Three Little Words to Find Anyone, Anywhere on Earth

What3Words earth image

Three Little Words. Well, not always little words. But three words all the same – and there really is an app for that. An app called What3Words. If you haven’t heard about it yet, it’s understandable; Statista reported that in 2015 more than 1,000 apps were submitted to Apple’s App Store every day. Every day! And, as of June 2016 there were more than 2 million apps available to both iPhone and Android users. It’s hard get noticed amidst those kinds of numbers – What3Words is definitely a standout.

What is “What3Words”?
What3Words was an ambitious project resulting in a universal addressing system that assigns, you guessed it, three words to identify a specific location. Basically, What3Words has applied a fixed global grid of 3 meter x 3 meter squares (about 10 feet X 10 feet) to our planet – and each square has a unique three-word address. The three-word addresses convert directly to latitude and longitude and vice versa. Three words are much easier to remember, use and share than a set of coordinates – and it’s more accurate than a postal address. There is also some level of error correction built in (more on this later). The What3Words program is small enough to fit on your phone – and can work without an internet connection. It’s a game changer compared to other attempts; What3Words seems to be the first consumer-friendly, gridable earth.

What are the Benefits to U. S. Logistics and Delivery?
There is a lot of potential here. In just some quick thinking through the application, What3Words could fix problems with delivering to larger complexes like apartment buildings, hotels, conferences, etc. by pinpointing door locations, reception desks, receiving departments, etc.

For those U.S. companies that have international customers, this could be extremely effective to use when the addresses are really poor in certain locations; there are many of those markets. Much of the worlds’ population now has smart phones – even if they live in a poorly addressed locations. There seems to be very little effort to install the what3words app or have a shopping cart use the GPS on an individuals’ phone to get the three-word location. What3Words is already in use in Mongolia and two counties in Ireland are using it for tourism. The latest news and information can be found on the what3words website.

If you were building a yard of sea containers in the case of an emergency management situation, a military bases or even an overflow commerce hub, you could quickly use this to figure out where you’ve parked your containers. Of course you could also use GPS but What3Words is much more universally people-friendly.

What are some other implications?
A smaller example that can still be important in business is for large trade shows or conferences. Given the size of some facilities, it can be a challenge sometimes to describe an exact location to team members, delivery personnel, etc. With What3words’ incredible precision, you can give an exact location in understandable terms no matter what the language or smartphone (dropping a pin is proprietary to Apple; if you drop a pin to Android users, it doesn’t work so well).

How about meeting up with friends and family who might not all be familiar with an area? What a cool way to facilitate something like a Craig’s list transaction and meet someone at the 3 words coordinates.

The words are not ambiguous and there is error correction built in so that if you mistakenly add an “s” to one of the location words, for example, your results are not anywhere close geographically to your desired location if it were typed correctly without an “s.”:

  • If you type lions.tigers.hears, that is a location near East Lansing, MI
  • If you type lion.tigers.hears it is a location near Bothell, WA

It doesn’t have to replace, but it could certainly augment, existing software. An example for this is CarDrops (it’s not clear if they are already using What3Words; maybe they are?). CarDrops can remotely open your trunk the moment a delivery partner arrives with your package. They then securely lock your car and send you a text about the delivery. As the consumer, you might not know they were using the What3Words app but it could help them locate your vehicle in a way that is much simpler for their personnel.

The Future Possibilities
While the US wasn’t really impacted by the metric system in the way we thought might happen, something like What3Words may be more successful. For example, Europe was texting on GSM phones in the 90’s while people in the U.S. didn’t even know what texting was. Now no one seems to be able to live without their phones and texting.

If we can play a small part in helping people know that What3Words exists, and inspire people in our industry to use this technology, that could be something. Maybe What3Words will go nowhere; after all, there was a Netflix before today’s Netflix; and sometimes being right too early is the same as being wrong. Or, maybe it will revolutionize the delivery of goods in other countries. We believe that What3Words is one of those technologies that if it were adopted, it could become part of the mainstream and really change how we meet up with other people, deliver packages and more.

Have you seen any cool apps that make sense in the supply chain industry? We’d love to talk with you and publish your story here. Contact Open Sky Group today.