‘What Three Words’ in the News

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I came across an interesting article in my newspaper recently about ‘What 3 Words’, a location referencing system I first wrote about back in December, 2016 –

‘What 3 Words’ allows you to locate specific points on a map. It consists of a giant grid of the world made up of 57 trillion squares of 3 metres x 3 metres. Each square has been given a unique 3 word address comprised of 3 words from the dictionary. It’s far more accurate than a postal address and it’s much easier to remember, use & share than a set of GPS co-ordinates.


Image – Daily Telegraph

Each square’s address contains totally different words to its nearby squares – an example might be: gazed.across.like. Each w3w shortlink uses the w3w address in the link, such as: http://w3w.co/index.home.raft. This can be embedded in a web site or blog, or e-mailed to a friend. By clicking on the link, you are taken to the specified location on a map on the w3w website.


Image – Daily Telegraph

You can log on to the What 3 Words web site, and check out the three word address for your own home, school, or chosen location:

Here is a What 3 Words code for my old school:

ScreenHunter_02 Apr. 09 11.18


untitledWhat 3 Words also has a map app which allows you find out the 3 word reference for any location, as well use a 3 word code to easily navigate to a specific place.


ScreenHunter_03 Apr. 09 11.28There is also a photo app, which will add the What 3 Words reference of the location to any photograph taken with it.



What 3 Words has now also started to make signs for both outdoors and indoors to show the location of a place. You might want to get one made up for your home location or perhaps even your school.

Here is one for my old school:

ScreenHunter_04 Apr. 09 11.44


The newspaper article described how motorist Valerie Hackett found herself stranded after driving her car into a ditch, and with absolutely no idea where she was. She called the police, but as she could not be seen from the road she was unable to direct them to the scene.

It was then that the What 3 Words geocoding system came into its own. Ms Hawkett initially tried to send police her location via Google Maps on her smartphone, but once they texted her the web address for What 3 Words, she was able to provide them with the 3 word code “weekend, foggy, earphones” which led officers straight to her location – a field on the A36 near Norton St Philip in Somerset. Avon and Somerset Police was among the first in the UK to pilot the technology last year and Ms Hawkett, 33, and her daughter are believed to be the first to be rescued with it.
Two other police forces, Humberside and West Yorkshire, also use the system, as does the British Transport Police and three fire services – Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

Thousands of other organisations have also adopted the technology, including the UN – which uses it for disaster relief. It is also used by Mercedes-Benz, which recently launched the world’s first car with built-in What3Words voice navigation, and only today, I saw an advert from Ford explaining that drivers of their cars are now able to use the system to enter destinations by voice. Domino’s Pizza are also making use of What 3 Words, and anyone can benefit from the system by locating people they are looking for in crowded places like sport stadiums or pop festivals.


Image – Ford

The technology was the brainchild of British entrepreneur Chris Sheldrick, who says it is more specific than postcodes and simpler than GPS coordinates. Mr Sheldrick and his friend Jack Waley-Cohen, a mathematician, who met when they both played chess at Eton, came up with the idea in 2013 and spent a year developing the product. They ensure that words with two different ­spellings and profanities are carefully screened out. A pool of 38,500 words is sufficient to provide all the three-word combinations required.

Poor addressing costs businesses billions of dollars, and around the world it hampers the growth and development of nations, ultimately costing lives. The founders of this new method of geo-location claim that around 75% of the world suffers from inconsistent, complicated and poor addressing systems. This means that around 4 Billion people are invisible; unable to report crime, get deliveries, aid or simply have a name for where they live. It is their intention to give everyone in the world the ability to talk about a precise location as easily as possible. It is their mission to be the world’s address system; the universal standard for communicating location.


About devongeography

Head of Geography and Assistant Vice Principal at South Molton Community College, North Devon. Exeter Chiefs supporter!
This entry was posted in Curriculum, Fieldwork, General Geo, Students, Teachers, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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