Google wants to streamline the tricky process of assigning addresses in rural areas


There are many places in the world that don’t have an address system, which can restrict the opportunities available for people who live and work in those areas. Without an address, you can’t get mail or packages, nor can you vote or sign up for bank accounts, for example. Emergency responders can’t even find you easily if you don’t have an address. Google’s open-source Plus Codes system has been around since 2015 to help assign addresses to places, matching a series of letters and numbers to a set of latitude and longitude coordinates.

But, according to Google, “previously, creating addresses for an entire town or village could take years.” The company is releasing a new tool today called Address Maker that would make mass generation of these codes easier for governments and organizations. Google said that governments and non-government organizations (NGOs) in Kenya, India, South African and the US are already using Address Maker, “with more partners on the way.”

Anyone can enter one of these codes, which look like “P2J5+7C,” into Google Maps and see where that place is or get directions. For people who already have existing addresses that are long or complicated, these could be helpful in making sure your contacts find you at the correct spot. If you’ve ever tried to send a package to an industrial area in a country you’re not familiar with, you’ll probably find Plus Codes helpful, too.

An animated GIF showing how Google's new Address Maker app works.

Google

Address Maker is a free Android app and shorted the previously years-long process to a few weeks, Google said. Based on an animated render, it appears you can outline segments on a map and add addresses for multiple structures within the area at once. You can check out Google’s page for more help, especially if you’re part of a local government or NGO.

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