New codes aim to bring billions of people into the geospatial market
When we mail a letter to an address in an industrialized country or navigate to that location, we rely, without giving it much thought, on a centuries-old system of street names and numbers, augmented in the case of mail by the later invention of postal codes. However, about four billion people on Earth—most of them in India and Africa—do not have an address.
To find them, a letter carrier or a visitor must follow such directions as “Go to the town square, go five streets to the south, then take the third side street on the right. Samir lives next to the green house.” Often, such directions are relative to landmarks that have no addresses themselves, may change over time, and are seldom related to a visitor’s direction of travel.
The vast number of homes and businesses without a street address poses many broad challenges, and specifically to the continued expansion of the market for vehicle navigation and location-based services. To overcome these obstacles to navigation, in recent years systems have been developed that convert geographic coordinates to more user-friendly alternatives, including Mapcode, what3words, the Natural Area Coding System, and UBI.