The Ordnance Survey today revealed its plans to produce a replacement for the ageing Global Positioning System (GPS) in common use for both military and civilian navigation. The new system, seen as a cost-effective alternative to the troubled European Galileo system, has a working title of Pub Orientated Wayfinding (POW).
At the unveiling of the project in the prestigious surroundings of the Grosvenor Hotel, Professor J. Scott Billingsworth said that the system will fit more neatly with true human behaviour than the existing GPS or planned Galileo system.
"When we ask someone for directions, we don’t want a long list involving distances and turns, because we can never remember them." explained controversial behavioural scientist Professor Billingsworth. "The directions that are most successful are those that are related to our easy-to-find local landmarks, such as today as we stand in the Grosvenor, or ‘Just up the road from the Hogshead Pub’ as POW would tell us."
The Professor explained that many people were frustrated that whilst the existing GPS provided clear and concise directions, it does not work very well for providing people with a sense of where they are and provides no help when they do become lost.
"You could be anywhere in the world when the directions are simply ‘turn left in 100 metres’," he said. "So you can’t stop and ask someone directions. However when POW tells you that you need to ‘turn right at the Prince Albert and follow the road then take the next turning left after the Rat and Parrot’ then you know roughly where the Bowling alley is."
The POW team plans to keep their database continually updated to provide ever more granular landmarks that are both useful to the traveller and any locals that he might encounter whilst trying to get to his location.
"When you are lost, if you explain the POW directions to a bystander they will of course know what you mean, unlike current GPS based directions," said the Professor. "The POW database will contain useful waypoints such as a group of kids hanging around outside a nearby McDonalds or the police riot van watching them from the corner."
The POW project has plans for a nation-wide rollout early next year, and is currently evaluating the prospects for international versions.
"The initial launch of the system will cover the UK only," explained Professor J. Scott Billingsworth. "However we may extend the system to less civilised nations, in the event that British ex-pats find enough suitable hostelries for the database."
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