Mapping the world with three little words


What problem affects both the affluent business traveler relying on his car’s GPS system and the farmer living in a remote Mongolian village hoping to receive a letter from a relative? Both suffer for the lack of a single unified geolocation system—that is until very recently. What3words, a four-year-old company based in London, Johannesburg, and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, is trying to rewrite the way we talk about location. The company was founded by Chris Sheldrick, an event planner who grew frustrated by suppliers and bands struggling to find their destination. Ultimately, he came up with a system that divides the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares—57 trillion of them to be exact—and assigns each grid square a unique three-word address.

Every location, of course, already has a unique address—its longitude and latitude. What3words simply assigns each set of coordinates a unique three-word address that’s easier to remember, write, and say. So the tip of the Eiffel Tower has the address, “ranches.regular.deciding,” while the building housing Design Hotels World Headquarters in Berlin runs roughly from “test.opinion.domestic” to “” The hope is that this new system will improve business efficiency and customer experience, drive growth, and support social and economic development throughout the world. Already, it’s proved beneficial to delivery drivers in Dubai, businesses in Nigeria, and NATO disaster response teams in Bosnia and Herzegovina, among others.

Thursday, December 14th, 2017