Putting what3words' simple address concept into car navigation systems is helping to change the way we think about location.
It's easy to see why what3words is such a good idea. CEO Chris Sheldrick was inspired to start the company after his experience in the music business – getting continually lost.
“Everyone always had this amazing ability to show up at the totally wrong entrance," he told HERE 360.
That was because they were relying on postcodes or written addresses, and in a huge music venue they were not nearly precise enough.
And music venues are not the only place where traditional addresses are found to be somewhat lacking.
“We also traveled a lot around the world and realized that we often take for granted that every street has a name," Chris said. “In many countries, that's not the case.
“We went a lot to India doing events, and it's much more erratic."
what3words has divided the entire world up into three square meter squares - 57 trillion of them!
Added to that, many addresses are duplicates, and some important places such as scenic views have no address at all. The potential for confusion is great.
To solve this problem, in 2013, Chris set up what3words with a friend. They divided the entire world up into three meter squares. Each of these 57 trillion squares was given a unique name made up of three random words from the dictionary.
They include remote and rural areas in countries worldwide from Mongolia to Brazil.
Spreading the [three] words
Like most good ideas, its genius lies in its simplicity.
But it was one thing coming up with the idea, and another getting everyone to start using the three-word address code in their daily lives. A website and app alone could not achieve that.
Automakers using HERE-powered navigation can now include what3words as an in-car feature.
“To get the scale, it requires being integrated into things that people use every day without them having to get a new app," Chris conceded. “For that reason, we've secured integration with car companies like Mercedes, where it's now an all of their new car navigation systems."
A new partnership with HERE Technologies will extend this reach to other car manufacturers.
“A lot of the car companies we were speaking to really wanted to integrate what3words and of course HERE has a really dominant market share of the map software in those cars, so it was a logical fit," Chris said.
Give your car's navigation system the three-word address, and it will take you there.
Drivers input a what3words address just as they would a street address, entering the three words directly into their car head unit or connected car app. They may find the what3words address in booking confirmations, guidebooks such as Lonely Planet and website contact pages, or be given it by a friend. They can also look up the what3words addresses for any location with the free what3words app or online map.
The benefits of using what3words go beyond helping drivers to get to the right location.
Currently being used by 84% of emergency services in the UK, what3words is particularly useful when someone is in a location such as a forest or beach where specific addresses might not apply.
“We just ran a project in Germany, with DPD and Mercedes Benz where they showed what a huge time saving it made for the drivers having those accurate delivery locations," Chris said.
Being able to isolate precise 3m square locations has a number of commercial uses.
The rise in e-commerce has accelerated this need for accurate deliveries. what3words is being built into check-out fields on e-commerce platforms all around the world, so consumers can specify exactly where they'd like their delivery.
In the UK alone, what3words has seen a more than 1,000% increase in adoption of its technology into retailers' checkout pages.
A what3words address can eliminate frustrating driver phone calls asking for directions and the drivers themselves do not have to rely on local knowledge.
It is available in 46 languages and optimized for optical character recognition (OCR) scanning, so can help to smooth out cross-border logistics.
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