Friday, 14 February 2020 10:52

Handy app, funny name

Written by  Mark Daniel
The What 3 Words app directs users to specific locations on a property. The What 3 Words app directs users to specific locations on a property.

The What 3 Words (W3W) app is being used by an increasing number of rural people.

Modern smartphones allow us to explore a world of applications (apps), many of which we download, use a couple of times, and then forget.

However, one useful app that is being used by an increasing number of rural people is the strangely named What 3 Words (W3W) for directing staff, visitors, contractors or even the emergency services to specific locations on a property.

It was developed by co-founder Chris Sheldrick, who had become increasingly frustrated by the inaccuracy of the UK postcode system -- especially in rural areas. The app has cleverly divided the entire planet into 3m x3m squares, with each given a unique three word reference that will never change.

With a mathematician friend, Sheldrick calculated that the English language offered enough three-word combinations to accurately reference the whole planet; with 40,000 words enough to cover the 57 trillion, 3m x 3m squares required to map the globe.

To use the service, users need to download the Apple or Android mobile phone app or to visit the W3W website. Once the three-word address has been obtained, it can be sent to anyone – whether they have downloaded the app or not – by opening the link and they will be taken to a map location. 

To navigate to a W3W square using a smartphone, users just click on the location or type in the three-word address and select a navigation method, such as Google Maps, Apple Maps or a compass. The tool uses smartphones’ inbuilt GPS receivers, so in areas with no phone signal, it’s still capable of finding the user’s location. 

However, a signal or some other form of communication (such as a CB radio) will be required to send the location to others.

Notable squares in New Zealand are craftily.obeys.rips; which is the home of NZ National Fieldays, floats.monks.nurses; finds The Beehive in Wellington and; which will guide you to The Cloud on Auckland’s  waterfront. 

However, as the developer points out, the apps’ key benefit is to guide users to remote, anonymous locations – rather than well-known landmarks.

The system was launched in 2013 and has millions of users across the world. It has been translated into 36 languages and has even been adopted in Mongolia for its postal service. 

More like this

Solar-powered number plates for cows

The financial, operational and managerial benefits of Ceres Tag ear tags are significant, according to Kenneth Irons, managing director at Precision Farming.

New energiser gets smart

A new energiser from Datamars Speedrite range claims to be the first “smart” electric fence unit, alongside an output of 46 joules.

Changing the way we farm

OPINION: From weeding and spraying crops to taking care of cattle, digital technology is making its mark on agriculture.

No more muddying of the waters

Farmers will soon have an app to help them make better decisions about controlling erosion and reducing sediment entering New Zealand waterways.



COVID-19: Tax relief for M. bovis farmers

Farmers whose herds were culled in response to the outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis will be able to minimise the tax treatment of their income in some circumstances.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Flying high

This old mutt would like to know how the sanctimonious Green Party and its MPs can continue to lecture everyone…

Put it down

Your canine crusader notes that the woke folk at Landcorp – sorry Pāmu – were recently crowing about recording a…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Popular Reads

Rules driving farmers out

New farming rules around sustainability are driving elderly farmers out of the dairy industry, says agri-economist Phil Journeaux.