If you’ve ever arrived at your destination only to find you’re not at the exact spot, then what3words is for you. This revolutionary mapping system covered the world in a grid of three-meter squares. Each square now has its own address – consisting of only three words.

When what3words Co-founder and CEO Chris Sheldrick was working in the music industry, he noticed a serious problem. “Everyone always somehow gets lost,” he told the audience at TEDGlobal Tanzania in 2017. According to Sheldrick, sound technicians were turning up at the wrong events and his colleagues were spending hours on the phone to make sure everyone arrived at the correct entrance. In his quest to find a mapping solution for his immediate problem, Sheldrick came up with a revolutionary idea – one that could benefit the whole world.

portrait of Chris Sheldrick, CEO of what3words
what3words Co-founder and CEO Chris Sheldrick.
Photo: what3words

The issue of nonspecific addressing is frustrating at best and critical at its worst. Beyond simply irritating map users with similar or confusing addresses, huge swaths of the world remain off the “grid” of conventional addressing systems altogether. And while coordinates tend to be accurate, long complicated numerical sequences lack human usability. So with the help of a mathematician friend, Sheldrick decided to try something new.

A global grid of squares

“We divided the world into three-meter squares,” Sheldrick explains. “The world divides into around 57 trillion three-meter squares, and we found that there are enough combinations of three dictionary words that we could name every three-meter square in the world uniquely with just three words.”

The result is what3words: a system of hyper-precise addresses with names like “yappy.pound.gloves” (the main entrance to the White House in Washington D.C.) or “feelers.spoils.blaze” (Berlin’s iconic TV tower).

a cryptic address written on the wall of a house
The age of nonspecific addressing is over.
Photo: Birgitte Refsing Nissen

The system also brings formerly unmapped areas into precise view, and give nuanced points easy-to-remember names. For example, “ruler.bags.sweetener” will bring you face to face with the Great Sphinx in the Egyptian desert. “These unaddressed places hold huge economic potential,” Sheldrick is sure.

three words describe to precise address of a boat pier
You will never get on the wrong boat again in Alsund harbor.
Photo: what3words

What3words is already being used by Mercedes-Benz and the United Nations among others who agree that it is far more accurate than conventional addresses. Now, residents of unmapped or hard-to-map areas can receive mail easily – improving their chances of economic and social mobility. Humanitarian workers can better reach people in need. Businesses with hard-to-find addresses or entrances can improve foot traffic. And most importantly, sound guys will never be late to a gig again.

The mapping system is available in 13 languages, including German, French, Spanish and Italian. Click here to learn more about the system and the app.

Price: free
System: available for iOS 9.0 and Android 4.0
Size: 90.6 MB