Every month we select one Logistics Startup which represents a positive example of innovation in logistics and has the potential to alter the way the industry operates. This month, Transmetrics selected what3words, the leading provider of the addressing systems, as the January “Logistics Startup of the Month” for its outstanding achievements in revolutionizing the approach to the address identification. In order to learn more about the story behind the company, we asked them several questions about their business that you can read in the interview below.
In short, what is what3words and how does it work? What is the business model? Do companies need to pay in order to use the service?
“3 word addresses convert reliably to GPS coordinates and back again, so can be easily integrated into existing platforms and systems. They provide a simple and human-friendly way for people to input accurate location information, by voice or text.”
what3words is the simplest way to communicate location. It has divided the world into 3m x 3m squares and assigned each square a unique address made from three dictionary words – a 3 word address. The exact 3m x 3m square at the front door of what3words’ London office, for example, can be found at ///index.home.raft.
3 word addresses convert reliably to GPS coordinates and back again, so can be easily integrated into existing platforms and systems. They provide a simple and human-friendly way for people to input accurate location information, by voice or text.
what3words is free for individuals to use via the what3words mobile app and online map. We also make our technology available for free to qualifying not-for-profit and humanitarian entities. For business use, we sell licenses for our products including our API and SDKs, and industry-specific plugins. We also create dedicated solutions such as our OCR sorting app for postal services and offer large-scale batch conversion of 3 word addresses to GPS coordinates or vice versa.
What is the background story for what3words? To put it simply, what were the main drivers behind the creation of the solution?
Co-founder and CEO, Chris Sheldrick, worked in the music industry organizing live music events around the world. When bands and equipment constantly got lost trying to find venues and festival locations it became clear that street addressing just wasn’t good enough. He tried giving out GPS coordinates, but 18 digits proved too difficult for people to input correctly, or communicate without making mistakes. He sat down with a friend to see if he could find a solution that was both very accurate and human-friendly, and the first what3words algorithm was born on the back of an envelope.
What is the advantage of what3words over the regular address system?
Most addressing systems have been in place for over 100 years. They were introduced to deliver post and are inadequate for modern business and logistics needs. Street addresses are often input incorrectly by customers at an online checkout for example, or with insufficient information to complete delivery. When it comes to accuracy, street addresses can identify a building, but can’t pinpoint a specific delivery entrance. They are also unreliable in their ability to geocode accurately.
what3words provides a very simple way for people to enter accurate locations that geocode reliably. The built-in AutoSuggest feature prevents input mistakes. A 3-word address can pinpoint a precise delivery entrance, making deliveries more efficient. what3words also covers every 3m x 3m square in the world, meaning deliveries are possible to places with no street addresses such as construction sites, rural festivals and car parks. As the system is fixed and based on an algorithm, 3-word addresses are more reliable than street addresses, which have to be manually added to address databases, and they can even be used offline.
Which industries can benefit from your solution and how? Can you please share what was the most interesting and unexpected way of what3words application?
“On the interesting and unexpected side, our technology has been used to find set locations on Steven Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’ production, to deliver Domino’s pizza on the Caribbean island of Sint-Maarten.”
what3words is used in over 170 countries by over 600 businesses, government organizations and NGOs across sectors as diverse as automotive, logistics, e-commerce, postal services, travel, events, disaster response and humanitarian.
Our most exciting recent news is that Mercedes-Benz will soon launch the world’s first car with what3words voice navigation, so drivers will be able to say three words to navigate to any precise location. On the interesting and unexpected side, our technology has been used to find set locations on Steven Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’ production, to deliver Domino’s pizza on the Caribbean island of Sint-Maarten and, just last week, what3words featured prominently in the storyline of NCIS: LA when it was used to locate a kidnapped character.
How do you think your innovative approach towards the address system can help the logistics industry to perform more efficiently? Can you please mention some of the success stories of what3words in transport & logistics?
The last mile of a parcel’s journey reaches or exceeds 50% of the total delivery cost, so logistics companies worldwide are developing ways to complete deliveries faster and more accurately.
what3words ensures that a correct and accurate delivery location is collected from the customer at the start of the logistics process, and that information is passed between systems in the form of GPS coordinates. With accurate delivery information, route optimization technology can be used more effectively, and drivers can navigate to the precise delivery location, rather than driving around a building searching for the delivery entrance, or having to park up and call the customer for directions. Time saved is, of course, money saved. Accurate deliveries also allow companies to offer smaller delivery windows, increasing the chance that the customer is home to receive their goods, and reducing the number of costly repeat deliveries.
In a recent timed delivery test with Aramex, 3 word addresses were put to the test against regular street addresses in Dubai. Over a total of 100 deliveries, using 3 word addresses proved 42% faster and reduced the total distance traveled by delivery drivers by 22%. The drivers using street addresses had to call customers 25 times for directions, whilst the drivers using 3 word addresses made no calls at all.
What are your plans for what3words in 2018?
We’re starting 2018 off with Mercedes-Benz launching the world’s first car with built-in what3words voice navigation. It’s a huge achievement for us and we expect this year and next to see our technology being integrated by lots more global brands of a similar caliber. On the product side, we have exciting new features for our core what3words app and also the newly launched 3WordPhoto app, as well as new products working with speech recognition and OCR technologies. We also expect to open more local offices to add to those we’ve opened this year in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and Johannesburg, South Africa.