Start-up Develops Mapping App to Locate Specific Places

Category: Business


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. drop (someone/something) off / ˈdrɒpˌɔf / (phrasal) – to leave something or someone at a place

    He dropped them off at the train station.

  2. frustrated / ˈfrʌs treɪ tɪd / (adj) – annoyed, angry, or disappointed because of something

    I feel frustrated because the driving app gives inaccurate directions.

  3. integrate / ˈɪn tɪˌgreɪt / (v) – to combine or join two or more separate things together

    The company’s production became faster after advanced technology was integrated into its manufacturing system.

  4. widespread / ˈwaɪdˈsprɛd / (adj) – describing something that people experience a lot

    Problems involving people’s online security have become widespread in our area.

  5. global standard / ˈgloʊ bəl ˈstæn dərd / (idiom) – something that follows international levels of quality

    The company became a global standard after receiving multiple international awards.


Read the text below.

A London-based start-up developed an app that lets users locate a specific place using a three-word combination.

Chris Sheldrick and his two friends, Mohan Ganesalingam and Jack Waley-Cohen, developed the app called what3words. Sheldrick used to provide services for live music events, requiring him to drop off equipment and direct bands to different locations. As Sheldrick became frustrated because of several mistakes with addresses, he tried to find a way to make locations easier to find and remember.

To develop the app, Sheldrick and his friends first divided the globe into 57 trillion squares. Then, with Ganesalingam’s background in mathematics, the three came up with around 40,000 words, which were divided into three-word combinations, to tag all the squares.

A word combination can be obtained either by clicking one spot on the map or by typing in a place’s address. To find a location using a word combination, a user should type three forward slashes, followed by the three words in the search tab of the app. The three words should be separated by periods. For example, the Statue of Liberty has been given the name “///planet.inches.most” by the app.

What3words is free for public use, but profits will be generated from institutions that are planning to integrate the app into their operations. Currently, some of the start-up’s partners include a ride-hailing app, logistics companies, and car manufacturers.

The use of the app is widespread in Mongolia, where the postal service, banks, and modes of transportation have been using what3words as the official address tracking system. The app has also been translated to over 30 languages including French, Arabic, and Japanese. The creators hope that what3words will become a global standard in five years.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Would you trust the results generated by what3words? Why or why not?
• Do you think it is feasible for what3words to achieve its vision of becoming a global standard in five years? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• If you were a business owner, what product or service would you offer to make people’s lives more convenient? Explain.
• Who would be your target market for this product or service? Discuss.