In the space of about a decade, we have all become quite dependent on our satnavs and phones to guide us to the right spot while on the road, but being able to correctly specify your exact destination is not always easy. Entering an address correctly, perhaps in a foreign alphabet while travelling, can actually be quite difficult and frustrating, and that’s assuming the place you’re in has a formal address system in the first place. That assumption is simply not valid for a lot of places in the world. Even in many developed countries, there are plenty of examples of such ‘off the grid’ places. Latitude and longitude coordinates are always there as a fall-back option, but unless you know how to enter them properly, and you are sure that the numbers are correct to begin with, you may end up in totally the wrong place. Interestingly there’s now a much easier way to describe locations anywhere on the globe.

In fact, every 3x3m patch on the globe can now be pointed out using just 3 regular words. Have a look for yourself: http://what3words.com/about/

It’s quite amazing to think that three words is all it takes. It might be English words in your case or mine, but the system is available in a growing number of languages, and the algorithm works for the whole globe, so any location can be translated easily between languages. Fancy a spot of ice-fishing in Greenland this weekend? How about we try at “tracks.supplies.luminous”? Doing a bit of yachting around the British Virgin Islands? How about we anchor at “pelican.whiskers.oranges” tomorrow? How about making it easier for your guests to find your AirBnB? 🙂

The system has been designed in such a way that a small typing error will result in a location that is very far away from your intended destination if it exists at all, so you should immediately realise that you have made a mistake. For example, “pelican.whiskers.orange” is in Mali… not exactly next door to Cooper Island!

There is of course a more serious side to this technology, in that it basically gives everything on the globe an address that normal people can communicate quite easily, which means it could not only make things easier (e.g. delivering packages, finding holiday locations), but it could save lives (e.g. fighting fires, providing humanitarian aid).

There are alternative geo-location systems out there as well (such as XADDRESS), as I found out after a bit of digging. Each of them do things a bit differently, but it’s nice to see that there are people thinking about simplifying such things and putting solutions out there.

To be clear, this is not a paid advertisement. I just stumbled across this service the other day and it not only put a smile on my face, but it got me thinking, so I decided to write about it.

 

Originally published on August 15by Edwin Edelenbos on LinkedIn.

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