Emergency location - What3Words

"What3 Words” is an app (as used by national emergency services) that pulls up a format of “location” in exactly “3 words” to a 3m x 3m square:

“yelled.mourner.good” = 25m range at Honington. :wink:

Very handy for when Google Maps / postcode (or whatever) doesn’t come up with the precise location - I remember the debacle when emergency services went to the wrong postcode location - Wyton / Brampton.

I’ve started to add it to my shooting RAMs, as it really pinpoints the precise location. Probably useful for many other activities.


It’s a great idea, but there are big issues with it.
Namely it’s not relational, aka yellow mourner good isn’t next to yellow mourner bad so you are completely reliant on their app. They are not open source (unlike plus codes that Google developed) and inorder for 3rd parties to integrate W3W onto their Nav systems, a huge licensing fee is asked for.

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I know at least 1 Police Force has it built into their mobile devices.

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From one of my links:

The new technology is integrated into the three forces’ control room software which means the public can share their three word address when contacting the police.

I signed up to it and got a little blue plaque to put on the outside of our sqn. When we do any walking we mention that it’s a good app if you get lost or injured to see your location and pass on.


I wonder what overhaul.vibrating.remit will think about this app


I think i’m missing something here… what’s the benefit over an OS grid reference?

Probably much, much easier for Joe Public to access / report - most people have their mobile 'phone available rather than OS Sheet 12345 = instant location / reporting option.

Just checked the app on my 'phone against current position; took 10 secs, yes, I’m in my lounge. :wink:

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personally not being a map reading chap, I find the location easy to see ///triplets.shortstop.rakes :grin:

It would make a lot more sense if it was a grid though.

I reckon you could do the whole of the world very easily using two sets of sequential words, even missing the homophones and near homophones.

And it would mean that correct.battery.horse.staple would be close to to correct.barter.horse.staple.

Rather than downloading that app they could download OS Locate which gives the OS grid? Just as easy imo and is more widely recognised.

The Emergency Services are going to 3 words in a big way, it’s much more user friendly and doesn’t require any in built navigation skills.


Maybe a reporting (by public) accuracy issue? Also, a 3m x 3m grid with What3Words; as we know, a 6 figure OS grid = 100m grid, 8 figure = 10m grid.

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Whilst it appears to be a perfectly good system, it seems to me to be a solution to a non-existent “problem”.

Fancy new system - “I can look up my location using an app on my phone and relay it to the Emergency services. They can enter it into their navigation systems and be directed to it”


Trusty old OS Grid system - “I can look up my location using an app on my phone and relay it to the Emergency services. They can enter it into their navigation systems and be directed to it”

The trusty old system also has the benefit that if my phone isn’t working I can manually find my location using a map.
And if the emergency services’ fancy system goes down they can manually look up my location using a map.

This really strikes me as someone making a buck on the back of the idea that three words are easier to say than two letters and six figures, and whilst that may be true, is it really a genuine benefit? I say “no, not really. It’s a gimmick”.


So if your phone isn’t working then how do you contact the helpy chaps with badges and stretchers? If they implement 3words properly then it would make my life easier in an emergency.

it is a more accurate location than any OS grid system…

If an 8 figure OS grid is accurate to 10m within GPS tolerance, just how accurate do you need it to be?


but the question was “what is the benefit” - w3w is more accurate than 8 figure grid references.

there is an additional advantage of human error of an OS map.

we see it with a 6 figure regularly enough. while i might say 123 456 you might say 124 456.
there is bound to be similar (human) errors with 8 figure (and yes I accept the error is only by 20m or so which is still damn close and within earshot - I am simply answering the question)

the w3w system is fixed and cannot be mistaken if you are in that box, you are in that 3x3m box…


How does it derive its position in space from which the w3w reference is generated?

you’re not asking the right person.

looking on the website

Simple yet accurate
The what3words algorithm takes complex GPS coordinates and converts them into unique 3 word addresses. It means anyone can talk about anywhere with 3 simple words.
what3words is useful where street addresses don’t exist and provides a level of specificity when they are not accurate enough

read more https://what3words.com/about/

Addressing around the world isn’t suitable for everyday needs. Street addresses can be inaccurate or ambiguous. Road names are repetitive. Homes and businesses are often located far from the centre of their postcode. And much of the world simply isn’t addressed – from informal settlements to the park where you’ve planned to meet friends, or the precise location where you’re waiting for the cab to collect you.

As we continue to integrate new technologies into our daily lives, so the role of precise and reliable addressing becomes ever more important.

Poor addressing means deliveries go astray, businesses can’t be found, aid doesn’t get through, remote assets are difficult to manage and friends fail to meet up. At best, it’s expensive and frustrating. At worst, it hampers growth and development, restricts social mobility and affects lives.

75% of the world suffers from poor addressing or none at all. The other 25% still lacks universal coverage. Whilst improvements have been made in mapping and navigation, defining exactly where “there” is remains a big issue.

Precise and consistent location referencing can not only improve global addressing, it could also connect you to untapped customer bases and new industry sectors. 3 word addresses can become the answer to a wealth of problems.

The UN estimates that 4 billion people lack a reliable way to address their homes. They struggle to open bank accounts, register a birth or access electricity or water supplies, becoming invisible to the state.

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