what3words – towards a universal addressing system.
Articles,  Blog

what3words – towards a universal addressing system.


I’m going to talk a little about how things have changed. In the last few years the way that we move, the way that we move ourselves, the way we move things has really, really changed. So the way that we move and the way we interact with places we go has changed. And it’s often based on these devices. But there’s a problem. Which is that some of the systems that we use were not designed for devices. They weren’t designed for machines. So, one of those systems is street addresses. Now, street addresses were designed a few hundred years ago. They were designed when maps were big things that you used on paper. They were designed to take a piece of mail and deliver it to someone’s house. Probably by a person who knew everyone in the village and knew exactly where it would go. But what we do with addresses, street addresses today, is we type them into devices. We type them into our cars, more and more we say them, with our voice, into our cars. And addresses were not designed for this. And this is a problem. So we don’t have a simple way to explain where things are. And this is a world full of millennials like me who are very demanding. So it’s not just about getting lost. We’ve become more and more demanding. A few years ago, if I ordered something online maybe I ordered a package, maybe I ordered pizza,
when I was ordering something online I was much more patient. So when Amazon a few years ago used to take two weeks to deliver my package. That was okay. But we have become more and more demanding. Now, I order a package I want it the next day. Sometimes I order a package and I want to know it’s arriving between 1pm and 2pm. And at five minutes past two I get on the phone and I say: “Where is my package?” We are very, very demanding as consumers
and we’re more connected to the brands than ever. So we complain. We complain when things are five minutes late. When our Mytaxi or Uber doesn’t arrive within three minutes we cancel it. We order something else. So consumers are becoming more and more demanding with the way they move, with the way things are delivered to them around the world. If you’re shipping a package from China to the U.S. there’s a strong possibility there’s going to be a mistake in that address. And if you have a mistake in the address it’s very hard to make that delivery. And in fact, this is an expensive problem. So last year nineteen per cent of failed deliveries were due to inaccurate address details. Maybe mistakes, maybe the package got shipped to the wrong place. Addresses are a very expensive problem. Poor addresses are an expensive problem. And you have other problems. So, for example if I told somebody to meet me at Harrods, this is a very famous shopping center in the UK. But there’s one address and it pins in the middle of the building. Now if I’m getting a helicopter to the top of the building,
maybe that’s helpful. Otherwise, this gives me no information about where the parking is. Which particular entrance of the many entrances I want to go to. And what if you’re a delivery driver, if you’re a delivery driver how do you know where the goods entrance is if it’s the first time you’ve been there. We’re about to be in a world where you can get in a flying taxi and in can take you from one point to another and we’re using addresses that just aren’t very good. They just don’t do the job. This was my old flat in London. Now if I looked up 62 St. Gorge’s Way it pinned in the middle of the road. Now my flat was actually at the end of this kind of U-shaped building. At the end. Okay. That’s a slightly frustrating problem for me. When I ordered my Uber they would always show up there and I would phone them and I would say “Keep driving 30 secs up the road.” When I had packages delivered I would often get a phone call from the courier saying: “I’m sorry, I can’t see your house.” Now, that’s frustrating for me. But if you’re a delivery company and you’re delivering a million packages a week and maybe one in five of those you can’t find the entrance, you have to phone the customer, that is a seriously expensive problem. And then let’s talk about voice. So voice search is coming. The projections mean that by about 2020 half of searches will be by voice. And that’s cause voice when it works is amazing. It’s so much faster. It’s in fact three times faster than typing. But addresses were absolutely not designed for voice. And this is one example of that. So this is in London and there’s a place that’s called Lome Road, the one on the top, and there’s another place called Lawn Road. Now they are just spelled differently, Lome and Lawn. But they are said exactly the same. There is no difference in pronunciation. So if I wanted to get Alexa to order me an Uber and I said: “Alexa order me an Uber to Loam Road”, how on earth does Alexa know which of those I meant? So, let’s skip ahead a little. We are thinking about voice. We are thinking about making deliveries. We are thinking about moving people. The minute you take the driver out this becomes much more of a problem. So right now if my Mytaxi driver, my Uber driver can’t find me we phone each other. And I say “I’m wearing a green skirt. I’m standing outside Starbucks. Can you see me?” When you have no human being to communicate with that’s driving your robot taxi, that’s delivering your package, maybe it’s one of those very small delivery robots, you cannot do that. You cannot phone that robot. And say: “Can you see me? I’m wearing a green skirt.” So. This is a problem we want to fix today. Before we take the drivers out of cars. This is a problem we need to fix today so that tomorrow we don’t have frustrated customers, who can’t find their taxi. Who can’t get their packages delivered on time. So, we basically decided: It’s time for something new. It’s time for a universal addressing system. Now this is a system that should work the same way in every country in the world. . If you are shipping from China to the U.S. you should have the same system. If you’re staying in an Airbnb or a hotel in Japan or in Hawaii you should have the same system. So there is a wonderfully accurate system that is universal. And it is GPS coordinates. Now, this is perfect if you’re a machine. With a GPS coordinate I can say the particular entrance to the building is here. A different entrance is over there. It works the same in every country in the world. But the problem is: It looks like this. So, we wanted to take GPS coordinates and make them work for everybody. Work for those of us and especially to work for voice. So what we did is we took the entire world. And we made a grit. So it’s a grit like this. It’s a grit of 57 trillions squares. Each of those squares is 3 metres by 3 metres. So about if I stand here, about from here to the van, that’s about three metres. There are 57 trillion of these squares in the world. That covers the whole world including the ocean. And we labeled every single square with an address made of three words from the dictionary. So this parking space is at “spicy float Monday”. I can tell you to meet me at “apple banana spoon”. There are 57 trillion of these addresses, each one is totally unique. So “spicy float Monday” is this parking space. And this one is “pirat gather daisy”. So everywhere in the world has an address made of just three words from the dictionary. That’s how simple it is. These are all unique. I can give you no more information. I can say: Meet me at “apple banana spoon” and it is every piece of information that you need to meet me at a three metre by three metre square. So we have an app. So right now you guys can download this app for free anywhere in the world and look up the address of your house. Now, we’ve done this in 26 languages. So if you speak German you can use German three word addresses in Germany, in Hawaii, in Russia, in Japan. So you can use your own language as you navigate the world. So that’s the idea. We wanted to create a system that is universal, that is simple, it’s accurate and it’s built for voice. So that’s “what3words”. Now it’s used all over the world by thousands of businesses, governments and NGO’s. It’s used to help to make sure you don’t get lost. Mercedes became the first car company to bring “three word addresses” into their cars. So you can get in your new Mercedes, like an A-class. You get in your Mercedes, you say: “Hey Mercedes, take me to what3words “sunroof mall jingles”. Just with your voice. No complex typing in of long addresses no going back and starting again, because it didn’t hear you properly, you get in you say: “Hey Mercedes”, you give in three word address and you navigate to that exact three metre by three metre square. Now think about delivery. What does that mean for delivery? Well, it means you can be much much more efficient. So we’ve done some tests all over the world and this is in London with a courier company,
a courier company that does one hour delivery. And their speciality is being very fast and they tested street addresses versus three word addresses. And they found that three word addresses were about 30 percent faster in the last mile. Think about what that means. 30 percent faster. Times that by a million deliveries a week – that’s a lot of money that you’ve just saved. And it’s not just about speed. It’s also about customer experience. With traditional street addresses they’ve had to phone customers seven times to say: “We can’t find the entrance. We’re in the parking garage, where are you?” With three word addresses they didn’t have to phone any customers because they knew exactly the three metres square that they were after. And it was also reducing variability. So it means you can make much more accurate predictions of when those deliveries are going to arrive. And that matters. If you’re saying to people: “We commit to delivering between one and two pm.” You need to know you can deliver between one and two pm. So three word addresses are making sure you have much more efficient deliveries and much more accurate time estimates. I’m gonna just show you what that looks like. A sprinter with the “MBUX” multimedia system features a further innovative navigation function. “What3words” can determinate any destination in the world
accurate to three by three metres. So when you’re getting you’re packages delivered
you know that you can say “business anchors noisy” and that will refer to a three metre by three metre square and you can get you’re package there on time. It’s actually much bigger than that. One of the things that “what3words” has been doing over the last few years: We’ve been working with governments, NGO’s and organizations like the United Nations because in disaster zones you may not have any street addresses anymore. Think about an earthquake. If you have an earthquake in a city you no longer have street addresses because you no longer have proper streets. And yet that is the time it is more critical than ever for something to get to the right place. You need to get medical services to people. You need to get infrastructure delivered. And a disaster zone is the place you need addresses more than ever and yet you cannot use them. So the United Nations has integrated “what3words” into their disaster reporting app. So first responders, emergency teams, medics can communicate with each other over the radio, on the phone, by text message about “what3words” using three word addresses to send the location that services need to be delivered to, the location people need to go to. And we’ve seen this used all over the world so this was the Mexican earthquake last year, responders in Mexico were sharing three word addresses in Spanish with each other, fully offline, so it works offline. And they were sharing addresses to do recovery. This is a problem, not just in a disaster zone. So actually 75 percent of the world looks a bit like this. Now, you can see one street name here. Asfan Road. All of these other streets, none of them have names. And it’s going to get worse. So if we think about 2050, when 70 percent of the world’s population
is expected to live in urban areas this is a problem we need to fix. And today, as it is today, 4 billion people in the world live without an address. Now we take for granted here that we have an address. I may get annoyed when my pizza is cold because they couldn’t find me but if I have to phone an ambulance, if I had to register a birth, if I have to go to the hospital I can give someone an address. If you live there and you have no address you may have no way to tell a midwife you’re having a baby and you need the midwife to come and visit you. You may have no way to register your business. You may have no way to vote. Addresses are absolutely critical. We had a doctor and he basically emailed to say: “I have a problem.” Now this is the doctor. And I remember my first phone call with him. He is a pretty amazing guy and he said: “Claire, women are dying in childbirth because I cannot find them.” So he has people who are literally dying, the mums are dying or the babies are dying because he cannot reach them in time. So what he’s been doing since is he’s been visiting homes, he’s been giving stickers, signs with three word addresses on. To the people who live there. So this lady she now has a three word address. He visits the home, he says: “Hi guys this is your three word address. If you need to call the doctor, you need to call the ambulance, say these three words and we will know exactly where you are.” And because these words never change it doesn’t matter if they don’t have a smartphone, that is the address. It’s fixed and it will never change. So they can communicate with emergency services, with government, with health teams to explain where they are. So these three word addresses are all over the world and you can use them, you can use it now, today you can download the app and look up a three word address and share it. You can use it with delivery companies and if you’re a company making deliveries, moving people, moving things, you know you can do that much more efficiently, using just three words.

One Comment

  • LDW

    I love the balance between social impact and commercial usage.

    Emergency services and couriers. Next up, I’d really like to see how those 4 billion people start having proof of residence

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *