The three words – kicked, converged, soccer – helped save the lives of a group of hikers that were lost and alone at night while strolling through Hamsterley Forest, England last Sunday. This feat was pulled off thanks to a geocoding smartphone app that helped search and rescue team to pinpoint the precise location of the group. The smartphone app is known as what3words.
Police are urging people to download this app that has helped save quite a number of lives. Jess Tinsley and her group of friends were carrying out a planned five-mile circular hike that traversed the 2,000 hectares of the Hamsterley Forest located in County Durham, the UK when they realized that they were totally lost. At 22:30 BST the group was able to find a spot that had phone signal and dialed for emergency services.
Jess Tinsley said, ‘We were in a field and had no idea where we were. It was absolutely horrendous. I was joking about it and trying to laugh because I knew if I didn’t laugh, I would cry.’ She says that as soon as she got through to the emergency services, the call handler told the group to download an app known as what3words. She says, ‘I had never heard of it.’ However, within a minute of the app being downloaded; the police knew the exact location of the hikers and a rescue team was dispatched to get them.
The County Durham police department tweeted that the group was found safely later. The app, what3words, basically points to a specific location anywhere in the world. How? The developers behind what3words divided the world into 57 trillion locatable squares that can be found by making use of the Global Positioning System. Each square measures in at 3 meters by 3 meters and each square has is randomly assigned a three-word address.
The company was founded by Chris Sheldrick who grew up in rural Britain and was sick of flagging down delivery drivers that didn’t know where to go because of wrong postcodes and came up with this idea. Sheldrick says, ‘I tried to get people to use longitude and latitude, but that never caught on. It got me thinking, how can you compress 16 digits into something much more user-friendly? I was speaking to a mathematician, and we found there were enough combinations of three words for every location in the world.’
The team discovered that by only using 40,000 words, they could cover the entire 57 trillion locatable squares. What3words is not only used for emergency services, however. In fact, in the country of Mongolia, the complete postal code system has been replaced with what3words address. What3words, however, wants to take things a step further by providing postal location services for companies and even countries.
The company says in a blog post, ‘Addressing around the world simply isn’t good enough. 75% of countries suffer from poor or non-existent addressing. And for the 25% who do have a reliable address, packages still go astray, couriers get lost, and local businesses can’t be found. Something needs to be done to make addressing better.’