Thursday 18 July 2019

Divisions as new postcode goes live

Alex White said the new postcode will make people's lives easier and better
Alex White said the new postcode will make people's lives easier and better

Hundreds of businesses have shown interest in paying for Ireland's new postcode as it went live for the first time.

With 2.2 million addresses on the Eircode database, those behind the much-criticised system said the code could be used on internet and digital mapping tools within eight weeks.

Alex White, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said it will make people's lives easier and better - but no-one will be forced into using it.

"It will be easier to deliver mail and parcels to the correct recipients and it will be easier to shop online," he said.

"Businesses that deliver parcels, or other goods and services, will have an affordable and effective new tool, which accurately identifies addresses and enables improved efficiency."

First mooted more than 10 years ago, Eircode cost 27 million euro to set up and its development makes Ireland the last country in Europe to take the leap.

Within minutes of going live, the mistakes were being highlighted on social media.

The most obvious was Shannon Airport's relocation to Limerick, along with many other businesses and addresses in the Shannon region - while some homes in Celbridge were transported to Naas and many rural villages found themselves on the wrong side of a county border.

Each address has a randomly generated seven character code. T he geography is identified by three characters based on postal districts and is known as the "routing key" and the exact location is marked by a combination of letters and numbers known as a "unique identifier".

Part of the codes is random, prompting some criticism as there is no connection between two addresses side by side.

Only Dublin managed to retain an alphabetical connection to its geography with D1 to 24 and D6W, prompting remarks that well-heeled districts of the southside may have influenced the early days of the design.

Some 820 companies have sought information from Eircode on paying for the service, while talks are ongoing with internet and digital mapping companies over access to the database to allow users to input a code into online maps to generate directions.

As it stands, Eircode already creates X and Y co-ordinates to allow smartphone users to find a code for an address and then copy the location to a map on their phone and generate directions that way.

Any tie-up with internet mapping companies like Google or Apple would work the same as UK postcodes and would be much more user friendly.

Alan Duignan, Eircode commerical director, said: "It's a decision for those guys to make themselves in terms of the resources and what sort of build they have to do.

"But they've indicated to me that they hope to have it available as soon as possible and I'd be surprised if we don't see it start to emerge over the next eight weeks."

Despite these assurances, some freight businesses - including FedEx, DHL and UPS - questioned the design of Eircode.

An Post, however, said it has been involved in the development of the new database and will be using it.

There has also been criticism of the random nature of eircodes - two premises next to one another will not have comparable codes - with the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association warning in the past that the system could cost lives as responders will not be able to learn or predict the locations.

But the National Ambulance Service supports the new system and said it will speed up the identification of non-unique addresses when a new national computer aided dispatch comes on line in September 2015 linked to Eircode.

Conradh na Gaeilge protested outside the launch at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, a ngered that 50,000 place-names in the Irish language will not be on the system.

People interested in looking up codes for family, friends and business connections can only check 15 addresses a day, for commercial reasons.

PA Media

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