address System?

As if remembering your mobile phone number, office address, home address, the time of your commuter train, the ignition code for your automobile, the pin code for your bank account and however many passwords you have for various websites, do you need another address to remember?  Of course you do.  How about 8V8MB PV28V?  Memorable isn’t it?

Why not something else?

This other address is called a Universal Address.  Every spot on earth has its own Universal Address, or Natural Area Code (NAC), which is generated by a Natural Area Coding System.

This latter is a new “geodetic system”. “Geodetic” is an adjective derived from “geodesy” which is a branch of earth sciences. It is the scientific discipline that deals with the measurement and representation of the earth, including its gravitational field, in a 3-dimensional space.

The purpose of this system is “to unify representations of geographic coordinates, area codes, street addresses, postal codes, map grids and property identifiers of every location or area in the world.”  It is claimed that “this will make the information from all maps, GPS receivers and location-based services directly connected, highly efficient, and universal.”

A “NAC” for being simple.

According to the website referred to below, “A NAC can represent both an area or a location anywhere in the world. A two, four, six, eight or ten character NAC represents respectively an area about 1000km X 700km (like a province), 33km X 23km (like a city), one square kilometer (like a street block), 35m X 25m (like a building) or one square meter anywhere in the world. Since an eight or ten character NAC has reached the resolution of a traditional address, it is also called a Universal Address, for example, NAC: 8KDB PGFD is the Universal Address of Washington Monument”. That latter NAC is 8 characters, and thus “addresses” a surface area of 35mX25M.

Find your own “place”. .

There are several explanatory websites, and you can produce the NAC for your favorite spot in the world by visiting one or more of the vendors of products built on the system.  A very useful one is www.travelgis.com.

There appear to be some bugs, however, and of course human nature would resist change. According to the NAC system the editorial offices of The Prescott Report, are at  8V8DS PV1XX.  This is as positioned by Google’s location of our postal address.  However, Google hasn’t kept up with address changes, just like companies who don’t invest in list hygiene. Over ten years ago our postal address was changed to conform to the standard system of odds and evens starting from one end of the street, and Google hasn’t picked that up.  The UAC of our delivery entrance is actually 8V8MB PV28V.

Pops readily out of the memory, does it not?  Imagine reciting that over the phone to a customer service rep at a company in India, or, heaven help us Japan,  at 2 in the morning when you’re trying to identify yourself to get help with the virus that just ate the business plan due tomorrow at 11AM.

On the other hand, if it were adopted as a convention, it is clear that it would provide a higher measure of accuracy, and a greater ease of communicating, than a postal address, and it would solve the problem of identifying locations that don’t have postal addresses.

Of course, latitude and longitude should suffice for this purpose, but NAC’s do have other good characteristics and clear advantages. For example, they are totally language independent. They are only roman numerals and letters, which are universally recognized.

While not much more memorable than the two words, one directional and 10 numbers of “latitude -73.487637 longitude 41.213101”, the location of The Prescott Report is more easily communicated with “8V8MB PV28V”, being just ten letters and numbers.

It is also compact for database purposes and can be easily back-translated to the postal address.  It would also be much easier to convey over the phone to India, or Japan, at 2AM than “7 Hastings Court, South Salem, NY, USA 10590-2417”.

NACs also suggest other efficiencies. The NAC of a land-line phone number could appear on emergency services’ computer screens on receipt of the call, enabling faster response.  This would work equally well for mobile phones.  Address labels could be reduced to just the NAC and a recipient’s name. 2 lines. That’s all you would need to send a letter or parcel across town, or around the world. Moreover, validating a delivery point as existing would not have the privacy implications that exist today.

The uses and applications are numerous.  Imagine your on-line newspaper or your ebook containing live NAC links to NAC-enhanced online maps, like urls to websites.  Read about the football match at NAC GSCB5 RWCX5 and click that link to see the Manchester UK stadium.  While you are reading a history of Napoleon’s battles in Spain, or the maneuvers of Sharpe’s Rifles under Wellington at Badajoz, you could click through to a map and to the very spot where the Forlorn Hope attacked.

In fact, there are now NACMaps for Google on Androids, certain models of the Palm, and NACMaps for Blackberry.  These should prove their usefulness in places like Cairo and Mumbai or Costa Rica, where there may be no addresses, or, as in Paris, where Jean has been immortalized as a ‘rue’, ‘boulevard’, ‘place’, ‘avenue’ and so on, sometimes several times over in different parts of the city. An excellent paper on how this system could be the basis of an international system is here: http://www.nacgeo.com/nacsite/documents/postal.asp

On one blog, we discovered a ‘family historian’ who locates his ancestors’ graves on Google maps using NACMaps for Blackberry. The resolution to a one square meter plot is obviously critical for this exercise.

This subject is one that the Global Address Data Association will be taking up in the very near future and discussing at PostExpo in Copenhagen on October 8 and at the Universal Postal Union’s addressing conference on November 9.

Categories : Lat/long, NAC

Comments

  1. >>On the other hand, if it were adopted as a convention, it is clear that it would provide a higher measure of accuracy, and a greater ease of communicating, than a postal address, and it would solve the problem of identifying locations that don’t have postal addresses.>>

    Very interesting concept, with some clear advantages, but how fit would it be as an actual addressing standard for physical mail/parcels?

    -A miss-spelled traditional city-street-number address can often be corrected during the last mile delivery. A miss-spelled NAC-mailing will end up as return-to-sender.

    -OCRs, in combination with sloppy hand-writing may easily confuse “1” and “I”, “B” and “8”, “0”(zero) “O” and “D”. For example: “8V8MB PV28V”(location of The Prescott Report) may be read as “BV8MB PV28V”, which is in the North Atlantic Ocean.

    Overall, it may be desirable to include some error detection/correction schemes (aka checksum, CRC-16, etc.) into a postal version of the NAC codes.

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