what3words delivers new location technology

June 26, 2023 | 09:59
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what3words was founded in London in 2013 with the mission to provide a simple and accurate way to share precise locations. Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO, spoke with VIR's Bich Ngoc about this technology being applied in Vietnam.

Could you please tell us about what3words?

what3words is a simple way to understand and share precise locations. A what3words address is a user-friendly way to share very precise locations with other people or to input them into platforms and machines such as ride-hailing apps or e-commerce checkouts. It is optimised for voice input and contains built-in error prevention to immediately identify and correct input mistakes.

What3words delivers new location technology
Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO

This technology has divided the world into a grid of 3 metre x 3 metre squares and given each square a unique combination of three words – a what3words address. For example, 'letter', 'cookie', and 'shelving' identifies a specific entrance at the Ben Thanh market.

Now, users can refer to any exact location with just three words – whether it's a pick-up station, a building in a city, or a remote location in the mountains.

Currently, what3words has been developed in 54 languages including Vietnamese, and is free to download on iOS and Android, and via the online map at what3words.com. It's an easy way to identify, find, and share precise locations anywhere in the world.

How popular is this technology?

Millions of what3words addresses are being used widely around the world by thousands of businesses to save costs, increase performance, and improve the customer experience.

Our technology is being used by the logistics, e-commerce, automotive, mobility, and travel industries across the world. To date, what3words has been adopted by global brands such as Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Jaguar Land Rover, Careem, Lonely Planet, and many emergency services around the world.

Every day, people are using our free app to arrange meet-ups in parks and on beaches, and to share running, hiking, and sporting locations.

What about the Vietnamese market?

Adoption of what3words in Vietnam is swiftly growing. Since our launch in the market last year, we've partnered with VinFast, which has integrated the location technology into its full fleet of electric vehicles. E-commerce giant Hoa Sen Viet Group became the first consumer retailer to add a what3words field at checkout, so customers of Reebok Vietnam, Beauty Box and TheFaceShop can get their parcels delivered to their most accurate location.

Kilo, a Vietnam-based B2B e-commerce app has adopted what3words to enhance the delivery experience for wholesalers and businesses, and 7Eleven has also added a what3words field at checkout, so food deliveries can arrive at the right place and on time. Users of Vietnam's leading public transport app, BusMap, can navigate to precise what3words addresses, transforming multimodal city travel.

And most recently, we announced our partnership with Vietnam Post, so consumers and businesses can use Vietnam Post's digital address system to find their what3words address.

The current street address system in Vietnam still has many shortcomings, confusing people even when they come to what they think is the right address. In addition, postal codes are rarely used in Vietnam, addresses are long and complex, and street names are often duplicated.

These are precisely the problems that what3words was developed to solve.

What is the market share of what3words like in Vietnam?

We are eager to work with everyone because we want to be an ideal option for users. In the UK now, what3words is popular in the automotive, e-commerce, and logistics sectors, and even within government. So, our ambition is to do the same in Vietnam. What3words operates internationally, but our other focused markets include Germany, Japan, South Korea, India, the UK, the US, and the Middle East.

Why was Vietnam chosen as the eighth market?

Vietnam is a really exciting and interesting market for us - it has a large population, is receptive to new technologies, and the demand for e-commerce deliveries is expanding rapidly. It's also got a very complex addressing system - all in all, it's a market that's perfect for our solution.

What3words – new technology for location information

Chris Sheldrick is co-founder and CEO of what3words. He used to manage large-scale music events around the world and was very aware of the sight of bands getting lost when finding the venue for the event or equipment getting lost during transportation due to the difficulties in finding the right address.

He realised that the current address system was not good enough and that this was a worldwide problem. Chris spent years trying to distribute GPS coordinates and addresses, but he believed there was a better way.

In the end, he redefined the address, a concept that seemed ingrained in our way of life, and changed how we think about locations by inventing a whole new global system based on the principle of human communication. He then co-founded what3words in 2013.

Realising the impact this idea would have on the world, Chris built a small team with the goal of making what3words the global standard. Nine years later, his company has now developed to include more than 170 people and a series of offices spanning many continents around the world.

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By Bich Ngoc

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