Mountain biker with punctured lung rescued utilizing What3Words location app

The free What3Words app is more and more being utilized by emergency providers to assist shortly find and coordinate rescues, notably within the UK – but it surely’s not infallible. Here is every thing it’s essential to know on learn how to use it and what to pay attention to.

Police and the East Anglian Air Ambulance carried out a dramatic rescue of an injured mountain biker from Thetford Forest, utilizing location app What3Words to pinpoint his location.

The 59 12 months previous rider, recognized solely as Keith, was using with associates when he misplaced management and crashed badly, severely injuring himself. Fortunately, law enforcement officials fortuitously driving an off-road car close by discovered the group, and referred to as for assist utilizing the What3Words app to pinpoint their location. Since Thetford Forest is among the largest forests within the UK, this helped save time and allowed the air ambulance to achieve him shortly.

Keith was flown to Addenbrookes Hospital the place he acquired remedy for a number of fractures, a punctured lung and broken spleen, spending 4 days within the ICU then seven days on the ward, and went on to make a full restoration.

“With out using what3words we might have actually struggled to let the emergency providers know the place we had been and the rescue would have taken loads longer”, commented Neil afterwards. “I do assume that if we didn’t use the app, I may have had a completely completely different end result due to the time it might have taken to find us”.

What’s What3Words

What3Words is a privately owned, proprietary geocode system.

A geocode – or geographic code – is a code that symbolises or represents a selected geographic location or object. The geocode system most individuals are conversant in are map coordinates which is a numerical system based mostly off latitude and longitude measurements.

What3Words divides the floor of the Earth right into a grid of three squared metres, based mostly on GPS (International Positioning System) coordinates, and which makes use of a word-based system to establish every grid location slightly than a numerical system. The result’s that places will be recognized utilizing a sequence of three phrases, the thought being that these are simpler to speak than lengthy strings of numbers, and are ‘as correct GPS coordinates‘.

From a consumer perspective, What3Words is a downloadable mapping app. Once you open it, it’s a bit of like another mapping software program with a base map viewable as a easy illustration or as a satellite tv for pc view. You should utilize the app to establish the What3Words code for a selected location by both touching the situation on the map, placing in an tackle, or utilizing the automated positioning system to establish the place you might be.

The app has a voice system so you may merely converse the What3Words tackle you might be on the lookout for, and it’s also possible to use the app for navigation.

It’s presently utilized by round 85% of emergency providers within the UK, in line with What3Words, although it’s unclear whether or not it is a geographic unfold. Within the UK it’s utilized by many police, ambulance and fireplace and rescue providers, in addition to the coastguard, and, in line with What3Words, has ‘turn out to be an necessary a part of the emergency toolkit for response groups country-wide.’

What3Words is on the market in 50 languages, and makes use of a listing of roughly 25,000 phrases to provide the requisite variety of mixtures. Nevertheless, the English language model makes use of significantly extra – as much as 40,000 – because it covers the ocean in addition to land.

Do I would like telephone sign to make use of What3Words

Supplied you’ve already downloaded the app, you don’t want telephone or wifi sign to generate a What3Words code in your location because it makes use of GPS, though you might not have the ability to load or view the bottom map. So supplied these phrases are appropriate, you may share them with emergency providers.

That does elevate the problem that it won’t be attainable to test whether or not the 3-word code that’s generated does the truth is correspond along with your location in the event you can’t test it towards a map.

And naturally, in the event you do have to name the emergency providers, you will want telephone sign. Due to this fact, ideally if you’re heading someplace the place you could have restricted service or protection, it’s all the time a good suggestion to have an alternate methodology of looking for assist do you have to want it.

Tips on how to use What3Words in an emergency

What3Words advocate the next actions to make use of the app in an emergency scenario. Please notice that, as talked about above, whereas the app doesn’t want wifi/telephone sign to offer a location code, you will want some form of sign to name the emergency providers.

If you have already got What3Words downloaded to your telephone:

  1. Make sure you’ve already downloaded the What3Words app to your telephone. It’s obtainable for each Android and iOS, and is free.
  2. Open the app and click on the blue arrow (iOS) or compass (Android) to seek out the What3Words code in your location. What3Words recommends ready for a couple of seconds if the blue location dot is shifting about, to permit it to cease shifting which is able to present probably the most correct end result.
  3. If you’re calling emergency providers, clearly share the What3Words code with the decision handler. Watch out about pronunciation and plural/singular phrases, and add any further element you may present in regards to the location together with landmarks corresponding to roads, cities, rivers, and so forth.

If you happen to don’t have What3Words downloaded in your cell phone:

  1. The emergency providers name handler could ship you an SMS textual content message with a hyperlink to open What3Words in your web browser.
  2. The web page will present your What3Words location code, and the GPS of your machine’s accuracy in metres. Click on refresh to refine that accuracy.
  3. Share the What3Words code with the decision handler plus another further particulars you may present in regards to the location together with landmarks corresponding to roads, cities, rivers and so forth.

Observe: not each emergency service will settle for What3Words, so to reiterate, it’s crucial to produce as a lot further location data as you may.

Potential points with What3Words

Once you’re coping with such an enormous space and a system that depends on an algorithm, errors and points are sure to creep into the combination. Algorithms are created by people, albeit very expert ones, so human error, bias and omission can sneak in there; although one would hope that with continued refinement, these errors can hopefully be recognized, rectified or lowered.

And naturally the system itself is utilized by people, usually out in troublesome, irritating conditions, after which relayed by way of a sequence of different programs and folks, the place extra errors can crop up.

A few of foremost points, as reported on an article on the BBC Information web site as being recognized by safety knowledgeable Andrew Tierney, and different points, embody;

Comparable sounding phrases

The English language is stuffed with homophones – phrases that sound the identical when spoken, however are spelt otherwise. In a system that depends on verbally relaying a sequence of phrases, this could be a large downside. For instance, wring and ring, rode and street, flower and flour.

What3Words states on its web site that ‘once we choose the phrases for use in every language, we do our greatest to take away homophones and spelling variations’.

Singular and plural phrases

What3Words makes use of each singular and plural variations of a phrase; for instance, flower and flowers, boat and boats. A easy mistake through which the unsuitable model is communicated may imply sending an incorrect location to emergency providers.

Comparable phrases in shut proximity

A method of mitigating the above points is to make sure that any What3Words places that the above points may apply to aren’t close to one another, and by ideally offering a bit of further data. That method, ought to somebody state phrases that reveal a location of, say, the Scottish Highlands however they’ve simply stated they’re strolling up Snowdon in Wales, it will likely be clear the What3Words code supplied is wrong.

Nevertheless, Tierney recognized in an article on the BBC dated June 2021, that on a major variety of events, two simply confused phrase sequences have referred to places in an analogous geographic space. For instance, this might imply two reverse sides of the identical mountain. This might imply emergency providers waste treasured time going to the unsuitable location.

What3Words state that ‘Our algorithm shuffles what3words addresses, which implies comparable phrase mixtures had been positioned far aside. For instance, ///desk.chair.lamp is positioned in New South Wales, Australia, whereas ///tables.chair.lamp is in Minnesota, USA. The overwhelming proportion of comparable 3 phrase mixtures are up to now aside that an error is clear. We additionally labored arduous to take away homophones and close to homophones like sale and sail.’

The app additionally has an autosuggest characteristic that lists different comparable mixtures of phrases to those being inputted, in addition to the situation distance from the consumer, to assist the consumer spot in the event that they phrases they’ve are for the unsuitable location.

Nevertheless, the corporate do recognise that probably complicated mixtures can nonetheless happen, which is why it states that the app is a part of a toolkit slightly than a stand-alone resolution, and that emergency service name handlers will probably ask for added data slightly than counting on What3Words alone.

International unfold

The flip aspect of the above is that if the inaccurate sequence of phrases are used, the code might be for actually anyplace on the planet, and that is one thing some emergency providers have reported taking place in a BBC Information article.

Whereas it ought to hopefully rule out the situation as incorrect instantly, it may probably trigger delays if communication with the particular person making the emergency name is just not direct and constant, because the service supplier would want to reconnect through the decision handler to test location data.

Pronunciation and spelling

Think about being caught in an emergency scenario on a mountain aspect. Your good friend is injured and in ache, and also you’re serving to them. The wind and rain is choosing up and it’s noisy. Your arms are getting chilly. All of this could hamper how clearly you may relay these three phrases to emergency providers, both verbally on a name or through textual content message, and a typo or noisy atmosphere can imply the distinction between sharing your location precisely and never.

And there are probably different points; if the particular person has an accent or stammer, in the event that they’re slurring their phrases, if they’ve dyslexia – all of those have the potential to have an effect on the accuracy of data conveyed.

Proprietary system

The system can be proprietary, which means that the corporate What3Words owns the algorithm and information, and it’s not open supply. Whereas it grants free entry to emergency providers, it additionally signifies that neutral and clear analysis of the algorithm expertise, which is copyright protected, is unlikely.

GPS accuracy

Whereas it could possibly work with out wifi or telephone sign connection, What3Words nonetheless depends on GPS for location, and accuracy will depend upon the energy of the GPS sign in addition to the receiver. In response to the US Gov GPS web site, ‘GPS-enabled smartphones are usually correct to inside a 4.9 m (16 ft.) radius underneath open sky. Nevertheless, their accuracy worsens close to buildings, bridges, and bushes.’

Climate circumstances also can have an effect on accuracy, as can satellite tv for pc place.

Options to What3Words

Whereas What3Words will be useful, supplied it’s used accurately, as the corporate itself suggests in an emergency scenario it’s best used as a part of a toolkit slightly than being relied on utterly for navigation and placement pinpointing. We’d all the time advocate ideally having one other main method of sharing your location in case you need assistance.

The primary and finest method is to let somebody know the place you’re going within the first place and while you’re more likely to be again. By sharing your route and return time, in the event you don’t make an look while you’re speculated to and may’t be contacted, it’s a lot simpler for rescuers to slim down the place you is likely to be.

The second is to carry and use an old style paper map in the event you’re heading out into the hills. Whereas they is likely to be cumbersome and awkward, they don’t depend on wifi or GPS sign for finding your self or navigating your self someplace protected. Maps can often be purchased from native retailers and bike retailers in addition to on-line, and there are many guides on-line if it’s essential to brush up in your map studying expertise, corresponding to the straightforward ‘Tips on how to learn a map’ guides on the Ordnance Survey web site within the UK.

To make this even less complicated, the Ordnance Survey within the UK have the OS Find app. Used at the side of the OS Maps app, it really works in an analogous strategy to What3Words in that’s has the power to find out your location with out wifi or community sign, producing a set of GPS coordinates in addition to a digital compass that will help you work out instructions. Nevertheless among the identical points seem right here; to name emergency providers you’ll nonetheless want sign, and the coordinates should be clearly communicated to share the correct location.

Different choices are issues like emergency beacons, that are more and more being constructed into expertise and equipment, corresponding to Apple Watch crash detection and the ANGi crash sensor on Specialised Helmets. These will detect a consumer crash, and will be pre-set to tell an allotted contact, together with location data.