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Berlin to go, english edition, 02/2019

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STARTUP

STARTUP antike.antenne.jung Three words are all you need to determine any point on the globe Text: Ines Hein It’s a deceptively simple system that uses only three coordinates to determine any point on earth. The worldwide address system what3words – the company’s name provides a hint as to how its system works – turns words into coordinates and provides much-needed orientation for everything from rescue operations in inaccessible disaster areas to music festival meeting points. Besides that, some of the three-word addresses are quite intriguing. If you’ve ever waited in vain for the pizza guy to show up to your new apartment, if you had to call emergency services but couldn’t say exactly where you were in the forest, or if you ever booked a holiday house in the dunes and couldn’t find it – well, then you’re already familiar with the dilemma. Addresses are helpful when looking for locations that are clearly identifiable. However, according to a survey carried out by what3words, over 55 million people in Germany have an address that doesn’t lead directly to the entrance of their home or company. In fact, even in our current digital age, one in ten people actually use pen and paper to describe how to get to their location. “We wanted to create a brand new form of assigning addresses to locations,” explains what3words managing director Clare Jones. “We wanted to create a system that was reliable, simple, and frustration-free.” Her company was founded six years ago in London and today has just over 100 employees worldwide. what3words now operates in 27 languages – soon to be 34 – and recently had the pleasure of attracting Daimler and Deutsche Bahn as participating interest holders. The word-based address system is already being integrated as a standard component in new Mercedes and Ford models. Airbnb and the travel-guide publisher Lonely Planet have long since been working with threeword addresses. Interest in British tech startups on behalf of international corporations is huge, and rightly so. “We divvied up the world into 57 trillion grid squares, each comprising three by three meters,” explains Jones. “We randomly assigned a unique three-word address to each of these squares in 27 languages. For example, our headquarters in London is ///fenster.ausgleichen.nahezu” in German.” This allows the company to determine every point on the globe in a precise way. “The charming aspect is that it’s easy to remember three words in one’s own native language,” says Jones. “By avoiding numerical coordinates, we Photo: © Berlin Partner 28

Every point on the earth has its own address: what3words has received several awards for their idea are able to get considerably closer to the intuitive navigation skills of human beings.” The service can be used on smart devices using a free app or via an online map at map.what3words.com. The code can also be integrated into apps and websites as a paid service for companies. Just like private users, not-for-profit organizations are exempted from the obligation to pay to use the service. Yet another special feature about what3words is its ability to integrate into existing map and navigation systems. Anyone who enters their threeword address into the app or web map will be led to their desired destination by that navigation system in their smartphone or car. what3words is also incredibly easy to use and can be applied in many different situations. As Jones points out, “one of the biggest problems we see today when natural disasters occur across the globe is that addresses have been erased or emergencies happen where there is no infrastructure.” Her company has helped rescue workers get to the right location for emergency operations in the Philippines and Nepal. The UK Emergency Services now use what3words to determine locations in emergency cases. Even ride-share providers like the Berlin-based company Allygator have integrated the address system into their search mask, thus enabling them to pick up guests exactly where they’re standing. “Especially in places like Berlin, where there are a number of streets with the same name or where you won’t find new streets in any navigation system, we make people’s lives much easier,” says Jones with delight. In addition to its existing offices in the US, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Mongolia, where what- 3words supplies the official address systematics, the company is planning to open an office in Berlin. “For us, Berlin is the place to be,” says Jones. “Due to its history, the city is predestined to have a new address system, plus Berliners are up on all the latest tech and always open to new things.” In the face of all these practical advantages, it’s important to make sure to have a splash of what one might call “tech poetry,” too. This comes in the form of the addresses themselves, which are generated randomly, with only prominent locations getting special – usually short – three-word compounds that are easy to note. “Our address in Mongolia is ///powerful.gains.animates.”, explains Jones. “For me, these are three strong words that also sound quite intriguing.” And for all you curious minds out there, why not see if you can find out where ///reste.gründete.antraten. is? 29

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