Absolutely nothing new here, not sure why novelty…
1. Ham-radio operators use a locator system which narrows the area a bit but was never meant to be so precise that could be used by emergency services.
2. In UK services and military had a ces for years to a grid reference system, open, a de-facto standard, proven – just Google it. You can find grid refs on maps as well, at least some. Most importantly emergency services know this system and can readily use it.
Biggest problem of w3w is that it requires use of GPS, at this point I can just as well run Google maps and be given also approximate location to know which neck of woods in in. Take situation from last week – I spotted fire from the train, dropped pin on Google maps, called 999 and described location using landmarks and map, with w3w if be guessing which square that is – not as efficient as good old map.
Good blog post. W3W would be possibly very useful if not their $$$ strategy. Bit disappointing, I liked the idea.