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  • Digitize the Entire Earth

    By Xinhang Shen, President, President NAC Geographic Products Inc. (October 23, 2002)

    NAC Geographic Products Inc. has developed a revolutionary technology to digitize our planet and make it more convenient for all people living on it. The Natural Area Coding System is a new geodetic system which introduces two new features to the geodetic system: It integreates the concepts of geodetic points, line sections, areas, and three-dimensional regions and creates one standard form of coordinates to represent all these geographic units; It Employs 30 characters instead of ten digits and making full use of these characters to produce shorter coordinates.

    As the world enters into the 21st century information era, people are busy digitizing almost every possible thing from music, books, maps, telephone to television and delivering them through disk, CD, DVD, Internet and wireless. Now what is the next big step for the digitization? The answer is the most important object - the earth we live on.

    As the technology fast progresses, people are now able to describe every corner of the earth accurately. As the globalization continues, people need accurate spatial information. That leads to the birth of the Global Positioning System (GPS) that can provide exact location information with small GPS receivers. Recently, GPS chips have become so small that can fit into almost all electronic devices such as watches, cameras, cellphones, so cheap (below $10) that almost all people can afford. With this technology break-through, digitizing the entire earth now becomes non-fiction.

    Now the problem is only how to digitize the earth and make it really convenient for all people living on it? Many people may think that this has already been done because all GPS receivers can provide accurate geographic coordinates for all locations in the world. But after you examine the display of a GPS receiver, you will realize the problem. When a pair of geographic coordinates in longitude/latitude go to the resolution of individual addresses, it will require more than 20 characters that are nearly impossible for general consumers to remember, and also difficult to communicate. It will make a business card awkward to include such geographic coordinates. Due to this weakness, printed street maps don't like to include longitude/latitude coordinates, and therefore, GPS receivers can't easily relate their readings with landmarks on the maps. Because longitude/latitude coordinates are nearly useless to general consumers, supposed small GPS watches still need a large screen to show the current location on a map that makes these watches larger, heavier and more expensive. Because nobody likes using longitude/latitude to represent their addresses, people still use long addresses for online driving directions services that not only require many input keys but also have difficulties when foreign characters are involved.

    On the other hand, there are no systematic codes and names for all the areas in the world. People still use place names to retrieve maps from online map servers that are not only inefficient but also have difficulties in inputting foreign characters.

    Therefore, no matter how accurate locations GPS receivers can measure, the digitization of the world has not been done yet. The digitization should make everybody in the world able to use and benefit from it. This will be one of the biggest steps for the world toward the globalization and digitization in the 21st century.

    NAC Grid on a World Map

    In order to solve these problems, we have to study the current systems. At the moment, a pair of geographic coordinates represent a point without size that does not make any sense in the reality. Because of the different concepts of points and areas, people have to use different ways to represent areas and locations and make them very inefficient. Actually everything in the world has a size, why don't we use different size areas to represent locations so that we only need one unified representation for both a location and an area? Since the number of characters in geographic coordinates are very sensitive to general consumers, we should optimize them to make them as smaller as possible. This study resulted in the birth of the Natural Area Coding System ( that has generated Natural Area Codes (NACs) for all areas from the size of thousand kilometers to one meter or even smaller derived from longitude/latitude coordinates. These eight or ten character NACs that can uniquely specify individual buildings, houses, gates, doors, parking meters, trees, sewage exits, etc everywhere in the world are also called Universal Addresses.

    The Natural Area Coding System has really digitized the entire earth and made it really convenient for all people living on it. These eight or ten character Universal Addresses have the similar length of telephone numbers. They can be easily remembered and communicated. They have eliminated the barriers of languages in addresses. They can easily fit into the limited space of business cards, yellow page listings, advertisements, etc. They can be pinpointed on all maps with Universal Map Grids no matter they are world maps or local street maps. They can also be displayed on all GPS receivers without support of databases or maps. GPS watches displaying Universal Address can be made much smaller, lighter and less expensive. Using Universal Addresses to replace traditional addresses on online or wireless driving directions services can save more than 80% of input keys and eliminate the difficulties in inputting foreign characters. Using Natural Area Codes instead of place names or longitude/latitude coordinates to retrieve maps can save more than 90% of input keys. The Universal Addresses can also be used as global postal codes to sort all domestic and international mail automatically. They can also make emergency services more quickly and reliably, and save huge amount of time for tourists and taxi drivers to find addresses.

    This technology will create huge business opportunities in upgrading all maps, watches, cellphones, handheld GPS receivers, providing highly efficient online and wireless driving directions services, map services, location based business searching services, and developing GIS and mapping software, emergency response systems, mail sorting systems, property and public works management systems, etc. All these will result in dozens of billion dollar businesses, and may become a strong thrust to push the slaggish economy to a healthy state.

    Thus, this will be the next step of digitization for the world.

    GPS Cellphone Displaying Spatial Coordinates as Longitude/Latitude and Universal Address

    Xinhang Shen, President
    NAC Geographic Products Inc.
    (416) 496 6110

    Related Weblinks:
  • Article in Globe & Mail
  • NAC Details, description and specifications

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