Most people have trouble wrestling with latitude and longitude, let alone with degrees, minutes and seconds as far as describing a particular location is concerned. On top of this, in the last few years, emergency service providers here in Australia have been grappling with a quick and easy way for callers to provide them with an easy to understand way to accurately describe their location.
Late in 2020 the Australian Government announced the deployment of Advanced Mobile Location (AML) technology for the Triple Zero Emergency Call Service. AML is a technology built into the operating system of Apple and Android telephones — as long as you have the latest or near latest operating system — which will provide greater location accuracy to Triple Zero during an emergency call from a mobile telephone. It has the potential to save lives and improve outcomes for mobile callers in Australia, as it is doing in the countries in which it has already been deployed. You can find out more about AML at: triplezero.gov.au/triple-zero/How-to-Call-000/advanced-mobile-location.
At this time however, AML does not work in Australia when a caller is ‘camped-on’ to another mobile network. Emergency ‘camp-on’, for those that have never heard the term before — like me until I researched this article — may occur when a caller is outside their own mobile carrier’s network coverage but is within the coverage of another mobile carrier. This allows a caller to make a Triple Zero call whenever in the range of a mobile network.
While callers who are camped-on another mobile network can still provide their location to Triple Zero and the relevant state Emergency Service Organisation by using the Emergency+ app, this app now includes a pin drop function, and also includes what3words for location clarification.
Importantly for 4WDers and others wandering the outback or remoter areas of Australia is that calls made over a sat-phone, via a HF radio, a UHF repeater network or from a land line, also do not have the ability to generate an AML position AND do not have a pin-drop function. Once again, what3words can come to the rescue.
So, what in the hell is ‘what3words’?
what3words has divided the whole world into 3m x 3m squares, with each square having a unique, sometimes seemingly crazy, three word address. For example, the three word address for the junction of the road into the Mungeranie hotel on the Birdsville track is, ‘participants.always.buzz’. No, it doesn’t make sense and nor do most of the addresses, but it doesn’t matter. Now, if you want to go to that road junction, you just call up those three words on the what3words app and the Google map will show you the location and the way to get there.
Without a mobile phone signal, the app functions the same as when you have no data connection — you can view the location of any what3words address you enter. You can also navigate to it using the compass mode. To share a what3words address over the phone or in a text message you need a phone signal. To load maps, or share in other apps or social media, you need a data connection.
Already, such leading guidebook publishers such as Lonely Planet are using what3words addresses for people to help find places of interest, restaurants, etc, and Hema Maps are now including what3words addresses in their guidebooks.
Many navigation apps are compatible with what3words, meaning you can find a what3words address in the app and use it in your favourite navigation app, with just one tap. For more info check out: what3words.com/products/what3words-app/.
While what3words may not be the complete answer to your navigation woes or queries, it’s yet another tool in the navigators’ toolbox for finding your way across our vast continent or just finding your mate at the footy. Give it a go, you may be surprised at how versatile it is!