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What3words – Making Addressing Easier

What3words … because words are much easier to remember

What3Words is a relatively new geocoding system that is actively being used around the world to help make it easier to describe the spatial location of an area. According to the United Nations about 75 percent of the world (almost 4 billion people) has not been properly addressed, making it hard to locate where people live, something that we take for granted here in Canada.

What3words - Making Addressing EasierThis geocoding system differs from other alphanumeric location systems and GPS navigation by encoding geographic coordinates into 3 common dictionary words instead of long strings of numbers (for example, the center of Parliament Hill is situated at scales.balance.bonds). The three words have no combined contextual meaning but are simply three words derived from a database used to describe a specific location. Unlike most traditional mobile mapping applications that rely on postal addresses, this one makes use of a grid containing 57 trillion squares, each 3 m x 3 m with a unique 3 word identifier and covering the entire planet.

What3Words provides an online mapping application and mobile web apps for smart phones (Android os and iOS) that people can use to identify any location on the globe using distinctive three word combos. Considering at least 5 billion people on earth do not have a proper home address, What3Words could be considered a useful tool for people living way from the modern grid.

What3words - Making Addressing EasierWhat3Words also provides API code to web developers so that they help the geospatial community by developing handy third party applications. By default the What3Words website runs off of Google maps, however now Esri has made the service available in ArcGIS Online and for ArcGIS for Desktop, so you can use the application with other base maps and even your own data. To configure the What3Words Locator for ArcGIS see the instructions provided here.

To determine what your 3 word address is, or determine where you are Located using the What3Words geocoding system simply:

  1. Go to the What3Words website – https://map.what3words.com
  2. Either your current address or GPS coordinates into the search box found at the top of the map, or use the mouse with the map to navigate to your location (e.g. enter 301 Front Street W, Toronto, ON M5V 2T6 and you will be at dearest.rebounds.grandson)
  3. Find your unique 3 phrase What3Words address appear at the bottom of the screen

You can also type any three words into the search box on what3words.com and it will navigate to that unique 3 m x 3 m block (e.g. type cool.geography.maps into the search box and you will end up somewhere along the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland).