If you've ever needed to locate someone, you know it can be very frustrating. Meeting up with friends at a ballgame or concert, finding a house or business on a new street, or, even worse, they're stranded on the highway. GPS and map apps aren't much help in those situations. And if the person you're searching for has a low battery on their phone, the task of finding them is nearly impossible.
Enter the app What3Words. Developers of this app divided or mapped the entire globe into 3x3 meter squares and then gave each of those squares a unique combination of three words. Each square coordinates with GPS, longitude, and latitude, so each combination of words marks that one small square of space.
For example, in a remote area of Missouri, the combination "between.score.monumental" leads you to a space of trees a few feet from a clearing. Take two steps to the east and the three-word combination is "sizzled.turnaround.tastings". Standing at "unless.logo.jelly" finds you in the middle of downtown Memphis. A precise location near trolley tracks and a few feet from a different combination.
The entire world is divided and named like this. Let's say a lost hiker has just 5% of battery left in their smartphone, provided they can reach a cell tower just briefly enough to send a text, those three words will lead rescuers to exactly where they are standing.
There are plenty of applications. If someone is stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire, they can send a text of their three-word location. The person receiving the text taps on the three words which open the What3Words location. They can also tell the person the three words of their location and the person searching can enter the combination on the What3Words website.
Clicking the combination and link in a text the user has the option to see the location using Google Maps which will give step-by-step directions to the 3x3 meter square.
What3Words has its critics, who've found similar sounding words and combinations aren't as far apart as they should be.
The app is currently being used by first responders and rideshare applications. Car manufacturers are reportedly including the technology in upcoming vehicles.
What3Words is a free app for iPhones and Android devices.