Thunder Bay

New app will help OPP locate people in need of assistance

Ontario Provincial Police say a new app will make a big difference when officers are attempting to locate people in emergency situations.

What3Words app based on global mapping system, assigns three-word tag to every three-metre area

OPP say a new app will make finding people in need of assistance in remote areas much easier. (CBC)

Ontario Provincial Police say a new app will make a big difference when officers are attempting to locate people in emergency situations.

The what3words app is based on a global mapping system, which assigns three-word tags to three-metre locations, said OPP Sgt. Mike Golding.

"The OPP provincial communications centre has bought into this new technology," he said. "It's part of their mapping system, and they're going to adopt it into their location protocols."

Golding said someone in need of assistance — for example, someone who's become lost while hiking in northwestern Ontario and doesn't know their exact location — can use the app to find the three-word tag for the location they're in.

If the person needs assistance from the OPP, they can provide that tag to a provincial communications centre (PCC).

"The PCC, when they get these three words, they'll be able to enter [them] back into the app, and the app will then convert that, those three words, into latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates," Golding said. "That will allow them to assist in locating lost persons, or whatever the situation is."

Golding said if a person is unaware of their specific location, a dispatcher will ask if they have the app installed. If they don't, the dispatcher can send a link that will show the caller's three-word location tag.

"The best thing about this is that this process requires minimal cellular data," he said. "If you're out in the bush somewhere, and you're lost, and there's not a great signal, you can still utilize this system in order to determine your location."

The app will also work without an Internet or data signal, so the location tag can still be provided to the dispatcher during a phone call, Golding said.

"It's kind of a big step here," he said. "It's definitely much better than depending on hard sites, like streets and buildings and intersections."

More information can be found on the what3words website.

The app is now available for iOS and Android devices.

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