Mull mapping app means no more dead ends

Alan Parker (left) with Julien McKenzie and their three word address

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The perennial problem of finding an address on Mull may just have been solved for good.

For years now, certain properties and places have proved elusive to the unfamilar.

Despite the advent of the internet, mobile phones and satellite technology, phone receptions remain sporadic – leading to spotty internet connections – and many visitors have found that Sat Navs are far from reliable.

It has all proved a headache for many – especially care workers, the emergency services and taxi drivers – who all need to find addresses quickly.

Add in the fact that postcode areas on Mull can cover multiple properties spread over a wide area, with some names difficult to pronounce, and it has all meant that some addresses on Mull have proved impossible to find.

Yet Tobermory neighbours, Alan Parker, a former music teacher, and Julien McKenzie, a current music and principal teacher, both of Tobermory High School, appear to have come up with a solution.

The idea is an app called ‘Find Me Quick’ which can work both on- and off-line across Android and IOS phones, and combines Google Cloud services and ‘what3words’ (w3w) mapping.

For the unfamiliar, tech experts w3w assigned each three-metre square in the world with a unique and random three word address that never changes.

More precise than a postcode, people simply find the three words associated with a specific address and follow the directions to the door.

Mr Parker, who has a keen interest in how new technology can help remote areas, was only too aware of how difficult it was finding places on Mull as his former wife was a doctor on the island.

Mr Parker explained: ‘I first saw the concept of mapping locations using what3words on BBC Click – immediately recognising how this could be advantageous for Mull.’

He arranged a visit to the w3w headquarters in London to see how Mull could use the technology, with his idea being to create a ‘sustainable and inexpensive mobile app solution’ for the island.

That is where he turned to the expertise of neighbour Julien who had a long history in IT innovation for global brand companies from BP to Deutsche Bank.

Julien’s app – backed by a supporting website – www.mullw3w.co.uk – impressed w3w staff who visited the island to test the concept and film a promotional video, which was sponsored by Jaguar Land Rover.

Never has the technology proved more vital than during the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown.

Both say the ‘Find Me Quick’ app has been used to deliver goods and get services to vulnerable people in remote locations – serving as a lifeline.

Mr Parker explained: ‘The impact of the app become immediately apparent, for example, first responders on the Ross of Mull started using it to find and respond to incidents.

Taxi drivers and social service people use it to find properties where postcodes are problematic at best.’

Julien, 47, was only too happy to help – recognising that Alan’s idea of a friendly and simple location-finding device for key workers on Mull would have tremendous benefits.

‘I designed the app from the ground up,’ said Julien. ‘I implemented Google Cloud technologies to store property and location data. I integrated the w3w mapping technology and application environment to produce a highly-accurate database of property locations on the island within three square metres.’