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Small GIS firm pushes for Universal area code

A small Canadian company is seeking support to standardize a new address system that would work with maps, geographic databases and GPS systems to make life easier for everyone from travellers to postal workers.

The Natural Area Coding system developed can represent an area the size of a province using two alphanumeric characters. A “universal address” with six characters takes things down to a box measuring 1 kilometer per side, and boosting it to 10 characters represents a specific area measuring one square meter.

This company proposes a 10-digit universal address for homes and businesses. It would be slightly longer than Canada’s six-digit alphanumeric postal code, but it would be a standardized system that would work around the world. For example, NAC Geographic Products’ address in Toronto would be 8CNB5 Q8Z4R.
The NAC system can make mail delivery more precise and efficient, Mr. Shen said, but it is also useful for geography specialists trying to locate maps of specific areas. Natural area codes could be used for search and rescue, by municipalities trying to inventory things like traffic lights and fire hydrants, and by people simply trying to get from point A to point B.

Natural area codes can be plugged into electronic map software and global positing systems (GPSs) that have been configured to recognize them, but people can also use NACs to find locations on simple paper maps that are organized.

By adding characters, NACs can also represent a point in, around or above the earth, using the centre of the earth as a reference point.

The concept of a universal area code is not new – many public and proprietary ideas for such a system have been proposed in recent years.