You say only clear – frequent – kind and your car knows where to take you away. In the office of the President of the Republic at the Prague Castle. Just three words just like the address of any place in the world. A system called What3words already uses post offices in nine countries, Mongolia has completely replaced street names.
The system helps the UN to save people after disasters or South African suburbs, and Mercedes is also driving it. And now it speaks Czech.
The taxi driver or the navigator will never interchange the streets Na Lysině and Na Lysinách or Mezihoří and V Mezihoří. You will no longer be wandering and looking for a house with a descriptive number that must be somewhere in that long street. Only three words are enough to find a place with an accuracy of only three meters anywhere in the world. A system that has the ambition of replacing street names and descriptive numbers or GPS coordinates is called What3words and stands on a very simple principle. It literally divides the world into squares of three-by-three-square size, and each of them assigned a three-word that would never be repeated.
“We had music events before, and it was happening to us that bands or equipment vendors were constantly losing trying to find a concert or a festival place. And so often we had to hire a person to take care of the guides only. One day we even called the band that she had just passed a sound test at someone else’s wedding, “explains Chief Executive Officer Chris Sheldrick, who has led him to create what3words service.
According to his experience, the current address and positioning system is not good enough. As he remembers, no matter how he tried to navigate people, the problems were always there. “I tried to give them GPS coordinates, but you’re hard to get into the navigation devices, and it’s almost impossible to tell them on the phone,” says Sheldrick. The three words that uniquely identify a place are a much simpler way than the hardly memorable clutter of numbers in the case of coordinates.
As the what3words service is devised, there is much less room for possible input errors. Even the three-language addresses may be similar, for example, to contain two identical words and the third slightly different. “But our smart algorithm will easily detect such errors. For example, when you are in London and you are looking for an office address, you can easily write index.home.rafts instead of the correct index.home.raft. But our system will tell you that the address you are addressing is located in the west of Australia and asks if you did not think of an address in London in Bayswater, “explains the head of the company, trying to avoid navigation errors.
Address search is simple: you can enter both the addresses in the format of what3words and the classic addresses that the application converts to three words in the phone application or directly on the Internet.
Better words to cities
Since the three-by-three-square-wide network contains roughly 57 trillion squares, a whole lot of words are needed to give a clear description of every place in the world. The English version uses 40,000 to cover all areas of oceans and seas. In other language versions, a simplified set of about 25,000 words is used, which means that some outlying areas, which no one is likely to seek, are covered in the language and remain English.
It is precisely from the number of words that the square size is three times three meters long: it is too little to identify the entrance to the building or the entrance, but not too much for the word database to be disproportionately large. For example, an adult Czech has an active vocabulary of up to ten thousand words, the passive supply is about 50 thousand words for high school educated people.
Just in the beginning of the Czech version, which was launched in mid-February, we can see how it is really difficult to create what3words addresses. The coverage of all squares in the world map does not arise here as a common translation. “Every language version of what3words uses a completely independent wordlist. This is not a translation from English, which gives us enough flexibility to customize each version to users in that country, “says Sheldrick.
A detailed sieve
Language experts, what3words in each country collaborate with the local team, with whom words for the creation of addresses will be gradually selected. In the Czech Republic, the company worked with a team of professionals and volunteers from the field of language studies. Often they were students of one of the language courses at Charles University in Prague or Masaryk University in Brno. Preparing a new language version by the boss lasts about six months.
The work begins with a broad database of words that is essentially computer-generated. Collaborators in a special online application review, classify, and evaluate words. It is checked whether the words are written correctly, it is meant to be clearly understood by every Czech. Deleted are rude words or words that could be offensive or otherwise inappropriate. There are also words that can be written in multiple ways.
“In English, we have solved a lot that someone writes on a word, differently, and both are allowed,” comments Sheldrick. Local names or names of people are also excluded, the wrong homonyms disappear from the database. “This is to understand the instructions over the phone,” the co-founder of the service explains why words that are the same, but they are going to write more than one way.
Specifically in the Czech version the inflection was solved. To describe the places in the Czech Republic, the authors tried to use their names in the first fall. Similarly, the verb timing was solved and cases with auxiliary verbs were omitted.
“We are gradually evaluating individual words in the on-line application. Every word evaluates more people to guarantee certain independence, selection is gradually narrowing and words are going through several times, “says Catherine, one of the collaborators who participated in the project from last September to the final phase.
The authors of the project say “sifting” words give much to do. The key is not only to exclude “bad” words, but also to sort words according to certain popularity. The “better” ones are then used in popular and densely populated areas, while those “better” are used in more remote locations. “For example, in Czech, we use all the most common Czech words in densely populated areas of the Czech Republic,” says Sheldrick chief.
This is true both for the Czech Republic itself and for the whole world. “The popular words algorithm is used not only in the Czech Republic, but also in world agglomerations such as London or New York,” says Catherine, explaining how word spreads around the world. This is because the words themselves are repeated in their use, of course they can not repeat their triple combinations.
Unicorns and flakes
The team can also add words to the database if they are absent, with the contribution of Katka being a unicorn or flakes. Gaps in databases arise by not using the database of large dictionaries. On the one hand, they were not willing to “sell” their supply, but above all, such a database does not correspond to the goals of whatswords.
“They want to have the words that are actually used, while different language dictionaries are full of words that people often do not use or maybe they do not know,” comments Catherine.
Most of the word database work is done locally. In the Czech Republic, the company used several dozen associates and the team from the headquarters visited the country at the beginning of the preparation. The final stage, however, took place at the headquarters in London: “We have fine-tuned the last ambiguities, perhaps with words most of the contributors have approved, but some have identified them as potentially problematic,” Catherine describes the final stage of preparation.
“Sometimes you would not believe what words they are saying,” he adds. Moreover, according to her, it can never be thanked for all and really discard all the words someone does not have to like. “The vegetarian probably will not be happy with the meat in his address,” suggests a possible contradiction. And he adds one of the foreign cases: “In China, words related to the monarchy, such as the king and the queen, were largely excluded from the database” shows how the list of words can influence different local specifics.
One of the attractions is that words must not overlap even across language versions. This leads to situations where, in the Finnish language mutation, the service does not use any of the words sauna: that is, it has already used the original English version and is therefore “forbidden” in other translations. This could potentially cause problems when preparing the Slovak version of the service if the company starts it.
In order to avoid future complications in the preparation of closely related languages, the authors kept Katerina’s words in stock.
Mongolia and the United Nations
Complex preparation has one goal: to make what3words easy to use. And so far, it seems that the company in the world scores. Three-letter addresses somehow use over 600 companies, governmental and non-governmental organizations in more than 170 countries.
One of the great “allies” of whatswords has become Daimler and his Mercedes-Benz in recent months. At the upcoming Geneva Motor Show, the world premiere will feature the first car whose navigation system will be able to accept as well what’s in the form of what3words. It will be a new generation of model A, the smallest type in the Mercedes offer (read more about it here). In conjunction with voice input, one of the easiest ways to enter a destination in the car should be one.
Mercedes is one of the largest customers of the company and has recently become one of its largest investors. The automaker has earned a roughly ten percent share of what3words, but the amount it paid for this share has not been communicated. Interestingly, the company uses map data here in their cars, which is originally the Finnish Nokie map division. Mercedes is thus implementing the new feature on these mappings.
The process of implementation and other services for big companies are what they are planning on whatswords to earn. The service is (and will continue to be) for regular users for free. But companies and institutions provide whats a range of services, from APIs and Developer Tools (SDKs) to post-conversion. In this case, individual approach can be negotiated by humanitarian and non-profit organizations.
Other partners include the Aramex logistics company, on the island of St. Martin, customers can order a pizza from the Domino’s chain using a tunic address. “In nine countries, the system of what the national postal companies have adopted, giving more than two hundred million people a precise and reliable address. In many cases, for the first time, “suggests a possible useful application of his” invention “by Sheldrick.
In many countries, addresses in the sense of the word do not exist or lose meaning, what words with localization will help. The system was completely adopted, for example, in Mongolia. What3words address is so in Mongolia and our embassy, in English it is clarifies. politics.dozens.
The application is also being used by the United Nations, which has used the UN-ASIGN triple-language address system for quick disaster relief. In South Africa, Gateway Health uses three words to better locate eleven thousand homes on the outskirts of Durban. The organization in use has been trained by local rescuers and hopes it will help to speed up interventions.
Space for critism
The possibility of using whatswords is really a lot, everywhere where the location of the place is solved. On the other hand, the service, of course, has its negatives. Without a mobile application, it is virtually inapplicable, the address in this format can be remembered by at most a few users. In places where normal addresses are not used, it makes sense, of course, but where the addresses are commonly used, the other layer may be a bit difficult and confusing. Simply because when you tell a classical address in the Czech Republic, it knows what it is about. When you throw three words on him, he’ll look pretty amazing.
Sheldrick, however, argues: “Generally, if you just do not know where that place is, you have to search for a normal address on a paper map or in an application,” he argues. Additionally, two places beside each other do not have a similar address, which is due to the above-mentioned detection errors, so that users can not use one address as a reference point to at least roughly determine the address of the other.
Criticism is also the commercial nature of the whole project. Many people see that the potential “global” localization system belongs to one company and is not freely available. Additionally, the company fully controls the entire system, may need to change the address of any location, and does not need to justify it. On the other hand, the question is, does the company want something like that to happen? “Our long-term goal is to become a global standard in addressing, so everyone in the world will have an accurate and reliable address that people can use whenever they need it,” says Sheldrick’s ambitious goal.
Without a stable form of service, this would not be possible. So, for example, whatwords will not sell addresses to a job and say there will be nothing to change in addresses.
The company, according to its boss, will launch the twenty-eighth language mutation this year, so the service will be available to some 3.8 billion people in their mother tongue. And that’s about half the world. This is what the words have to say good-bye to the standard.