What are your three words?

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what3w

An interesting and potentially life-saving free "app" has come to our attention (thanks to Jon Richardson, over a pint in the Lord C).

Called What3words, it uses a clever algorithm to define any location on the surface of the earth as a unique combination of three words.

The point about it is that someone else, and critically emergency services responders, can use the three words to get a precise location for a caller. It has already proved critical in saving lives in several high-profile incidents. Once loaded, it does not depend on an internet connection.

It has an accuracy of 3 metres (i.e. the surface of the earth is divided into several trillion squares of 3 metre sides), and the algorithm it uses ensures that similar sounding words do not occur in neighbouring squares.

The same result could be achieved using high precision latitude and longitude, but numbers are notoriously difficult to get right over a poor speech connection.

So once the app is loaded into a smart phone, ipad or whatever, the device uses its GPS technology to find its geographic position and then converts them into the unique three word code.

It uses a dictionary of about 40,000 English words to achieve this, but of course can be used with almost any language.

Its accuracy means that the average house probably has five or six pinpoint locations, each with its own three word code.

For example, the front hall of the editor's house is "notes.spires.clapper" and, amazingly, you can both see and hear the Church from here..
The lounge is "after.delusions.fitter"
The kitchen is "crowd.forest.laughs"
While the garage is "juicy.drifters.snug" and so on.

It is a British invention, available from the app store, and a more detailed description is available here..

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