Every once in a while, something really clever turns up... a while back, I came across an article on what3words. The founders of this service decided that the current methods of sharing locations and global coordinates are either too complicated (e.g., lat/long) to actually share easily, or too imprecise and subject to interpretation errors (e.g., postal addresses) to get people and products exactly where they need to be. With a big idea to make locations mnemonic- friendly and super precise, they overlaid the world with a grid of 3m x 3m squares (57 trillion of them) and assigned each square a three-word code.

Need to visit the Descartes pixi* office in Germany, but never been there before? No problem, Pumpkin.Clocks.Bells will get you to the front door (https://map.what3words.com/pumpkin.clocks.bells). How about meet me at the side door of Descartes’ Atlanta office: Translucent.Cracker.Exists will get you to the right spot
(https://map.what3words.com/translucent.cracker.exists). Some of the combinations are amusing and memorable...

I thought this was novel at the time, but that it wouldn't get traction unless location-based services and systems started to support it. They won't support it, however, unless people use it—classic chicken and egg. Well, now we have Descartes Reservations™ customer in the U.K. interested in leveraging what3words-based location identification for customer orders.

So maybe Descartes will get a firsthand opportunity to see if this sticks, and perhaps it could help one day with other Descartes solutions that are location-based. Geocoding of addresses has come a long way, but it still represents a significant source of error—which may be the what3words-based approach can help resolve. 

Written by Ken Wood

Executive Vice President, Product Strategy at Descartes