13 sep 18

An extraterrestrial vacancy? Galactic law enforcement? A cosmic patisserie?

It’s the address of our office in Whitchurch, Hampshire.

How can a geographical location be a three-word combination? Since its origin as an improvement to delivery logistics, Chris Sheldrick the creator of What3Words has made this bizarre idea possible. Across the globe, 3mx3m spaces are labelled with a unique three-word address, totalling a mind-boggling 57 trillion squares. These are generated by a complex algorithm that transforms GPS coordinates into three simple words.

Previously unregistered areas like forests or oceans are given their own unique location and it’s about time they were. The existing coordinate systems we use for mapping remote places like these have been in place for thousands of years. By changing the game, developing parts of the world are able to improve delivery of goods and build infrastructure, leading to the growth of GDP. Essential humanitarian aid can more easily reach the communities that need it.

For businesses, W3W can increase efficiency by speeding up the supply chain, making products and services more readily available to the customer. Seven countries including Mongolia and Nigeria have already adopted the technology for its postal services and that number is counting. So why does it work so well?

Generally speaking, it’s down to simplicity. Three wild words work better than a long-winded address because they’re easier to remember and less prone to human error. Take our address, for example, The Chapel, 58 London Street, Whitchurch, Hampshire, RG28 7LN. It would be much simpler as three words.

The quirky nature of our word combination makes it instantly more memorable and as it’s been translated into 26 languages, anyone can find us. But, what happens if you get the spelling wrong?

You’d be directed to North Korea. Hopefully, you’d realise that a design consultancy in Hampshire doesn’t have a North Korean office before booking a plane ticket. The algorithm ensures that any near identical calibration, i.e. forgetting the plural of alien in indulgent.aliens.wanted, leads to an entirely separate location on the globe. The algorithm also discounts words that sound similar “More common words go into the population centres, but something like “here” which could be spelt “hear” and cause confusion if you’re saying it to somebody else - we take that out,” said Mr Sheldrick (The Mirror, 2016).

In conclusion, as the globe shrinks & social communities grow the general public ought to adopt a more accurate locating service. The way we use addresses has evolved. We travel more, we send stuff further, and the internet has revolutionised the way we look at and interact with the world. We need an address system fit for the 21st century and What3Words may just be the answer.