Delivery companies know well the challenges with inconsistent and poor addresses in emerging markets. Addresses are often ambiguous or in many cases even non-existent. Poorly planned cities with sprawling street alleys often have never been assigned a proper system of street addresses. This makes it difficult for delivery drivers to find customers, and it often forces drivers to call customers for directions.
A London based company, What3words is making a difference and taking the hassle out of street addresses. The company’s proprietary geocode system is designed to identify any location within a resolution of about 3 metres, and it has divided the world into 57 trillion 3m x 3m squares, and given each one a unique 3 word address. By providing customers with a three word address, delivery drivers can easily pinpoint a delivery location anywhere in the world, allowing them to deliver products on time and reducing the frustration of late deliveries.
In Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro with close to 200,000 residents, a local co-operative, Carteiro Amigo (friendly postman), is using What3words’ app to offer 3 word addresses to favela residents. Rocinha is built on a steep hillside overlooking Rio de Janeiro and is a maze of thousands of tiny roads and alleys, making it very difficult to assign a street address system.
The Brazilian postal system does not provide any services to the area, so Carteiro Amigo established its own system. A local businessman, Carlos Pedro da Silva, says he got the idea when he was employed as a census worker in the favela. He realised that many residents didn’t know their addresses, and when he asked them if they would pay to receive mail at home, the response was universally positive.
The company services more than 4,000 families in the favela, and residents pay a monthly fee to have letters and parcels delivered to them. Carteiro Amigo uses the What3words app, which works on most basic smartphones and even with patchy data connectivity. Addresses are written on stickers for people to use when ordering online, and residents and local businesses can now receive mail and have online shopping delivered to their door.
A range of companies and organisations are using What3words’ technology around the globe. Mongol Post, Mongolia’s national postal delivery service, has adopted the what3words platform as its national addressing system. Mongolia covers an area nearly the size of the European Union, and with a large semi-nomadic population of 3 million people scattered across the country, citizens have to collect mail and packages from post office boxes often kilometres away.
In 2018, German automotive manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz, also bought a stake in What3words, and the A-Class launched in May 2018, became the first vehicle with What3words on board.