The postcode database – which turns a postcode into a longditude and latitude and back again – is not free in the UK. In the US this data is free, hence why so many great web applications have been launched, businesses built, mortgages paid for etc. But no, not in the UK. The Post Office owns this data and sells it to companies for a large amount of money (only large companies can afford it) for things like parcel tracking. But of course, 80% of businesses in the UK are small. They can’t afford the data so they have to make do with whatever services they can get. Plus, of course, non-profits can’t use the data either.
So what you need is people collaborating with GPS units noting positions and postcodes using a simple application. iFreeThePostcode is this ridiculously simple app and it’s now on the iPhone for free. (iTunes link).
The aim of it is to allow you to submit postcodes to the Free the Postcode project.
This is a project to create a public domain postcode database in the UK, a much cheaper option than the existing database.
When you start up the app it shows you a few text boxes and your current latitude and longitude. When your accuracy goes below 50m it will turn green and you will be able to submit your postcode. You also need to enter a valid email address, this is to stop spammers sending useless data and to allow some tracking of who has submitted what postcodes. If someone is found to be submitting copyrighted data, their submissions could therefore be removed though this should not be an issue when using iFreeThePostcode as you will be using the iPhone’s GPS. Once you click submit you should get a success or failure message. If your submission succeeds you will receive an email containing a special link. The application has also been made open source.
You can also submit postcodes using andnav for Android phones.
The ideal scenario is when visiting a pub or restaurant, you can take a look at their menu or ask the staff for the postcode and submit it from that. I think there might be some way of incentivising people to do this – perhaps getting their Twitter account listed or something?
So go download it and smash the Royal Mail monopoly people.