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GPS, DMS, and Thinking About Addresses Like a Computer

  • Alyx 

Is DMS* the new address?

(* – not sure what that is? Keep reading…)

Today, when most people say they’re going to “GPS it,” they are, for the most part, still talking about typing a physical street address into Google Maps, Waze or a device in their car. Ultimately, this software will “GPS” that street address into coordinates for that address or intersection.

Street addresses present multiple challenges when converting them to coordinates, a few of which include:

  • A single address may take up an entire block
  • The entrance may be in front of, behind, or on a side of the property
  • In some cities, streets have the same name – or at the very least, there may be multiples identified by “terrace”, “circle”, “street”, etc, which makes them susceptible to human and/or computer error

Often these can be figured out intuitively, but oftentimes the discovery is also made in an annoying fashion, as in, when you have to drive around the building three times to finally spot the entrance. In these cases and others, precise GPS coordinates – while not how we are used to talking when describing addresses to other humans – can eliminate a lot of confusion.

We noticed in a recent blog post from our client Pickles Auctions that there are several new startups in this space working to create a variety of addressing solutions that are more GPS based, making it easier for us to communicate addresses with computers, since eventually it will likely not be Waze but whatever software powers our autonomous car itself that needs to get us to our destination. And, if drone delivery is ever going to come to fruition, it would be helpful if the drone knows whether to leave the package in front of, behind, or on the side of your house (or if you’re one of those people who doesn’t mind if it flies right into your living room).

It’s likely to also have significant impact in the world of augmented reality (AR). The AR game Pokemon Go uses public art and other similar objects that are often near, but not specifically on, a street, that are better addressable via coordinates, and also designates Pokemon spawn points that are more easily defined with coordinates than street addresses. It’s likely that many AR games and experiences will be precisely targeted like this – for example, a public space, a particular department within a retail store, an office lobby – requiring the end user of the application to be comfortable with coordinates to find the actual destination for the experience.

GPS is, of course, nothing new, but if you ask the average person what the lat/long for their home or office is, it’s likely the wouldn’t know the nearest basic coordinates, much less the precise degrees, minutes, seconds (DMS) or decimal. But, this knowledge – or a system that converts it to easy-to-understand language like street addresses – is likely to be more common in the future.