Meet the British Company That Wants to Change the White House’s Address

It also wants a new address for the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty, and absolutely every other place.

The White House is seen in the early evening September 24, 2008 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Alex Brown
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Alex Brown
Feb. 26, 2014, midnight

Say you’re hik­ing through the woods. You fall, break your leg, and can’t walk. You call 911. How do you tell res­cuers to find you? Right now, you’d have to read out your lat­it­ude and lon­git­ude, for ex­ample: 39.341324, -77.716231.

But what if you could send them to the same loc­a­tion by simply say­ing “math­em­at­ics.pelt.skis”?

Or say you’re at­tend­ing an event at a down­town hotel that, des­pite its single ad­dress, bor­ders sev­er­al dif­fer­ent streets and has mul­tiple en­trances. You could print out a lengthy list of dir­ec­tions to the cor­rect en­trance — or the event’s or­gan­izers could just tell you to ar­rive at onion.pea­nut.boats.

This al­tern­at­ive map­ping is the brainchild of the Lon­don-based com­pany what3­words, which has di­vided the globe in­to 57 tril­lion 3-by-3-meter squares, as­sign­ing each a ran­dom three-word iden­ti­fi­er.

The goal is to provide more-pre­cise loc­a­tions when con­ven­tion­al ad­dresses aren’t ad­equate — without the clunky 16-di­git GPS co­ordin­ates that are the cur­rent al­tern­at­ive.

“Giv­ing people post codes and even street ad­dresses is just not ac­cur­ate enough,” said Chris Sheldrick, one of the com­pany’s founders. “[Lat­it­ude and lon­git­ude] is really im­prac­tic­al. It’s like giv­ing your phone num­ber to someone — twice.”¦ Let’s get the ac­cur­acy of GPS co­ordin­ates, but let’s get a hu­man-friendly way to get people to use them.”

With the what3­words sys­tem, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. be­comes hours.alert.photo. The Cap­it­ol? Judges.tun­nel.bump. Pay­er.open.leads gets you to the Statue of Liberty.

The com­pany — run from vibes.ledge.double — launched its product in Ju­ly of last year, but this week it fi­nally turned loose a sales team and is pre­par­ing a new, nat­ive app that will in­clude dir­ec­tions to its loc­a­tions.

The map-read­ing pro­gram, Sheldrick says, has nearly end­less util­it­ies. In Aus­tralia, some emer­gency re­spon­ders are plan­ning to use what3­words to bet­ter find people who need help. Heli­copter pi­lots say it will make it easi­er to find land­ing zones. Oth­er nav­ig­a­tion apps want to in­cor­por­ate it to make loc­a­tion-find­ing more user-friendly. And every­day people could use it to find one an­oth­er at a mu­sic fest­iv­al or oth­er large ven­ue.

“The world of events could have a very pos­it­ive plat­form,” Sheldrick said, cit­ing his own back­ground as an event-lo­gist­ics or­gan­izer. The dif­fi­culty of herd­ing vo­lun­teers — es­pe­cially in a rur­al en­vir­on­ment — to a spe­cif­ic spot proved the dif­fi­culty of provid­ing loc­a­tions us­ing con­ven­tion­al ad­dress­ing.

An­oth­er pos­sib­il­ity? “We could really re­vo­lu­tion­ize ef­fi­ciency for de­liv­er­ies,” Sheldrick said, es­pe­cially for “any­body go­ing any­where for the first time. How of­ten is that in­form­a­tion re­li­able?” De­liv­ery com­pan­ies, he said, have ex­pressed lots of in­terest in us­ing what3­words — in­clud­ing a Dubai com­pany that plans to in­teg­rate it in­to its launch next month.

But, of course, for those three words to mean any­thing but gib­ber­ish, more people will have to be­come fa­mil­i­ar with the app. Sheldrick says it makes too much sense not to catch on. “I genu­inely be­lieve ad­op­tion will be fast,” he said.

What We're Following See More »
WITH LIVE BLOGGING
Trump Deposition Video Is Online
18 hours ago
STAFF PICKS

The video of Donald Trump's deposition in his case against restaurateur Jeffrey Zakarian is now live. Slate's Jim Newell and Josh Voorhees are live-blogging it while they watch.

Source:
SOUND LEVEL AFFECTED
Debate Commission Admits Issues with Trump’s Mic
19 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.

Source:
TRUMP VS. CHEFS
Trump Deposition Video to Be Released
19 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."

Source:
A CANDIDATE TO BE ‘PROUD’ OF
Chicago Tribune Endorses Gary Johnson
23 hours ago
THE LATEST

No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."

NEVER TRUMP
USA Today Weighs in on Presidential Race for First Time Ever
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump." That's the message from USA Today editors, who are making the first recommendation on a presidential race in the paper's 34-year history. It's not exactly an endorsement; they make clear that the editorial board "does not have a consensus for a Clinton endorsement." But they state flatly that Donald Trump is, by "unanimous consensus of the editorial board, unfit for the presidency."

Source:
×