Intterra Blog

Intterra's what3words

May 6, 2016 10:00:00 AM / by David Blankinship


We live in a big world and with that comes the ongoing challenge of creating accurate addresses. These days, it's nearly impossible to find someone who hasn't been disappointed by the confusion of the current addressing system. what3words is a program drastically changing the way specific locations are found around the world.


what3words turns geographic coordinates into easy-to-remember 3 word addresses, allowing for improved accuracy in locating tourism, residential, logistics, aid, mapping and emergency resources. Using words instead of latitude and longitude coordinates, street addresses, postcodes, and mobile short-links allows non-technical people to find any location accurately and communicate it more easily than any other system. The success of what3words lies in the science behind people's ability to more easily remember words over numbers and other figures.


Why is what3words important?

what3words can benefit almost every aspect of our everyday lives, but especially those who are in need. Around 75% of the world suffers from inadequate or non-existent addressing systems. Essentially, this means that close to 4 billion people are unable to carry out basic tasks. what3words could mean the difference between life and death for those living in impoverished countries, where reporting crime, receiving aid, and locating schools, refugee camps, and even water, are all daunting tasks.



How it Works:

  1. what3words has created a global grid consisting of 3mx3m squares. In total there are about 57 trillion squares.  
  2. Each square is assigned 3 words to serve as its "address". This system is powered by over 25,000 dictionary words that are sorted by an algorithm that takes into account factors such as word length, distinctiveness, frequency, and ease of spelling and pronunciation. 
  3. To avoid error or confusion, places with similar-sounding 3 word combinations have been assigned to places across the world. For example, this means that the locations table.chair.lamp and table.chair.lamps are on different continents. 
  4. Simply download the app and get started!  

We at Intterra are loving this innovative approach to addressing. It not only helps in everyday life, but is also beginning to play a huge role in the lives of firefighters. what3words is fixed and universal, meaning that the addresses for each 3mx3m grid square will never change. It also has offline connectivity and can function without a data connection. When out mapping a wildfire in a rural location, it allows us to map remote locations. If you haven't already, we highly suggest you check out what3words! 


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Topics: Mapping

David Blankinship

Written by David Blankinship

David is a 22-year veteran of the Geospatial industry. He started in the utilities sector, then spent 10+ years as the Senior GIS Analyst for Colorado Springs Fire. While there David deployed across the country supporting disasters and major incidents and thinking about how to get information to decision makers when they needed it, no matter where they were. As the CXO, David leverages best practices in user experience and innovating new ways to improve it – communicating from an executive and technical level with Public Safety Organizations and the Intterra dev and ops teams.