A universal addressing system in three words

Home Technologist 06 A universal addressing system in three words

Four billion people have no address, leaving them unable to receive mail, visitors or help. The London-based initiative what3words wants to change that.

Chris Sheldrick co-founder of What3words, based in London.

Founders Chris Sheldrick (pictured above) and Jack Waley-Cohen have invented a universal addressing system that uses trillions of three word-combinations. It is based on an algorithm that assigns three simple words to each of the 57 trillion squares of 3×3 metres that cover the globe. Their own offices, for example, are at index.home.raft. Although the algorithm shuffles through 25-40,000 words (depending on language), the whole system fits into a mobile app that requires less than 10MB of memory. In assigning a name to each square, the algorithm considered variables like the length of words and how frequently they were used. More populated places got the easy combinations, while a spot in the Sahara desert may have gotten longer, less known words. The algorithm spreads similar sounding combinations around the world, preventing mistakes due to typing errors or wrong pronunciation.

“Our vision is to become the global standard,” says Sheldrick.

“We want to change the way the world thinks about location.”

The concept What3words won them the Innovator of the Year award at London Technology Week; now the challenge is to get governments and businesses on board.

By Line Emilie Fedders @LineFedders

More questions about What3words? Tag them on twitter @what3words !


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