what3words is a global initiative that makes finding your location easy in an emergency

what3words has assigned a unique and unchangeable three word address to every three metre square in the world
Hands holding mobile phone using the What3words app
what3words assigns a three word name to every location in the world. Image: what3words

How does what3words work?

In order to make location sharing easy, and to enable people around the world to find out exactly where they are, what3words have come up with an interesting solution. Every three square metre area throughout the world has been assigned with a unique three word address.

This can’t be changed, regardless of whether buildings or roads change, so the location is immediately identifiable. This completely solves the problem of outdated GPS maps not recognising new road layouts or buildings!

How are the names of each location identified?

The three word names are designed to be simple, easy to say and be quickly communicated. For example, the location of the what3words offices in London is ///filled.count.soap.

Using words is easier to remember and communicate in an emergency than using a numerical GPS coordinate. To illustrate this, the GPS location of the same premises is 51.520847, -0.19552100. That isn’t a sequence easily remembered or given over the phone particularly in an urgent situation.

Top of a mountain with the what3words location identified
what3words works literally everywhere in the world. Image: what3words

What problems does what3words solve?

There are lots of applications of this new location identification system which make life easier for meeting friends. However, there are some far more serious problems which this system could put an end to for good.

If you find yourself in an isolated area with no street signs, no recognisable landmarks and nobody to ask for help it can be frightening and very difficult for anybody to find you quickly. Should you have a poor signal and not be able to drop your GPS location, even more so.

what3words can be used by emergency services to find exactly where they need to go, and without needing to try and find somebody needing desperate attention. This application comes into its own in rural locations, gigs and campsites. The app also reduces essential time when responding to an emergency in a heavily built up area.

How do I get started?

You don’t need to sign up to anything to find out your location, or to name your home or place of work; it already has an address. The what3words app is available on Android and iPhone, and is recognised by a huge number of existing businesses. You can download what3words on both Google Play and the Apple App Store.

From Domino’s Pizza through to The AA, there are companies throughout e-commerce, navigation, ride hailing and logistics to name a few who have compatible systems which recognise the three word location identifiers.

New Delhi aerial view with what3words showing the location
The system is ideal for locations where finding an exact address is difficult. Image: what3words

What further developments might be made using this system?

what3words is already used in over 170 countries worldwide. The system has been adopted by thousands of businesses, governments and NGO’s. The app is available in more than 35 different languages, so is usable and adaptable around the globe.

With current uses in travel, emergency services and disaster response, this new addressing system is clearly solving a problem. With TFL now introducing the system to help London commuters, it seems only a matter of time before every address is replaced with a simple, easy to remember three word code!

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