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This Start-Up Wants to Replace Your Address with 3 Random Words


(Photo: Nick Webb)

Imagine your address as not, say, 750 Bel Air Road, Bel Air, California, but instead block.horse.happy.

It could be if the founders of the app what3words are successful. Their system divides the entire world into 57 trillion 9-square meter areas. It assigns 3 random words to each section. The sequences are unique for all 57 trillion sections. April Joyner describes it at The Week:

An algorithm generates each three-word phrase. It filters out profanity, avoids homophones to reduce the chances for mistakes when an address is spoken (hear vs. here), and safeguards for slip-ups with singular and plural words. If you accidentally type engine.door.cubs instead of engine.doors.cubs, you'll get a location halfway around the world — your mistake should be obvious.

what3words co-founder Chris Sheldrick says that the system is already in use:

It's key that the three-word phrases are easy to memorize, because many of the people who are served by what3words' system don't have a smartphone to look them up. Instead, Sheldrick says, once they've been given their address by an aid worker, or a neighbor who has a smartphone on hand, they can simply make note of the phrase for future reference. He gives the example of Rocinha, a slum in Rio de Janeiro, where residents are beginning to use what3words as an alternate address system to receive mail.

-via Joe Carter


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I don't think the blurb does a good job of explaining where this is useful. This is being used in places where the building isn't done in neat grids with each dwelling numbered and marked accordingly. It's for places in Africa or South America where people live on unnamed streets or in maze-like alleys. It allows you to say this is the phrase for my little piece of the world.
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To what end? A quick look on their map shows no less than 30 3-word associations with my house. None are relevant to each other or the neighboring properties. I could see value in this if there was a logic flow but I'm not willing to commit the brain power to read into it any further.
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