What3Words: At a sporting event or on a hike, new app helps you locate someone pinpoint accuracy

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Thursday, August 19, 2021
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"It's proving to be a very useful tool." No matter how crowded your location, or how isolated your hike, 'What3Words' app utilizes every ten foot square on the planet in a way that allows you to be found if needed, using just three words.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Have you ever been asked to meet at Disneyland? What about the Staples Center? How do you remember where you parked your car?

If you are trying to find someone or something at a crowded or large location, you might not quickly find what you are looking for; even if you drop a pin or share a location from your phone.

"Pins are kind of fine for various use cases. But really, we still rely on addresses, which is why we think three word addresses with 10 foot accuracy is just so much simpler," says Chris Sheldrick, the founder of the APP What3Words which was designed eight years ago to help find people and places when an address isn't precise enough.

"People use a screenshot of where they left their car when they park at the airport, simple things like this. It's really just something that could be used universally in place of an address. And it's just so much more accurate," adds Sheldrick.

Used primarily in the UK, What3Words has been integrated into the Los Angeles City Fire Department computer aided dispatch for several months. In February, a small plane crash site was quickly found in an isolated area of the Port of Los Angeles.

One of hundreds of calls where What3Words lowered response times. According to Tim Wuerfel, Battalion Chief of the Emergency Services Bureau of the Los Angeles Fire Department, "We're already trying to think of other uses for it in other environments, freeways, river rescue incidents, the marine environment, we're just starting to scratch the surface on where we're going to use that."

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What3Words has broken the entire world down into trillions of 10 foot by 10 foot squares. Three unique three unique words for every location that never change. Move ten feet in any direction on the planet and you get three new words. That precision is remarkably important in search and rescue.

The Los Angeles City Fire Department demonstrated how What3Words works even when the 911 caller doesn't have the APP on their phone. In a test, Eyewitness News Reporter Phillip Palmer called 911, and the dispatcher sent a text with his three word address which he then relayed back to the dispatcher.

Scott Porter of the LA Fire Department says, "If we were down off the trail slightly, but we were describing this location, I'm near the park bench where the tree is by the observatory. That's a huge area. Our air operations have really commented on their ability to get right over these lost hikers in a much faster time."

No matter how crowded your location, or how isolated your hike, every ten foot square on the planet has three words allowing you to be found if needed. "It's proving to be a very useful tool," says Wuerfel.

Other apps like Waze or Google maps are integrated into What3Words, allowing you to easily navigate to any destination in the world even if your life isn't in danger.

Sheldrick believes, "What three words is really something you can use in all parts of your life."