The global address system is imperfect. Road names are often repeated or similar within municipalities, leading to botched deliveries, confusing navigation, and wasted time. Street addresses only cover developed areas with established infrastructure. Geographic coordinates are precise but too complicated for everyday use.

To fix these problems, London-based what3words is simplifying global addresses. The company has divided the entire surface of the world into a geocoding grid of 57 trillion 3-meter-by-3-meter squares, assigning each a unique three-word identifier. This allows more accurate location sharing and product delivery and provides addresses for the billions of people living in developing neighborhoods without defined street names.

To encourage the use of their system around the world, what3words has translated the map grid into 14 languages such as French, Arabic, and Swahili, with more to come including Hindi and Zulu.

The system’s benefits are numerous. To date, the national post services of Nigeria, Djibouti, Côte D’Ivoire, and Mongolia have adopted the what3words system and begun delivering goods and mail to many residential locations for the first time. South African cities like Durban are using it to properly direct emergency responders. The United Nations is using it to geotag imagery as a common operating picture for disaster recovery efforts in remote locations. The system could even break into personal navigation. Mercedes announced it will incorporate what3words addresses into the voice-activated satellite GPS for next generation vehicles.

For areas without thorough building numbering or street addresses, embracing what3words could improve city planning, enable efficient business, and help people define their homes.

Photo Credit: what3words

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Posted by Andrew Foerch