I confess, there are few things I hold as dear to my heart as a detailed paper map — (accordion.rumpled.creases). So when Canadian Geographic Travel asked me to test drive the first vehicle in Canada — and the world — to be equipped with what3words location technology, I thought (maybe.explain.clearly). The explanation is this: what3words divides the entire world into a series of three-metre squares (57 trillion in total!), assigning each square a unique combination of three words (from a list of 25,000) meant to make precise coordinate location super easy. Each word is separated by a period.
When the editor said testing would take place behind the wheel of Mitsubishi’s 2022 Eclipse Cross, which can use the technology without an Internet or cellular connection, I quickly jettisoned my allegiance to paper maps and replied (writing.soon.thanks).
The concept is simple. Go to what3words to find the word combination that identifies your destination among those trillions of locations across the globe. In the Eclipse Cross, the vehicle’s TomTom navigation system is set up to accept what3words word groupings, which are typed into the same space as a destination address.
The what3words app is available for free on mobile devices and addresses are available in 48 languages (with more in development). There’s a website, apps for iOS and Android, and an API for bidirectional conversion between what3words addresses and latitude/longitude coordinates.
Over the course of a week, our family used what3words to help us locate, among many other spots, our friends’ campsite at orchestral.file.vertically (site #24 on Big Gull Lake, Ont.); a resident indigo bunting, whose exact location we could then share with fellow birders, at averages.yarn.replace (just off the Trans Canada Trail, Nepean, Ont.).; and a hard-to-find canoe launch at erratic.boost.besotted (Ferguson’s Falls, on the Mississippi River, Ont.).
Herein lies the competitive advantage of what3words: it is very useful for locating spots that are off-road or do not have an address. The possible downside is misspelling a word, so focus is required.
Closer to home, it worked just fine to direct us to the garden centre at a Canadian Tire across town.
In conclusion, a what3words-equipped vehicle offers a simpler and accurate alternative to GPS for identifying off-grid locations, while matching the ease of entering an address in a navigation system when seeking fully-mapped destinations.
And just for fun, here’s the location key for the three random word combinations used to describe my thoughts about what3words at the beginning of story:
- accordion.rumpled.creases turns out to be near Ulanhot, Inner Mongolia
- maybe.explain.clearly is in the municipality of La Goulette, Tunis
- writing.soon.thanks places me near Batikent, a city near Ankara, Turkey