August 9


A New Simple, Universal Address System

By Mike Spack

August 9, 2016

address system, addresses, latitude and longitude, what3words

Much of the developed world is covered by an addressing system.  For instance, our office is located at 5708 West 36th Street, St. Louis Park, Minnesota, 55416, USA and one of our partners is at Building 46, Second Industrial Estate, Houting, Shajing Street, Baoan District, Shenzhen, Guangdong, PRC 518104.  From these examples, you can see that addresses are complicated.  I guess I could always tell folks who want to visit me at the office that they should go to the very memorable Latitude 44.938090, Longitude -93.352038.

I didn’t really comprehend how big of a mess our addressing systems are until I learned about  Not only are most addressing systems not memorable and often confusing, but much of the world, such as the rural areas of Mongolia or the slums of India, aren’t covered by an address.

What3Words has divided the world into 57 trillion 3 meter by 3 meter squares and has given each square a unique three word address (they use about 50,000 unique, non-confusing words in each of 10 different languages).  So our office front door is at vision.rust.charmingly and our back door is at saving.lasted.panel.  It’s a lot more useful (and memorable) to route visitors to our parking lot so they can use the back door at saving.lasted.panel.  The system requires a phone, tablet, or computer, but the full dataset is small enough to live on any phone so it doesn’t require internet access to work.

The Mongolian postal service has officially adopted the What3Words system.  I believe this is a revolutionary system that should be officially adopted by all government agencies worldwide.

From a selfish standpoint, it would make our thousands of orders a year at easier to ship and the hundred or so wire transfers we make easier to set up (addresses need to be precisely entered by the bank, which the Chinese example above is difficult to get into the given form fields).

Plus, we could consider doing away with street name signs that cost billions of dollars worldwide.


To learn more, check out this excellent two and a half minute summary video:


  • W3W (what3words) is indeed a very Interesting addressing system to reach any spot on the earth including a 3m x 3m square in the middle of a river (Example River Yamuna Delhi, India: price.questions.foreheads). W3W is flexible to the extent that one can choose an address from the multiple that are available for an area in which a building is housed. For example, I live in a 20 storied tower having 80 flats in a residential complex of 20 towers. W3W identifies a tower through multiple squares and thereby multiple names. One may choose detect.badminton.footsteps and another resident may choose or runs.expensive.yell in accordance with their personal characteristics. And people holding theses addresses and searching for them will be directed to the same tower.

  • Zed–right, one of my house’s 3 word combinations sounds like dirty pillow talk! I was wondering if you can “appeal” to have your 3 words changed, or if some countries could request their 3 words be in their native language. Three English words will be difficult to remember fora spanish-speaking person, or Mongolian-speaking person, or Hindi-speaking person. I have a hard time believing this will be adopted, especially in rural areas.

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    Mike Spack

    My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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