Every location on earth now has a simple, 3-word address

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I think right now is the best time ever to be alive, because we are seeing so many amazing innovations in lots of different areas. I’ve just recently learned of something that I believe will change the way we think about location and mapping around the world. It’s called What3Words.

what3words

What3Words.com is where you can get the app, and you can play with the mapping concept it’s based on, right there on the website at what3words.com.

This innovative idea solves a big problem. The problem is trying to describe to someone where you are. This can be a problem in a variety of situations:

– You’re at the state fair. This is an event that covers hundreds of acres because there’s a lot there – all the animals, the midway with all the games, the entertainment area, the rides, the huge fields that are used for parking. Your wife might want to go and browse the 4H vegetable growing competition, and you want to take the kids to see the pig races. An hour later you are trying to find each other. You might be able to describe nearby landmarks, but it can be difficult to walk straight from where you are to where she is since the place she is standing doesn’t have an actual “address”.

– You’re in your car, driving on a long, desolate country road. Suddenly you have a flat tire, and you discover┬áthat your spare is also flat. You can call AAA to come out and change your tire, but you’re not even sure of the name of the road you’re on, much less what the address would be. How do you tell them where to come?

– You’re visiting your friend in Australia for a week. You go out for a walk, and end up walking farther than you originally planned, and now you’re out in the middle of nowhere without a sense of which direction to go. You could call or text message your friend to come and get you, but the only “landmarks” to describe are trees. How can your friend find easily find you?

What3Words has solved this problem. They have divided the entire planet into little 3 meter by 3 meter squares – 57 trillion of them in fact. And every one of those squares is designated by a unique set of just 3 words.

This is so much better than the “system” we have now:

It’s more accurate. More specific.

It’s universal worldwide. Currently, each country has its own system for addresses. You might know the system for the country where you live (for example, I know that each town in the US has its own 5-digit ZIP code) but if you travel somewhere else, such as Canada, that’s all different (I have no idea how the postal codes in Canada designate locations). And in third-world or developing countries they might not even have a workable system for every location. But they do now – every 3m by 3m square has an address.

It’s MUCH easier to remember. It doesn’t even compare. For example, there’s a nearby hair salon with this mailing address: Hair Cuttery, Bayside Bridge Shopping Plaza, 1500 North McMullen-Booth Rd, Suite A15, Clearwater, Florida 33759. Instead of that long address, you could instead use these three words: weep.hilltop.myth. That would take you right to the front door of that business, and that location is the only location in the WORLD that has that 3-word address.

Of course you can pinpoint a location somewhere in the world with latitude and longitude coordinates, but words are much easier to remember.

All of the 3-word addresses for the entire world fits into an app small enough to run on your smart phone. So wherever you happen to be, it can figure out which 3-word address you’re in so that you can communicate that to AAA, your spouse, or your friend in Australia. And it even works offline, so you don’t need a data connection in order to use it.

The way this will change things is astounding. From the website:

what3words
what3words

They have also made this explanatory video that gives a good overview:

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Jim Robertson
May 11th, 2015

Very interesting, thanks for pointing it out.

By the way, the Canadian Postal Code will zero down to one side of a street in urban areas, sometimes one building depending on how large it is, or one community mailbox (where we don’t get door to door delivery, but to a nearby set of postal boxes).

The code ANA NAN

My postal code is K1T 0C6 which narrows it down to a community mailbox standing on a corner 100 yards from my house.

Technically someone could address mail to me at “185 K1T 0C6” (185 being my house number)

Scott Johnson
May 11th, 2015

Thanks Jim. I knew there was some logical system behind that, just never knew how it worked.

Rich Grimshaw
May 11th, 2015

This is crazy-way-cool. Thanks for sharing, Scott.