what3words app helps saves lives by pinpointing your exact location using only 3 words

Say goodbye to getting the wrong pickup location.

Jason Fan | August 20, 2019 @ 12:50 am


what3words is an app that can pinpoint your exact location using only three words, and has already saved several lives worldwide.

Anyone who has a tendency to get lost ought to get this app downloaded as soon as possible.


According to the BBC, the app has been credited for saving the lives of a group of hikers in the UK, who were lost in a forest.

When the hikers called emergency services, they were told to download the app.

Within a minute of its download, the police had their exact coordinates, and were able to rescue the hikers swiftly.

How it works

The developers of the app divided the entire world into 57 trillion squares, each measuring 3m by 3m.

These squares are then assigned a unique, randomly assigned three-word address.

For example, the front entrance of Plaza Singapura is assigned the words rabble.dark.swan.

Image from What3Words.

Meanwhile, the rear entrance of the mall is assigned the words hope.play.prep.

Image from What3Words.

This allows anyone using the app to pinpoint a precise location on the map, making it more accurate than other traditional web mapping services.

Surprisingly, especially to those who do not understand how probability works, only 40,000 words are necessary to create the combinations required for every location in the world.

Founder inspired by inaccurate mapping services

The company’s founder grew up in a rural area, where his postal code was not accurate.

As a result, he would always receive mail meant for his neighbours.

He also had to stand on the side of the road to flag down riders when expecting deliveries.

At first he tried getting others to use longitude and latitude coordinates, but found that it was not popular enough.

Hence, he was inspired to come up with a more user-friendly way to map out precise locations.

The company started in 2013, and now employs more than 100 people in London.

How to use

Individuals simply have to download the app and type in an address, and the app will give a three-word code.

It works pretty much everywhere worldwide, whether you are in the city or a rural area.

Even if your phone has no signal, the app is still able to tell you your three-word location.

It is also compatible with other apps such as Google Maps or Apple Maps.

The app works with both iOS and Android operating systems.

what3words is free to use, and the company claims that it will “always be free for individuals to use on our own site and apps, and there will always be ways to use our business software packages for free”.

Many practical applications

The app is useful in more ways than one.

The most obvious benefit of the app is regarding emergency aid in rural areas.

Search and rescue operations can be easily conducted with the exact coordinates provided, and may be the difference between life or death in some cases.

Travellers can also take advantage of the app, since they will be able to navigate to tourist sites more easily.

Similarly, businesses can attract more visitors by signposting their precise location.

And people in emergency situations will be able to inform rescue services of their exact location much faster.

Mongolia has already adopted what3words for its postal service, and Lonely Planet’s guide for the country uses the app’s three word addresses for its points of interest.

Top image from What3Words

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About Jason Fan

Jason dreams of visiting every country in the world and not dying in the process.  

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