Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 30 June 2015
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications
National Postcode System - Eircode: Loc8 Code Limited
I remind everyone to turn off their mobile phones. Apologies have been received from Deputies Michael Moynihan, Patrick O'Donovan and Seán Kenny and Senator Ned O'Sullivan.
Today's agenda is a meeting with Mr. Gary Delaney of Loc8 regarding Eircode. The purpose this afternoon's meeting is to engage with Mr. Delaney who is anxious that the committee would hear his views on certain elements of the new postcode system. On behalf of the committee, I welcome Mr. Gary Delaney of Loc8 Code. Committee members have already received his presentation.
As we have to conclude our meeting by 2 p.m., I ask that Mr. Delaney confines his presentation to a maximum of ten minutes to allow time for engagement with the committee members.
I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Any statements witnesses have submitted to the committee may be published on the committee website after the meeting.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I invite Mr. Delaney to make his presentation.
Mr. Gary Delaney:
I thank the Chairman and members for inviting me here today. What I have to say is of particular relevance to the matter of the national postcodes, particularly the chosen system, Eircode. I have spent many years in the positioning and navigation industries. I worked for 35 years as a navigator and land surveyor, have relevant experience and qualifications in the field and am a fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation. The whole idea of a postcode and how it may be used is, in effect, a navigation technology exercise. The conduct of a service, product or person from A to B is about navigation.
Way back in 1997 and 1998, I developed a specific interest and completed a master's degree in co-ordinates systems and geo-coding systems. I went on to consider how those could be applied to mapping and navigation systems in Ireland and abroad and, in 2005, began developing what I believed was an address code system for Ireland, Loc8Code. I did not necessarily view it as a national postcode as that had never been delivered. Since Loc8Code was delivered to the market in 2010, I have amassed a lot of experience in a coding system for addresses in Ireland. This experience is also relevant to the committee's deliberations today.
I have prepared a very detailed analysis of Eircode, which members have in soft copy and which is also available to them in hard copy format. It is a very technical document. The subject merits this level of technicality; we are not just introducing a series of characters to define or identify properties, but are introducing a piece of national infrastructure, which needs careful attention.
Much has been made of the fact that An Post may use Eircode. It is my opinion that An Post will not use it much, although it may tolerate it, because Eircode does not fit with An Post's operations. If that is the case, we must focus on the other users, namely, the transport and logistics industries, emergency services and, particularly, the ordinary people, who have not been mentioned much. If the people in the street do not use this coding system, it is not a postcode and will be relegated to history along with other technical projects with which Ireland has been involved over the years.
As it stands, Eircode gives the user no intelligence about the location of the property to be travelled to. In fact, it has less capability than latitude and longitude, which have been around for hundreds of years and with which most people are now getting familiar.
t suggest that I am coming to this issue with a vested interest.
It is important that I draw the committee's attention to a report by the Global Address Data Association, GADA, in the US, which was circulated to members during the week. I will not go into its detail but, effectively, it says that Eircode is not a postcode. The detail of the discussion is an indictment of Eircode in terms of what it is supposed to do and can do, and the fact that it is not the technical new generation solution for a postcode that people have claimed it to be.
We must not forget that when we talk about the history of a national postcode, it dates back many years. Essentially, the national postcode was about levelling the playing field in Ireland with postal liberalisation. The postal market should not be referred to or thought of as just mail, because the front line in the postal market nowadays is parcels and other companies, including couriers, deliver parcels. If it is the case that the postal market is liberalised, everybody should be able to equally and easily find addresses in Ireland. Eircode was supposed to be about that. If it is the case that people from various industries have stated, before this committee or in other interviews, that it does not do that, perhaps the field is not levelled. In my opinion, if we have spent 13 years talking about this, there must be significant reasons that it did not happen. It is quoted that, perhaps, An Post did not want it to happen. That is on the public record. A postcode has not been designed for 13 years; it has been designed only since January 2014 when the winning bidder, Capita, engaged directly with An Post to design the code. The document which covers that is in the public domain. It is the postcode design document which runs from January 2014 to May 2014, when it was published. That consists of a consultation only with An Post. There is no record in that document of consultation with other people.
That is the basis. I will deal first with the issue of whether Eircode has legitimacy. I will not go into all of the detail. I have raised some topics in the analysis as to why Eircode might not have legitimacy, but one of the most significant is that Eircode does not conform with, or deliver, the definition of a postcode that is in the legislation, the Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Act 2011. I realise the Oireachtas is dealing with an amendment to that legislation at present, but we already have an Act which defines what a postcode in Ireland should be and Eircode does not fulfil that. The definition requires the postcode to define a locality. In other words, if I look at the code and I wish to go somewhere, that code automatically delivers to me the idea of where I am going. When we are going somewhere, none of us visualises the exact destination. We always visualise how we are going to get there and the areas we will pass through to get there. That is navigation and it is how people operate. That is the reason the definition says that the postcode should define a locality. The design document for Eircode states very specifically that it will not define a locality. An Post has requested that it would not define a locality because there would be unreasonable expectations about where people live and so forth.
I have documented in the analysis other reasons that Eircode may not have the legitimacy it should have, but in that regard alone it does not. In fact, if one reads the definition, it becomes very clear that the method An Post uses for sorting at present, which is the post town model and which the High Court gave sanction for An Post to operate and use in 2012, better conforms with the legislation and the requirement. In fact, if we go ahead with Eircode there might well be the possibility of two postcodes operating in Ireland, one which has legitimacy and High Court sanction and another that has no legitimacy. If Eircode is to be used as a property identifier for property related taxes and so forth, it could easily be challenged.
Effectively, Eircode does not comply with the legislation, nor does it comply with all of the recommendations of the last national postcode board since 2006.
It does not conform with the tender documents. It does not deliver something required by the ordinary Joe Soap user. Citizens of Ireland and visitors to Ireland need to be able to look at a postcode and use it in a useful way. Eircode has ignored all the prior knowledge about postcodes that existed in the world. If I was going to design something, as I have done, the first thing I would do is look at what is there, take what is good from it and enhance it as necessary. Any designer or anyone in business globally would do likewise.
In the document I have furnished to the joint committee, I refer specifically to the Northern Ireland postcode, which is part of the UK postcode. If one looks at the two examples I have included in my submission - BT4 1PW and BT4 1PY - one might not know exactly where those locations are, but one will see immediately that they are close together. One cannot make the same judgment when one looks at an Eircode because there is no indication of whether two postcode locations are close together. This is a critical issue for ordinary users. It is important that there is some intelligence in the code that tells us we were there before, or we will not have to go far from where we were previously. Above all else, one should be able to use the free Excel spreadsheet software that is readily available to order postcodes in a rational sequence for delivery.
Mr. Gary Delaney:
I will make a couple of brief points before taking some questions. As I have said, Eircode does not deliver intuitive capability for ordinary people in Ireland. It has been suggested that Eircode is a core requirement for mail. I would argue that a national postcode should be about the widest breadth of national requirement. There was a suggestion that the Eircode app would do for non-core matters. It is well recognised that anything that depends totally on technology must have a fail-safe backup that can be used in a manual way, especially if it is being delivered by a state which has a responsibility to its people. Eircode cannot be used in any manual way.
I will make one more point before I conclude, if the Chairman does not mind. Much has been made of the fact that Ireland has non-unique addresses. This is a concern mainly for people who operate address database lists. The real problem in Ireland is ambiguous addresses. It is a different problem and a much bigger one. Everyone here has experienced the simple issue of standing in a busy street and not knowing which door is the right one. There might not be numbers on the doors, or an upstairs apartment over a shop might not be identified. The emergency services might be trying to reach someone who has collapsed and activated an alarm button. Eircode does not resolve the big problem of ambiguous addresses. It tries to rely on technology, including GPS, to resolve it. As a GPS expert, I can tell the committee that in my world, we would not rely entirely on GPS because it has many limitations. For example, it cannot and will not resolve the problems encountered in a busy city or town street or urban area, where there are upstairs and downstairs apartments and back and side entrances
Yes. I thank Mr. Delaney for coming before us. I know he has offered to attend on a number of occasions. Now that he is here, I was concerned for a while that we would not have a quorum. I am conscious that he has travelled all the way from Cork. While I have a little knowledge of this matter, obviously I do not have Mr. Delaney's extensive experience of this whole area. I have been asking questions because I have concerns about a number of aspects of Eircode. I have concerns about the cost of it and the value for money associated with it. I believe the solution offered by Mr. Delaney was free.
I will follow up on that. I am just outlining the concerns I have. When I initially outlined them, the response from the Department, the Minister and Capita was that the new code is more than just a geographic code, as it will help services and Departments.
It is something that they will build on into the future in order to provide a better service. I have asked about what processes will change to provide a better service, but I have not received an answer. I continue to have serious concerns about Eircode. I am not sure what I can do about it because it seems to have taken on a life of its own.
Mr. Delaney said he offered a solution to what he understood the Government wanted from a postcode system. When was that?
I ask Mr. Delaney to talk me through whether he had access to the specifications or requirements when he made the offer. If he has the information, I would like him to talk me through what he sees as the difference between the proposed system and that which he offered for free. Can he identify any service benefits for the future offered by the Eircode solution that would not be available within Loc8Code?
Mr. Gary Delaney:
I will deal with the requirements first. As I said, there is a long history, which I have dealt with in the document, and I hope people have time to consider it in detail. In 2006 the national postcode project board, which was appointed to come up with recommendations for a postcode system, defined nine criteria. It is arguable that Eircode does not satisfy any of them. I refer to two in particular. One is that national postcodes should be based on small spatial areas. Loc8Code does this, but Eircode does not. I referred to localities and the definition of a postcode in the Act. In the design document, Eircode does not do that.
From my navigation background, I am conscious that a person travelling anywhere first visualises the localities through which he or she must drive to get there. Those recommendations were picked up by the board and brought forward. We knew we could address that. We also knew we could address the idea that the code must be future-proofed and based on technology, while also being easy to use and not hidden. The UK postcode system has survived for 50 years. It has problems, and I am not recommending it, but I am taking ideas that work from it. It has many features that work, such as the fact that anybody can look at it and intuitively guess that something is closer or further away.
These are all things we build into Loc8Code, not just because they were recommended by the national postcode project board but because we, as navigation experts, recognised that humans needed to know them. They also need to know such things when GPS or the mobile phone network is not working. We have SOS phones on the side of motorways because it is recognised that phones do not always work when there is a disaster and the emergency services need to locate people.
When the tender for the postcode started, it used the 2006 national postcode project board recommendations as the reference. The recommendation to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resource from PA Consulting in the months before that were that it was to comply exactly with that.
Mr. Gary Delaney:
Yes. Loc8Code designed a code that was intended to fulfil all those requirements and did so. The difference between Loc8Code and Eircode is that Loc8Code is intuitive.
There are localities in it. It certainly depends on GPS - that is my business and my background - but it does not require GPS to actually interpret it. It can be iterated in the same way as the Northern Ireland postcode that I have given. Eircode cannot.
The other issue about Eircode is that it is totally dependent on a database which must be kept up to date. I have supported sat-navs in this market for nearly 15 years, so I know GPS and I know sat-navs very well. I know also that people do not keep them up to date. I dare say, if there are sat-nav owners in the committee, I could count, probably on one finger, the number of people who have ever taken the time to update them. If one builds a postcode that is totally dependent on a database and in that database there are coding systems that can change and need to be updated on a regular basis, then if the sat-nav is not up to date or the GPS is not up to date, one cannot use it. If over-the-air communications, Internet, or mobile phone networks are required to access that database, we know that a piece of national infrastructure has the potential to fall over in the event of a major emergency or disaster. The major emergency could be just a major pile-up or a crash on a motorway where emergency services need to get to the right location and the right access points.
In terms of a deliverable, Loc8Code has much more to offer. To be honest, I did not come here today to try to sell Loc8Code to the committee. That was not my intention.
Mr. Gary Delaney:
Yes. You asked me not to deal with that issue. I want to conform with that request, although I hope that some other day we can talk about it, because there are particular issues with it, but that is not what I am here to do. I am here as an expert, and I outline my expertise in this area. None of my expertise or the expertise of people in the addressing business or in navigation or technology were used in the design of Eircode. I am here to highlight the limitations - the severe, distinct limitations - of Eircode. We are not here to implement an address ID for a database. We are here to introduce a-----
To my mind, this is crucial to everything. Mr. Delaney said he was happy that the system he offered for free could meet the requirements as outlined by the national postcode project board in 2006 and as requested in the tenders. He has commented that Eircode cannot. That is a crucial question that needs to be answered. We have-----
Deputy, without prejudice, what I am saying is that I do not think any of us here, apart perhaps from Mr. Delaney, has the expertise to either affirm or contradict what he is saying. We quizzed the Department and other companies on this issue. Two of points made as to why the Eircode system should be used were that it was more suitable for a country with a more rural base - that was my reading of it - and that the British system was not suitable because the way in which houses are clustered is different here. I am not here to contradict anything because I do not have sufficient knowledge to do so.
Mr. Gary Delaney:
Perhaps I can address that issue, since the Chairman has raised it. The non-unique address issue is an issue for a database - for navigating or finding a way around the database. People in the real world - emergency services, people getting to farm accidents, tourists, anglers, or whatever, all of whom are key parts of society - are interested in non-ambiguous addresses, which is the bit where the technology-----
Mr. Gary Delaney:
The point was made that the last four characters of Eircode would be random because we could not make them sequential due to the problems that would be caused by new builds. That makes absolutely no sense. Nobody but Capita, in the design document, looked for a sequential code in the first place. In the design document in which Capita engages with An Post, it asks specifically whether the code should be sequential.
The reply from An Post was that it did not need it to be sequential because it delivers by local knowledge. We now have a code that is random because An Post said it should not be sequential and the reasoning for that is that a house built in between two other houses would put the sequence out. We deal with imperfect sequences every day of our lives. It is a mild inconvenience. To say that we would make something random, by which is meant it has no visual intelligence, purely because a sequence might be mildly out of sequence and a mild inconvenience makes a nonsense of the code. It also means, incidentally, that we do not have localities, which should be in the code according to the legislation.
I welcome Mr. Delaney. Like the Chairman, I have listened to all the evidence and I thank Mr. Delaney for the documents he sent us. My concerns about this project grow every time I hear more detail at these meetings. Supposing we do nothing - I know this has been through the tendering process and so on - the taxpayer saves €27 million and An Post continues to deliver 98% of the post the next day. Mr. Tom Carr, on behalf of his people, stated they do not want it and the safety sector stated it can find places where there are accidents, etc. We have never had a proper cost-benefit analysis. The national post code document that the Department sent us on 19 November last is not adequate.
All I can say at this stage is that there is a Government economics and evaluation service - the head of the oversight committee is Professor Frances Ruane whom we all know - and there should be an independent cost-benefit analysis done on the project. I am worried that we are not getting independent advice in regard to issues raised with us, such as the Aer Lingus sale and whether electricity wires should be overhead or underground. The advocates come in here and are all gung-ho to do the project.
We have to operate within the terms of reference. There was a referendum on whether we would have increased powers. We must operate within the system. It is my job, as Chairman, to see we do that. That can be frustrating at times and I experience that too.
I thank the Chairman. I am indebted to him for what he does. Obviously, the matter has been around the Department since 2006 and we have heard from witness after witness. I do not think anybody who has appeared before the committee would not put €27 million of their own money into this project. What is it supposed to be doing?
An Post was in. I note a quote from Mr. Liam O'Sullivan who stated:
Some of the questions were related to An Post. To confirm, we will be using the Eircode system in all of our mail operations. We have four large automated mail centres. We have in excess of 350 delivery units of various size around the country. We will definitely be using every element of the Eircode system in sorting letters, packages and parcels. Whether we sort them using machinery or by hand, we will definitely be using the Eircode system.
I am not saying that is right but the quotation is right.
Mr. Gary Delaney:
I am not expert on post but I have researched this subject for quite a number of years. I could say to the committee right now that I will use Eircode because someone is giving it to me. That is a use but it is not a meaningful use. To put it into practice, in its hubs An Post sorts to delivery office level. To sort manually to delivery office level, one would use the first three characters of Eircode, what they call the routing key. There are 139 routing keys. By the way, this information is only coming out. It is not something that was delivered to everybody or to the committee. This information is just being extracted. There will be 139 routing keys, which are undefined areas. They do not have actual boundaries. They are decided by An Post on an ad hocbasis in the sense that if a postman is underworked in one area, he will operate an other area and that will get the routing key from the first area.
The Chairman just quoted the figure of 350 delivery offices. How could we manually fix 139 routing keys to 350 delivery offices?
Mr. Gary Delaney:
I will tell the Chairman how it is done, because it involves another step - that is, the use of a post town in addresses, which is the system An Post has justifiably operated for many years, with High Court sanction, and the definition under the Act allows it to continue to do that. An Post, and the Minister in announcing this, were very quick to say that people would not have to use Eircode, and that is the reason. It will continue to sort manually to the delivery offices based on the post towns.
To finish the point, once we get to the delivery office area, what is relevant is the last four characters. Much has been made of the fact that those four characters are random. How could any human interact with four random characters without reference to a computer? Delivery offices are not automated. To implement Eircode in those delivery offices, the sorting procedure would have to be automated, which would result in many closures and many job losses.
At the moment, 98% of the post is delivered the next day. Even if this were a perfect system, it would achieve an improvement of only two percentage points, although no organisation operates at 100%.
In the context of the Chairman's earlier comment that we all recognised in 2011 that there had to be reform of the way we look at public expenditure, even though one of the referendums did not achieve the result we would have liked, it must be kept on the agenda. If I am returned to the Oireachtas, I will certainly want a much stricter appraisal. Projects should not get this far without one page of costs and one page of benefits being produced.
For what it is worth, I have heard that the real aim of this is to identify people claiming the dole under two names, but that has nothing to do with postcodes. If the Minister for Social Protection wants to do that, she will go to a different committee of the Oireachtas. It is reduced to that level, Chairman. I cannot get any postal benefits. We have heard from Tom Carr, the ambulance service people and so on, all of whom are iffy about it. If it was free and somebody else paid the €28 million, they might use it.
I think Mr. Carr's people had the numbers with them.
An experience I have had, in a constituency which is on both sides of the Border - that of graduates of Trinity College Dublin - is that the Northern Ireland address codes are an extra nuisance. I know where a man lives in Clones, but I will be asking what the seven-digit code for Newtownbutler is, when it is only six or seven miles down the road.
The problem with the post is that the volumes are falling so rapidly. I understand that the technology knows perfectly well, without numbers, that Belmullet is in Mayo and Bandon is in Cork. It is doing that job already without the addition of the seven digits. The people I admire are the postmen, who achieve the figure of 98% delivery every day they are at work. What is this supposed to be doing, and what do we get for the €27 million? I cannot see that, after all the evidence to which the Chairman referred.
Mr. Gary Delaney:
The danger is that in haste - after 12 or 13 years it is not so much a question of haste, but there seems to be an impetus now to get this over the line as quickly as possible - we implement something that cannot be changed. Senator Barrett mentioned Nightline. When the Nightline representative presented here, he made a strong point about his concerns about implementation and also mentioned the idea of a pilot. Every country in the world implementing a postcode system - Uganda, Tanzania, the United Arab Emirates and so on - will do a pilot test first to ensure it has value. John Tuohy of Nightline said that should happen. No pilot is planned, so that is very worrying. He also said in a separate interview that if it does not work out he can tweak it. Tweaking a postcode is like tweaking the Luas red and green lines, with huge cost and inconvenience to many people afterwards, and will only result in Eircode not being used for any purpose.
There is a danger that we just accept this because it has got so far. There is a history of documentation, and there are many statements.
At the end of the day one must look at Eircode. We have very little information on it, but we can all look at an eircode and see that one gets no information from it. I have provided a reference in annex A of my document. It is of no use to anybody, including a postman.
After Irish Water, we have to be really careful. If we tell every household in the country that their address has now changed to have seven characters of mixed digits and letters, it may be the last straw. People will say, "What is this? It is more madness." I am afraid of that. I certainly hope it is kicked to touch until after the election for that very reason. There have to be benefits. Of course all the guys who sat down with Mr. Delaney think it is wonderful, but I see none of the proof in the documents. A lot of people do not think it is wonderful. While the proponents have come in and made the case, I am not convinced and neither is the public.
I am quite confused; perhaps more now than ever before. Mr. Delaney mentioned GPS, which cannot be reliable at all times. I was in the south west of Ireland last month looking for a particular location, but GPS was sending me in the wrong direction. I met a young man who works for An Post in Clifden and we were talking about the new Eircode system coming in. He said they will be depending on the postmen to clearly identify homes. I asked him what he meant and he gave the example that in a small area in Clifden on the same street, we have John and Mary Quinns at four separate addresses. I asked him how he knew which piece of mail was for a particular address and he said "Sure, after a while you kind of get to know their business and know which mail is for which address." I asked him how he knew which of four ESB bills was for each address. He said he did not but at least they go through.
Senator Barrett appears to be most concerned about the cost-benefit analysis and the €27 million or so that is going in. That is one particular issue. This particular issue is about trying to identify whether this is the best code. Mr. Delaney says it is not the best code. Capita says it is. The matter is with the Department. It has been passed and is going through the various stages of procurement. Addresses are not going to change. I will still live, to use my parents' address, at 110 Cooley Road, Drimnagh, Dublin 12. The Dublin 12 reference will not change and it might be D12XYZ. The next door neighbour might be 112 Cooley Road, D12XYB. Capita is telling us that this unique identifier in the last four digits is unique to each house. As far as I am concerned, this is fantastic as it will eliminate the Mary and John Quinn times four issue in one area. They will know that a particular Mary and John Quinn's unique identifier identifies their house. The emergency services are saying this will be good for them. An Post has said it will use it and there will be a cultural change in people's thinking about not using the address if they do not want to. In the United States of America, where I used to live, the Zip code in Rye, New York, was 10580. Philadelphia, 19085 is a locality that might have been three miles by three miles, but that code still does not identify an actual address on a particular street. Capita tells us that this unique code will. It is saying this is the first code in the world that will give us a unique identification. The reason the codes are not going to be sequential is that it might be 400 to 500 yards from one house to another today but someone might build a house between them once the system is in place. Therefore, they will have a unique four digit code at the end of it. If Capita is telling us this will work, why does Mr. Delaney say it will not and that it is not future proof?
Mr. Gary Delaney:
There is a great deal in what the Senator has said there, some of which I think I have answered already. I respect what the Senator is saying because we all want to believe the people who have been awarded the contract to deliver this on our behalf.
We all want to believe the people who have been awarded a contract will deliver this on our behalf. If it is the best, it would have been established. Everywhere else in the world where a postcode is being introduced, the idea is tested and piloted. This has not happened here. The fact that it is the first of its type in the world would suggest that we should test it before we go to the bother of rolling it out and wasting not only €27 million, but all the costs to all of the businesses, including An Post, and everyone else who wants to use it. Potentially, this could be €100 million out of the economy. It is quite substantial. I am in business and I am also in professional navigation. If somebody tells me something is the best, the first thing I will do is test it.
Emergency services were mentioned. In one of the annexes to the documentation I provided to the committee is a document from the director of the National Ambulance Service. When people were sitting here stating they were behind it and supporting it, he wrote a letter to a private citizen, not me but an individual, stating he had never said it would do all that is required for rapid access to patients. This is the direct opposite of what he was quoted as saying. He also went on to say that he does not know enough about it to be able to talk about it in depth. One would imagine if the director of a national agency supported something he would first investigate, test and analyse it and check its suitability for his or her purposes and for the public, because it is all about public safety. If the director of the National Ambulance Service is saying he cannot speak about it in depth, perhaps he never had the chance. I can tell the committee from other sources that neither the National Ambulance Service nor the fire service has ever tested or looked at Eircode in reality, as in a real-life scenario tested all the way through, which is what anybody would do if money was being spent on technology.
I accept if a business process outsourcing company such as Capita states it has the best in the world, we should believe it. One would suspect the people who say this would have some technical knowledge but this is not the case. There is no expertise on this in the organisation. One would also ask the company to show where it has been tested. An oversight contract was awarded to PA Consulting in April last year, and one of the requirements was that it would make a decision and assess whether Eircode was fit for purpose. We have not heard this. To do this, it would have to test and analyse it, but this never happened. What is of concern is that we might roll it out and find it is not useful. This should happen before we roll it out.
It states: "I would like to acknowledge receipt of your numerous emails in relation to the Eircode initiative... At no stage has the NAS or myself outlined that this system is the answer to all our needs in relation to rapid access to patients etc, however it is a mechanism that will assist and fill the void that exists at the moment."
What would have been in it for Mr. Delaney and his company if the Government had accepted his free offer based on the original specifications as agreed by the national postcode project board? What are the downsides for his company and similar companies in Ireland if the Eircode system is adopted nationally?
If I am in Spain and I want to go to a particular area in Madrid, which let us say has the zip code 16924, my GPS will pick it up. If I am in New York in the United States and I want to go to an area with the code 19085, if I put it into my GPS, it will take me there.
If I am in the UK or Northern Ireland and I put in BT4 1PN or whatever, it will come up and I will be taken there. Surely with Eircode, if I put in D21 US4 as the unique identifier, the system will have to be built into GPS for GPS to accept it. I am sure Capita Ireland, which is building the new system for us, will test that to ensure delivery to an exact address as opposed to a location within the vicinity.
Mr. Gary Delaney:
The main manufacturers in the Sat Nav world, Garmin and TomTom, which do not rely on telecommunications have no plans to introduce Eircode. If they did at some point in the future, then the user would have to load a database. That would be facilitated but, as I said earlier, loading a database and keeping it up to date is not something we are good at. Garmin has locate code working, which can be used free in Ireland right now. It is on the device. It has been there for five years and it is tried, tested and proven. I accept what the Senator said because that is what people expect but, unfortunately, with Eircode, that is not happening, and I could in cameratell the committee about the conversations I have had about Eircode, because I deal directly with Garmin and TomTom.
I was asked about the downsides. In annex D, I have listed a selection of thousands of locations in Ireland that will have no Eircode. They extend from farms, where there are many accidents nowadays that emergency services need to attend; forests, the entrances to which fire services need to access; outdoor sporting events; outdoor leisure activities, including festivals; and, for example, on a campus such as UCD, all of its properties except the one to which the mail is delivered. The downside of Eircode is it will not address all the requirements of this economy. Logistics companies are not interested in going directly to properties. They want to know where the entrance is so this system does not address that eitherIt will not address all the needs of a modern economy. If we introduce a postcode that is worse than a traditional postcode and it does not address modern requirements, then we will have a code that within a small number of months will not be used at all. We also have a legal problem because it will not comply with the legislation.
On behalf of the committee, I thank Mr. Delaney for attending. It is my understanding that the Government awarded the contract for the postcode to Capita Ireland in 2013 and it is due to the launched in July. However, a transcript of this meeting will be forwarded to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.