Rober Dam

@roberdam

An Algorithm that can give an instant solution to 7 billion people

Joshi’s new address

Joshi has an address

He doesn’t need the municipal government to deliberate and reach consensus to pick one. He doesn’t need to add it to Google Maps, Openmaps or any other map provider. As a matter of fact, none of them will ever need to know about it, however, anyone can find it using any of these services.

Minutes after having the address, Joshi sent it by SMS to his first patient, Pranav. Even though Pranav does not have Internet in the countryside , using only pen and paper he finds the exact location of Joshi’s new clinic.

An instant address that doesn’t need internet and can be used with pen and paper, even when it does not appear on any map?.

Welcome to the world of the algorithmic addresses.

Algorithms are eating the world

From the way we find out what grandma is up to in our Facebook timeline, to the way we learn to open a wine bottle with a shoe using a Youtube video, the show behind the scenes is run by algorithms.

Lately algorithms have been in the spotlight basically for being black boxes that can be used for shady purposes.

But what is really an algorithm?

  • Cut a lemon in half →Squeeze the lemon →Add ice and sugar

There you go: an algorithm to get lemon juice.

An algorithm in its purest form is a series of steps to get something.

So what does it have to do an algorithm with an Indian doctor moving to the countryside?

Location, location, location (not for 4 billion people )

75% of world population does not have a physical address

According to the UN , more than 4 billion people do not have a physical address; that means, no way to call an ambulance, firefighters or police quickly, no easy way to deliver the mail, or pinpoint breaks in water systems, electricity or telephones, They are, in many ways, invisible.

A lot of effort and investment is put in to solving the problem, from NGO’s working to give a postal address to slums, to manuals from the World Bank on how to tackle the challenge.

Tech to the rescue

Latitude and longitude are the unequivocal and precise ways to locate anything in earth, but using 20°06'33.5"N 79°18'58.3"E as an address is neither intuitive nor useful enough in the day to day interactions.

Technology offers us a way to transform that location into an easier way of conveying the same information. For example:

Geohash: is a geocoding system invented by Gustavo Niemeyer and placed into the public domain.

Using geohashing to encode 20°06'33.5"N 79°18'58.3"E , it will give us tg86kuu31q2f effectively a shorter way to transmit the same information

LICENSE: Free - Public domain.

Mapcode: operated by the Mapcode Foundation, it is a code consisting of two groups of letters and digits, separated by a dot. It represents a location on the surface of the Earth, within the context of a separately specified country or territory.

Encoding 20°06'33.5"N 79°18'58.3"E will give us two options: 
MH 9X3N.TX for the national code or NQBHM.YKSF for the international code, both also shorter than the original one.

LICENSE: Free - Apache License Version 2.0.

Openlocationcode: is a geocode system for identifying an area anywhere on the Earth. It was developed at Google’s Zurich engineering office, and released late October 2014. Open Location Codes are also referred to as “plus codes”

Encoding 20°06'33.5"N 79°18'58.3"E will give us 4858+PF Vadholi, 442404, Maharashtra or another option with a shorter code 7JGX4858+PF

LICENSE: Free - Opensource

What3words: is a geocoding system for the simple communication of locations with a resolution of 3 m. What3words encodes geographic coordinates into 3 dictionary words.

Encoding 20°06'33.5"N 79°18'58.3"E will give us adaptable.obstinately.bigwig

LICENSE: Commercial - Patented addressing schema.

Just in case anyone thinks that addressing is a problem not worth solving, What3words is a UK startup launched in 2013 , which to this date has raised more than 13.5 million USD from Intel Capital among others to commercialize its solution
And Mongolia’s national postal delivery service will start using it in addition to house numbers and street names.

The best things in life are free (and Opensource)

This is Joshi’s Xaddress; latitude and longitude are encoded inside.

We come back to Joshi, our rural doctor who got a new address. But this is no ordinary address, it was created by Xaddress , the free, Opensource algorithm released in August 2016.

So yes, Xaddress will encode :

20°06'33.5"N 79°18'58.3"E into 1031 LOVED WORKS - Maharashtra, India

Xaddress is an algorithm , a recipe that you can use in your App, Website, or internal service to encode and decode locations from latitude & longitude to a form that resembles a normal address.

Xaddress was designed to be decoded using low tech, so you can know where 1031 LOVED WORKS is located using pen and paper ( and maybe a pocket calculator or even your phone calculator ).

We say that algorithms these days have a bad reputation because they are obscure and you do not know what exactly they are doing, so how about showing exactly what Xaddres does, as Pranav did to decode Joshi’s address?.

Decoding Joshi’s Xaddress step by step using pen and paper — Animated gif, reload to start again.

You can follow this guides to encode and decode a Xaddress by hand, or you can do it in the Xaddress website.

Xaddress is also:

OFFLINE

Xaddress can be used offline, so when Joshi created his Xaddress he didn’t need Internet access, neither did Pranav to get to Joshi’s location, most of the 4 billion in need for an address are also likely offline.

VISUAL ERROR DETECTION

Xaddress uses a image or “avatar” for every address created as a visual hash, so if you mistype the Xaddress it will show you another image.

Any mistype will create a different image to alert you about the error

When Joshi gives his Xaddress by phone he will say

1031 LOVED WORKS — Maharashtra, India the image will be an atom”

SHORT ADDRESS

Xaddress will additionally create a short address useful for storing or transmitting , for example CUKAKIK-GEFEJUJ

MULTILANGUAGE

Xaddresses can be created on any language, and can be used even when traditional addresses are available to to convey a location more easily. For example:

Nándorfejérvári út 4 can be shared as “CRUEL RUN 4604 — Budapest, Hungary” for western readers.

YOUR chance to have an impact on a global problem.

Xaddress is YOUR tool.

Never in the history of mankind, has knowledge been so available, and this knowledge can be used to change the reality and the limitations of your environment.

Eager minds can defy imposed paradigms and have an impact on their community, country and the whole world.

Sometimes all you need is a tool.

Take Xaddress as yours, start hacking your way out of problems in your community. No investment needed, no need to ask for permission.

Developers: create innovative solutions to global problems, and integrate existing services with Xaddress to create new products and services.

Maps or service providers: supercharge the use of your services by incorporating 4 billion potential customers with Xaddress for free.

Local goverments: use Xaddress to assign an instant address to manage repairs, taxes, shipping invoices, etc.

The possibilities are endless, you are ready for the ride?

Start playing with Xaddress on Github or try it in www.xaddress.org

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