I always read the Jean-Louis Gassée / Frederic Filloux Monday Note blog with a great deal of interest, both because of the insights of the men into the tech and publishing industries and because of the surprises I sometimes find. This week, Filloux wrote about a London-based startup called What3Words that is designed to bring an "address" of sorts to those locations that may not be near a recognizable street or road.
For about 4 billion of the people on Earth, something as simple as getting a package or mail delivered or getting a visit from police, fire, or ambulance services is impossible because they do not have a physical address. A good example cited by Filloux in his blog entry is the Racinha favela (shanty town) in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, which houses 70,000 people in sheds and shacks on 355 acres (143 hectares) of land. Most of those people are not on a named street.
The What3Words concept breaks down the surface of the Earth into 56 trillion squares each 9 square meters in size (3 meters by 3 meters). Each of those spots can be defined by three words chosen at random from the local language. So, for example, Apple's current headquarters building at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, CA is at a kinky-sounding What3Words address of "whips.bride.bounty" while the Steve Jobs childhood home in Los Altos, CA is at margin.gear.civic.
I tested the What3Words app (free) and found it to be fascinating. You can use the app with or without a free account. To get a What3Words address for a particular point, you just tap the geolocation "arrow" button on a map and the three words -- like plots.rust.fuzzy -- appear. Those words are much easier to remember than the latitude and longitude of a point or even a street address.
The app provides a way to share the address pin location, and it's even possible to get directions to the location through Maps, Google Maps, or Waze, depending on what you have installed on your iPhone or iPad. As you can see from the image at right, I was able to get walking directions via Google Maps to "plots.rust.fuzzy" -- a favorite summer spot under a sprawling cottonwood tree next to a stream -- with just a tap.
Through satellite maps, you can even find What3Words addresses for places that you've visited on foot, like I did for "fragments.creep.remote" that I visited in July.
Since it's officially a cold, snowy December day in Colorado, I think I need to get myself to "diet.herring.watch" now!