A cyclist crosses the Mahatma Gandhi Marg near Defence Colony in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: Sanjit Das/Bloomberg)  

Google Wants to Impose Order on India's Street Address Chaos

(Bloomberg) -- Google’s wants to help users in India get around -- no mean feat given the country’s often byzantine address system.

The Alphabet Inc.-owned search giant unveiled an open-source project that aims to make sense of the chaos of India’s hyper-growth cities: a shifting warren of hidden alleys, ever-changing landmarks and missing street signs. Called Plus Codes, it’s a location-based digital tagging system that divides the landscape into tiles and assigns a unique code to each, making navigation easier.

Google is tackling the project as part of its own search for the next billion users. Non-standard addresses now increase the costs of running all types of commerce from ride-hailing to online retailing and food delivery. While touting its benefits in India, the system will be rolled out globally.

Plus Codes -- in a ‘6-character + city’ format -- can be generated and shared by anyone on Google Maps, while apps that use location services can incorporate those codes on their own platforms. And a user can enter the Plus Code into searches to call up a location. Google Maps is also adding voice navigation in six more Indian languages, after introducing Hindi three years ago.

“In India, we know how challenging it can be to reach a given residential address,” said Suren Ruhela, director of Google Maps Next Billion Users. “The other reality is that millions of people and places in India are hard to locate -- especially those in remote areas.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.