Cleantech Disruptors — An interview with David Shakory, Director of Partnerships & Clare Jones, CCO of what3words
Cleantech Disruptors is a series of interviews showcasing innovative cleantech startups, who through the development of disruptive technologies are changing the future.
I first came across what3words at Glastonbury Festival a couple of years ago; it totally solved the ‘how do I find my friends in a crowd of 100,000 people’ problem!
Thinking a little bigger, it is often apparent that street addresses weren’t designed for 2020. They aren’t accurate enough to specify precise locations, such as building entrances, and don’t exist for many rural areas. This makes it hard to find places and prevents people from describing exactly where help is needed in an emergency. The solution: divide the world into 3 metre squares and give each square a unique combination of three words.
Here David Shakory, Director of Partnerships and Clare Jones, CCO tell us a bit more about what3words, it’s origins and some of the ingenious ways it solves real world problems with simple yet highly effective solutions.
Clare, please can you give us an intro to what3words and how it is being used?
There are many innovative and original ways that people all over the world use what3words, for meeting friends at a picnic spot or even naming products after an inspiring what3words address. Despite economic adversity, up and down the country, we’re seeing ambitious and forward-thinking businesses rise to the challenge and find ways to quickly increase efficiency by innovating the way they run their mobility and logistics operations using what3words. From delivering large goods, food or even urgent medical supplies, to hailing a ride, every minute counts.
How have things changed this year?
This year has shown the importance of e-commerce, mobility and logistics, and the role it plays — with record demand predicted this Christmas. This means more customers with increasingly high reliance on fast and dependable delivery and mobility services, so scalability and speed of adoption is crucial. what3words hyper-accurate address technology is available right now, every 3m square on earth has a unique what3words address. It’s quick and easy to discover a what3words address and enter it into a checkout page or a mobility platform. When customers can communicate specific building entrances, drop-off or delivery points in just three words, you can offer faster, more accurate and highly reliable deliveries — anywhere in the world.
So, David, how does it actually work?
what3words is a really simple way to talk about location. We’ve given every 3m square in the world a unique combination of three words: a what3words address. For example, the front entrance to our London office can be found at ///filled.count.soap.
People use what3words via our free app, online map or in products and technology that have what3words integrated within them. Behind our system sits an algorithm that converts GPS coordinates into three words and this code can be built simply into other products. what3words addresses are available in over 40 languages, including for example, German, French, Dutch, Hindi, Portuguese, Chinese, and Norwegian which makes us a truly global solution.
What was the inspiration?
what3words was founded in 2013 in London, UK. Our co-founder and CEO, Chris Sheldrick, was working in the music industry — organising live music events around the world in poorly addressed locations and found that bands and equipment regularly got lost in their attempts to find venues and festival locations
He tried giving out GPS coordinates, but they were pretty hard for people to use practically. Mistakes were easy to make and hard to pick up on until it was too late and you had a musician one hour north of Rome and your equipment one hour south of Rome, not ideal!
He sat down with a friend to see if they could find a solution that was as accurate as coordinates but more concise and memorable. Together they devised a way to turn accurate GPS coordinates into user-friendly word combinations and the idea for what3words was born.
What problems are you solving?
We are solving a problem that people encounter every single day — the issue of talking about precise location.
Traditional street addressing can be complex, ambiguous and inadequate. Did you know there are 14 Church Roads in London? Or 632 Juarez Streets in Mexico City? Postcodes can cover a large area and don’t always work to take you exactly where you need to go when put into a navigation system. When you add these complexities to someone visiting a city they don’t know well, and trying to find their accommodation, you can see why we all experience getting lost so regularly. There are also all those places we love to visit like beaches and parks where there are no addresses. Instead of saying “meet me by the big tree” you can say “meet me at ///mega.file.resembles”. what3words solves these problems by being simple, accurate and universal.
Which industries can utilise your platform?
We work across a very wide range of industries including government agencies and NGOs, e-commerce, logistics, automotive & mobility, travel & navigation, national infrastructure, events, humanitarian, disaster response and emergency services.
For the businesses and organisations that use us, what3words vastly improves the experience for users and customers. Drivers are able to navigate to an exact car parking space by just saying “table…lamp…spoon” or find the exact loading bay with the words “richly…lifters…fleet”.
Our technology has also helped on some incredibly humanitarian and emergency care projects. In South Africa, ambulances have been able to find the homes of pregnant women in need of urgent care thanks to the addressing project run by Gateway Health, or in Uganda those living in the Rhino Refugee camp now have an easy address for their home.
In the UK, we are used as an everyday tool by the emergency services to locate callers and have seen our technology assist in saving thousands of lives — as a result we are seeing adoption by emergency services spread to Germany, Canada, Australia and the US to hopefully save thousands more.
Voice is the next frontier of user interaction, or in fact one that’s very much already becoming part of our everyday lives with the likes of voice-activated speakers and smartwatches. Vocalising traditional addresses can lead to frequent errors and miscommunications. Street addresses are often complex, ambiguous and duplicated — if you are navigating to one of those 632 Juarez Streets in Mexico City, you’d want to be pretty sure you had the right one before you press ‘go’.
what3words is the only addressing system built for voice — using a list of around 25,000 dictionary words that are easy to program into voice-controlled assistants. We place similar sounding words and combinations very far away from each other in the world so it’s easy to spot errors. what3words addresses are all unique and won’t change so you can feel confident you are headed to the right spot once you hit navigate.
Find out more about brightsmith and what3words below!