We recently noticed a new feature in Google Maps named as ‘Plus Codes’ while browsing local markets. Wondering why there was no mention of this new feature in media, we decided to dig a bit into it. Here we are sharing our findings about ‘Plus Codes’, a silently rolled out feature by Google for its Maps application.
How do ‘Plus Codes’ work?
‘Plus Code’ is a combination of letters, numbers and plus (+) sign. Plus Codes vary from country to country. Google Maps doesn’t show Plus Codes for all countries currently. For some countries Plus codes contain 11 characters and for some countries Plus Codes are combination of two parts. First part is a Shortcode, combination of letters and numbers containing 6 to 7 characters and second part is Locality, a town or city.
If a Plus Code contains 11 characters, first 4 characters represent Area code and rest 7 characters including plus (+) sign represent Local code. For example if Plus Code for any address is 8GC2CMXR+X6, then 8GC2 is Area code and CMXR+X6 is Local code.
When Locality is mentioned in Plus Code (for example J9CG+2X Noida, Uttar Pradesh), first part (J9CG+2X) is Local code and second part (Noida, Uttar Pradesh) is Area code. According to Google Maps, plus codes work similar to street addresses. You can easily use a ‘Plus Code’ to find and share a place on Google Maps.
Plus Codes in USA
Plus Codes in India
How to use plus codes on Google Maps?
You can use Plus Codes in Google Maps in two ways – either to find the Plus Code for a place or to find a place using Plus Codes. Google Maps support Plus Codes for both Android and iOS devices. Click here to know more.
Though Plus Codes initiative seems to be an extension of existing project, Open Location Codes or OLC, an open source project by Google engineers, Plus Codes project is managed by Google’s Zurich engineering office.
Reason behind Plus Codes?
Interesting part starts here. While there are similar services available, Google might be looking for an easy and native way of integrating grid based addressing system into Google Maps. There may be several reasons behind Plus Codes. For example they might have found it difficult to integrate all existing services with Google Maps or other reason might be the use of Google Maps platform for commercial purposes bringing in additional licensing challenges. And Google introduced Plus codes to avoid these challenges. Google also did an evaluation of existing encoding systems and their challenges and is available on Github. Another smart move Google made was, plus codes developers offering and making it an Open Source project. Check out the GitHub page.
Where do Plus Codes really help?
The half of the world’s urban population lives in unnamed streets. This was the biggest challenge for Google. So Google initiated Plus Codes as an open source project to assign these unnamed streets a traceable address. Popular services like What3Words use similar concept. Government organizations, businesses, and humanitarian agencies have started using such services to make their work easier and quicker.
Interestingly, Cape Verde’s postal services were the first to support plus codes for mail delivery. This move from Google Maps, is certainly going to create a ripple in third party Map Application market and invoke developers to integrate Plus Codes in more services.
Now, open Google Maps app on your phone, check out plus codes, play with them and let us know your views in comments. If you are a business or development agency using similar services or planning to use this one, please tell us your views on Plus Codes initiative.