Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A post code system for Ireland

I read an article in yesterday's Irish Times which spoke about the post code system that they say will definitely be launched by the end of 2011. While I think that a system of post codes for Ireland would be a great idea, I am sceptical about the likelihood of it being launched this year. Part of my skepticism comes from the fact that there is no clear agreement on how the new post code system will work, but also I have heard such confident predictions about a post code system before. For example, this news item from RTÉ which was written in 2005 an confidently predicted that Irish postcodes would be in operation by 1st of January 2008.

The current proposal is that the post code system  will start with a number of letters identifying the nearest town or city. This proposal has generated a backlash from the Irish language supporters who are insisting that the initial letters in the post code should come from the Irish name for the town rather than the English name for the town - in many cases these would be the same but Dublin/Baile Átha Cliath is a high profile example where they differ. In addition, if the system was to be adopted I can easily envisage a situation whereby small towns could be campaigning to have their own initial letters rather than being lumped in with a rival town.As a result I think that any system based upon place names is doomed to failure and disagreements. Instead we should ensure that the post codes are based upon latitude/longitude coordinates. This is especially relevant in the modern world where SatNav systems are almost ubiquitous and all work of of lat/long coordinates. For example the LOC8 system being pushed by Garmin has the general right idea in that they have a simple algorithm that converts between lat/long coordinates and a more easy to remember alphanumeric post code.

The one big problem with the Loc8 system is the fact that they are treating the algorithm to convert between post codes and the coordinates as a trade secret. I think that the company behind the Loc8 system is very foolish to take this attitude because they would make more money from their technology if the government were to adopt it as the official post code system, but there is no way that the government could endorse a postcode system whose workings were kept secret. . As I mentioned the algorithm is quite simple and so it would be trivially easy to reverse engineer the algorithm given a few sample coordinate/postcode pairs and the details that they provide on their web site. However, my understanding is that the company behind the Loc8 system would sue anyone that published the details of their algorithm - they don't charge people a fee to convert, but their policy is that the only way to do the conversion is via their web site.


  1. Thanks for your support Brian - Loc8 is already being used and free for anyone to get and use.

    Full details for developement available on a one-to-one basis and iphone app shortly for release. Now available to any Navigation software/hardware developer on request.

    To ensure quality of Loc8 Codes for properties must be generated through our site using Ordnanace Survey mapping - other services including Google not accurate or detailed enough in places for generating the precision code that is Loc8 - if codes coming from multiple quality sources - then no one would trust a Loc8 Code!

    Loc8 Codes contain features which have not been used before in such a system;- to engineer the structure and control exactly how the code works, looks and reacts and to include a self checking element - so not as straight forward as it may seem.

    Loc8 can also be used as a URL:

    see you on Twitter:

  2. Gary,

    Thanks for taking the time to write me such a detailed reply.

    In the software market it is common for vendors to give legally binding agreements that they won't assert patent rights to certain technology that they own. These companies would clearly judge that the commercial benefit of having the technology behind their products incorporated into an official standard is greater then any potential license revenue from the patents that they own. I don't claim to really understand the mapping technology market, but it would seem to me that your company might be in a similar situation with your Loc8 technology. Would you be willing to allow other companies to develop products and services based upon Loc8 codes if the government was to officially endorse Loc8 codes as the national post code system?

    I think that it would be morrally wrong for the govenmnet to endorse a post codes system unless all companies are freely able to develop their own products and services based upon the post codes (there could could even be competitioon law issues). I appreciate that your company has made an investment in developing Loc8 codes and you are legally entitled to restrict access to technology you own, but it might be in your own long term interest to renounce some of those rights if it allowed your system to be adopted as a national standard.


  3. Brian,

    that is indeed our model - to allow other companies - Garmin already and iphone developers right now - to build their own solutions with Loc8 Codes. So that is already in place and no problem at all. It is important to point out that Garmin does not own any of Loc8 they merely have agreed access to the technology for their products.

    Anyone can agree with us to have full access to Loc8 Codes for product development - no problem at all - there are many of such arrangements in train already for Ireland, N. Ireland and for territories in other countries also and not at all subject to a Government tender which as you say may never happen. There is a big tourist and event related interest in Loc8 Codes.

    If Loc8 becomes the National System this will still be the model.

    Please feel free to conatct me personally on this at any time...

    Should be a piece on Loc8 Codes on Pat Kenny Radio show today 10-12am by Valerie Cox and on SeaScapes tonight at 1030pm

  4. Gary

    I am glad to hear that you are planning to be so open about your Loc8 technology. Great minds think alike :-)

    After reading your comment I wondered how I had managed to get the wrong impression. I had another look at your web site to see the terms and conditions document. All I could find was a document which looked like it was the restrictions that the Ordnance Survey put on their images, but said nothing about the loc8 codes as such.

    I know very few people read the T&C documents, but I still think it would be a good idea to put up some document making it clear what you consider to be acceptable use of Loc8 codes - if you place no restrictions at all then it can be very short :-). This might not be a major concern for end-users, but would be a big concern for commercial users.


  5. Point Taken - yes those restrictions are related to the use of OS mapping - this does not effect the use of Loc8 Codes - infact we can also license the use of OS mapping via someone elses web site if required - Garmin already have this facility at

  6. Gary, this claim "Loc8 Codes are the first and only All-Ireland Digital Address" is not true because NAC is a digital address that covers the entire world including the whole Ireland since 1995.

  7. Xinhang, NAC sounds like basically a good idea, but I can't see it catching on if you try and enforce a copyright restriction on its use

  8. Brian, the idea is protected by copyright. According to all disctionaries or Wikipedia (, "Plagiarism is defined in dictionaries as the "wrongful appropriation," "close imitation," or "purloining and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions," and the representation of them as one's own original work".

    Gary Delaney uses my idea "using alphanumerical characters to compress geographic coordinates to make them short enough to be used as addresses/postal codes" to generate his Loc8 codes and then claims he is the originator of the idea: "Loc8 Codes are the first and only All-Ireland Digital Address" while NAC is a digital address for the entire world including the whole Ireland which has been existing since 1995.

    Have you seen that it is clearly an intentional plagiarism?

  9. Xinhang, I don't want to get involved in a flame about who was the first person to come up with the idea "using alphanumerical characters to compress geographic coordinates to make them short enough to be used as addresses/postal codes", but the idea is obvious and clearly not patent-able by either Gary or you. The Grid reference system has been used in Ireland for a long time (see It has been an official standard since 1952

  10. Brian, the Irish grid coordinates represented by alphanumerical characters are not a purpose to compress the coordinates short enough to be used as postal codes/addresses. But NAC is clearly stated that it is to be used as addresses and postal codes. Gary Delaney uses exactly the same idea to generate his Loc8 codes. Though it's not patented, it is protected by copyright, just like General Relativity developed by Eistain and nobody can just modify his formula to claim something like "Loc8 Relativity".