When the Streets Have No Names, Three Words Will Suffice

Confronting a problem that affects roughly 75 percent of the world's population, a new system will give every place on Earth an address based on three words.
August 16, 2016, 8am PDT | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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A new addressing system from a British company may have finally found a solution to a problem that affects close to 4 billion people around the world—the lack of a locatable home address. In many parts of the world, including developing nations like Mongolia, streets are often unnamed. Joon Ian Wong of Quartz reports that the start-up What3Words has taken on this problem by assigning a three word address that corresponds to a nine-square-meter location on the globe.

In What3Words’ system, the idea is that a series of words is easier to remember than the strings of number that make up GPS coordinates. Each unique phrase corresponds to a specific 9-square-meter spot on the map.

For example, the White House, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, becomes sulk.held.raves; the Tokyo Tower is located at fans.helpless.collects; and the Stade de France is at reporter.smoked.received.

Wong reports that the What3Words system is being rolled out in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, where many of the city's streets have no name. Previously, residents were required to travel to a designated mail stop or mailed items had to include detailed delivery instructions in order to get to the right location. The Mongolian postal system will convert the three words, using software licensed from What3Words, into GPS coordinates that will take deliveries to a small, specific location. Wong notes that the What3Words system is already being used by the United Nations, courier companies and others.

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Published on Monday, June 13, 2016 in Quartz
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