Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Eircode - As New System Introduced so Freight and Transport Groups Consider the Consequences

Precise Postcode Format Has Potential for Good and Bad
Shipping News Feature

IRELAND – The last two weeks of June will see the country’s own controversial postcode system, Eircode, rolled out across the nation, with every business and dwelling allocated a unique seven digit reference. The occasion has caused the Freight Transport Association in Ireland (FTAI) to call for support from the IT and Geo communities to help small and medium businesses get the best from a system which has raised both fears and objections.

The problem for Eircode lays in those last four digits, the randomly generated identifier for every individual property and bearing no relation to that of its neighbours. Critics have pointed out that use of the full code can help governments or private organisations to identify individuals, potentially contravening data protection legislation. Many road haulage operators have said publicly that they will not employ the full code in their transport management operations until they perceive a real value in it.

The FTAI has found many of its members will not be using the last four digits, choosing instead to only show the initial three identifying symbols which give a ‘routing’, a general area. The system has been hailed by backers as ‘a much more advanced Postcode system’ praising the advantages for those such as the emergency services enabling them to locate a property precisely. This however doesn’t take into account that one incorrect character in those last four random digits could mean a diversion to a point many miles away. FTA Ireland General Manager Neil McDonnell observed:

“Many businesses either cannot afford to use Eircode, or would find it operationally or contractually impractical to do so (since every single postal address in the country will have a unique, randomly-allocated postcode). However, the first part of the proposed postcode, which is structured to reflect An Post’s operations, would increase the granularity of Ireland from 24 Dublin postcodes and 26 counties, up to 139 postal districts without operators needing to unnecessarily license the Eircode database.

“The introduction of Eircode is imminent, and whilst members of FTA Ireland have said that they won’t be using the system as it stands, we are attempting to make part of it work for small businesses. You could say we are trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but we would like to see small business get something out of it, and are appealing to IT and Geo communities to help make sense of the system, and support SME’s in the process.”

FTA Ireland has emphasised that in order to conform with Eircode licensing agreements, no one who helps FTAI will be paid for this work, nor will FTA Ireland charge anyone for access to the resulting polygons, which it will provide free of charge on its website. This will be a pro-bono piece of work, carried out on behalf of, and available to, small businesses in Ireland.

In order to carry out this work, FTA Ireland is seeking the assistance of a licensed user of the Eircode ECAD file to map the polygons associated with each of the 139 routing keys. (In the context of postcodes, polygons refer to the geographic boundaries of each routing key area).