Technology

Interview with Gary Delaney, CEO of Loc8 Code – Ireland’s smarter addressing system

Gary Delaney, CEO of Loc8 Code with Clive Taylor, Garmin's European marketing director
Gary Delaney, CEO of Loc8 Code with Clive Taylor, Garmin's European marketing director
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Gary Delaney, CEO of Loc8 Code with Clive Taylor, Garmin's European marketing director
Gary Delaney, CEO of Loc8 Code with Clive Taylor, Garmin's European marketing director

To coincide with the launch of the first independent mobile phone application harnessing the power of Loc8 Code, we spoke to Loc8 Code CEO Gary Delaney who gave us an overview of the company’s current progress in implementing this innovative technology, the benefits that Loc8 Code can deliver to Ireland and future plans to ensure their system becomes part and parcel of Ireland’s smarter addressing system.

So what is Loc8 Code? Loc8 Code is a modern postal addressing system for Ireland that operates on an all-island basis, developed to help make the process of finding properties and interesting locations easy. Loc8 Codes exists as an eight digit alphanumerical representation of locations on the island of Ireland, accurate to within six metres. Loc8 Codes can be created freely on the Loc8 Code website and are currently being used on many popular Garmin SatNav devices. Now with the release of point8, an iOS mobile application that is powered by Loc8 Code technology, Loc8 Codes are set to become increasingly ubiquitous and represent a very real, and accurate, postal address solution for Ireland.

To the best of my knowledge, Ireland is the only European member state to exist without a national postcode system. The effects of no official postcode system are only augmented by the very nature of Ireland’s unique land division system, where roughly 64,000 townlands represent the smallest divisions of land. Of course 64,000 townlands ranging in size from one square kilometre to many square kilometres cannot effectively uniquely represent all properties, businesses and organisations in Ireland. This is the very problem that any postcode system will attempt to solve.

Knowing the importance of Irish townlands and placenames to Irish heritage, and the ambiguous nature of placenames with regard to spelling, language and local variations, Loc8 Codes exist as an extra, optional layer that can be appended to existing addresses in Ireland. This way the current OCR-based sorting mechanism employed by An Post remains undisturbed, and organisations that wish to benefit from the addition of a Loc8 Code can do so.

We asked Gary Delaney, CEO of Loc8 Code, a few direct questions to which he was kind enough to take the time and answer in detail.

How important is a smarter postal address system to Ireland’s economy? What are the major benefits of an accurate addressing system to Irish industry, in particular the logistics and tourism industries?

The value of a precise addressing system in Ireland to the logistics, web retail, tourism, utilities, emergency services and motoring sectors is in excess of €15 million per annum. A robust precise addressing system like Loc8 Code can save up to 15% in fuel costs for the 100,000 multi-drop vehicles serving the Irish economy annually by ensuring that the destination is accurately and reliably known to the driver, without any need for a road by road search or multiple telephone calls and very often multiple efforts to deliver over multiple days. The importance for emergency services and ECAS (Emergency Call Answering Service) cannot be over-emphasised, and many first responder and AED groups are preparing to use Loc8 Code. The value is measured therefore in terms of reduced carbon, reduced fuel costs, on-time deliveries, quicker emergency service response times, greater confidence in web retailing and tourists who are more willing to seek out our remote attractions. This value is significantly increased when it is understood that Loc8 Code is also in demand in Northern Ireland, as the BT postcode system does not work as efficiently as it should.

The Irish government’s imminent move towards a smarter, more efficient postal address system has experienced delays in the past. To your knowledge has any further, recent developments been made regarding the establishment of a national postcode system, and is Loc8 Code a part of this?

A postcode is no longer required to sort mail – a traditional postcode is 1960’s technology. An Post does not need a postcode to sort mail. Loc8 Code is designed for all the other industries mentioned above but can be used to assist in mail sorting if required and Loc8 intends to be part of any postcode tendering process. However, Noel Dempsey (Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources at the time) announced in 2005 that Ireland would have a postcode system in place by January 2008 and Eamon Ryan (former Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources) announced that it would be in place by 2011. Neither have happened and both ministers are now gone. An Oireachtas report in 2010 contributed significantly to by members of Fine Gael and Labour indicated that the previous Government’s plans would not support the use of the proposed postcode system on mobile devices because it would not identify individual locations. Both of their election manifestos indicated that they would change the previous Governments plans. It’s possible that we could be waiting a few more years for a national system. In the meantime Loc8 Code is available as an elective system. It is already in use by some state agencies, web retailers, and couriers, and others will be asking you for your Loc8 Code shortly in order to deliver to you on time. Loc8 Codes are directly related to geographic co-ordinates. Therefore, no matter what emerges as the national system in a few years time (if for any reason it is not Loc8 Code), it can be converted to and from a Loc8 Code. In addition, a postcode only supports the location of groups of properties. Loc8 Codes can identify individual properties, site entrances, masts, transformers, car-boot sales, parking spots at a music festival, grain silos, a field, a forest plot, a yacht, a breakdown or an accident site on a road, a stand at the National Ploughing Championships, or any other entity imaginable where location is important – all things where traditional postcode technology becomes redundant!

Why is Loc8 Code best suited to help deliver Ireland’s modern postcode system? What advantages does Loc8 Code have over other private competitors like Go Code, for example?

Loc8 Code is the only system that has been field-tested over two years (on Garmin devices) prior to full release. Elements of the technology have been refined, added and adjusted as a result of this testing and related feedback. A Loc8 Code on a parcel can be positively identified as a Loc8 Code because of the particular organised structure of each code. The technology is uniquely self-checking, is already supported on popular SatNav devices and was chosen by the world’s largest manufacturer of navigation devices and software (Garmin) in head-to-head competition with other providers, including Go Code. Loc8 Code was chosen because of its robustness, its advanced structure an its self checking capability – a must for emergency services and commercial deployment. In addition, Loc8 Codes are delivered through our website using the most detailed and comprehensive mapping available for the island of Ireland – Ordnance Survey of Ireland and Land and Property Services mappings of Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland. Whilst Google Maps are excellent, at this point it does not give complete detailed and accurate coverage for the whole island. Unlike current postal districts, Loc8 Code is focused on giving the same accurate service for the whole island, rural and urban.

To this date how many elective Loc8 Codes have been generated? Has Loc8 Code continued to experience strong growth since December 2010, where a reported 64,000 postcodes had been created since the previous July?

To date more than 140,000 Loc8 Codes have been created and we are now applying Loc8 Codes to addresses in other suppliers’ existing databases. Considering this and the fact that commercial users will be asking for Loc8 Codes in the near future, coupled with the release of the point8 iPhone app, and subsequent apps to come in the near future, this number will increase very rapidly over the next six months. More than 2,500 businesses, hotels, B&B’s and tourist attractions already have Loc8 Codes on their websites to help people find them. These have been created and confirmed through our website and are codes that have a least a two star reliability rating. Many have entrances and recommended parking Loc8 Codes attached to them.

Are there any privacy concerns that need to be addressed when implementing a postcode system such as Loc8 Code? With all the benefits of being able to pinpoint locations to within six metres using the Loc8 Code system, are there any disadvantages or personal privacy concerns with a technology that is so accurate?

Loc8 Codes have no personal information attached to them – just an address and its exact location – exactly the same as the An Post’s address database which is publicly licensed to many throughout the country already. Loc8 Codes are created and used electively.

Once Ireland’s postcode system is officially integrated, could we witness a UK-style “postcode lottery” around the delivery of health and other public services? Will the notion of a “posh” address begin to appear as witnessed in the Dublin postal code system, where land and property prices are heavily influenced by the allocated postal code, like ‘D4’ for example?

Loc8 Codes are precise locations only – in the same way that grid and lat/long co-ordinates already exist for every location in Ireland – we have just facilitated the general untrained public to use them more easily. Our concern is for people finding places quickly and efficiently to help save time, money and lives. Existing postal codes in Dublin and Cork will continue to be used by people and that is no problem – however those that want to be found quickly and accurately will use Loc8 Codes. Loc8 Codes are to be used in conjunction with existing addresses – no part of the existing address needs to be changed in any way. In Northern Ireland Loc8 Codes are used with or without the existing BT postcode.

What kind of services, devices and platforms can we expect to see integrating with the Loc8 Code system in the future? Are there any plans to release an Android, or a Windows Mobile 7 app in the near future, and what other dedicated SatNav devices, excluding Garmin, will support Loc8 Codes?

Loc8 Code is currently being tested by several manufacturers, including both hardware and software products. Our model is to license to others – point8, the iPhone app, is developed under license by One Touch Solutions. Many others are interested in licensing Loc8 Codes for other applications – traffic, retail, tourism, and banking to name a few. An Android version of point8 is already in the making with One Touch Solutions and will be available in a few weeks.  If anyone is interested in licensing the use of Loc8 Codes (API or DLL services) they can contact us directly through our website.

Is there anything else that you would like to add that may be of particular interest to our audience?

Loc8 Codes are directions made easy! – no need to write down long-winded directions before you go anywhere – just insist on getting a Loc8 Code. If you are a business publish your Loc8 Code on your website. Unlike ambiguous lat/long co-ordinates that are open to multiple interpretations, Loc8 Codes can only be shown or used in one way. The user will be prompted if entered incorrectly, making them reliable and robust. A Loc8 Code can also be used as a web link or URL. For example, www.loc8code.com/W8L-82-4YK links to and represents the premises of Loc8 Code Ltd in Crosshaven, County Cork. So Loc8 can be used as a URL in web or mobile applications, or can exist solely for use in SatNavs, or sharing amongst users how they please.

Loc8 Code Limited are based in Crosshaven, County Cork and currently employing 6 people with plans to employ a further fourteen in the future. Loc8 Code Limited are supported by Enterprise Ireland.

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Darren McCarra
Darren McCarra is co-editor of The Sociable. He has a keen interest in photography, all things mobile, and writing about technology and social media. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.