What is what3words and how to use it

Fans of Clarkson’s Farm may have heard many people trying to explain how what3words is to Jeremy. The good news is that he now understands it. Now I’m here to introduce you to this new way of speaking about locations which will make life easier for you and could save your life some day.

How Does what3words Work?

Traditional maps aren’t all that accurate. I’ve had countless delivery drivers come to the street behind where I live or drive around in circles trying to find my front door. The issue is that addresses are a very old way of locating things. what3words is the solution to pinpointing any location around the world in an extremely userfriendly way.

The team at what3words have divided the entire world into a grid of 3m by 3m squares. They have then assigned each of these squares with a unique combination of 3 words that never changes. For example, Dublin Airport is defections.digest.overslept.

At least that’s the main what3words location for Dublin Airport, but it’s not the most useful use-case for what3words. Let’s look at a better example.

Why and When to Use what3words?

Let’s stick with the example of Dublin Airport. If you’ve ever parked in Dublin Airport’s car park, you’ll know it can be tough to find your car after a week away in the sun. Because what3words is accurate down to a 3m by 3m space, you can note the 3 word location you’ve parked in.

what3words locating a parking space in Dublin Airport’s Express Red Car Park

This is also extremely handy if you find yourself in a situation where you need someone else to pick up your car somewhere. Instead of just saying the Red Car Park, or even including Row Z, you can give them a what3words location and they’ll get straight to the car door.

Or, imagine you’re meeting a friend at a gig. No longer do you have to “meet by the hotdog stand” and hope you both mean the same one at the same side. You can just share a three word location code and meet on the spot. It has similar benefits for meeting someone off Adverts for a purchase. You can see there’s a range of times this is a great idea.

These are just some of the many use-cases for what3words, and possibly some of the most mundane by comparison.

what3words, Emergency Services and Farming

what3words is fast being adopted by emergency services that need to find people and locations quickly. While Ireland does have Advanced Mobile Location which will pinpoint your location to emergency services to within 10m, there’s no harm in knowing how what3words work in an emergency too.

The mention of Clarkson’s Farm also shows a valuable situation for a service like what3words. Farmer’s can quickly note down a location on their land where there’s an issue with crops or animals and get someone to come address it later.

what3words: The Verdict

what3words isn’t a perfect solution, and again Clarkson’s Farm shows why. The fact Jeremy doesn’t know the service and didn’t really get it at first, is the solutions biggest issue. Because what3words hasn’t been officially adopted by the Irish Government for emergency services, there very well could be a scenario where a patient wants to use it but responders are not aware of how the service works. There are also some potential language issues, but what3words does support a wide range of global languages.

I am absolutely convinced that the world needs what3words. It’s too clever a solution to some really frustrating location issues that come with modern life. It’s not perfect yet, but I believe the service will only get better over time. So it’s worth having the app on your phone and giving it a whirl the next time you travel or need to meet someone.

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Founding Editor of Goosed, Marty is a massive fan of tech making life easier. You'll often find him testing something new, brewing beer or finding some new foodie spots in Dublin, Ireland. - Find me on Threads