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"Addresses were simply not designed for voice"

Clare Jones is the CCO of what3words – the world's first addressing system designed for voice.

15 Jan. 2018

Clare Jones is interested in how innovative business models can tackle social and environmental challenges, and sits on the board of various UK social enterprises. She studied for an undergraduate degree in English, with her graduate degree in the Geography Department at the University of Cambridge.

Clare also volunteers with the Streetlink project, doing health outreach work with vulnerable women in South London.

Hello Clare, could you describe what3words in three words?

Global addressing system.

And now the elevator pitch...

what3words is a universal addressing system. It was designed to make sure every place in the world has a simple address - whether an Airbnb in the woods, a front door or a particular entrance to a stadium. It was the first system designed for voice and for human interaction with machines - every 3m x 3m square in the world has been assigned a unique address made of just three words from the dictionary.

For example, the entrance to their London HQ can be found at ///index.home.raft. These 3 word addresses can be used to route cars or drones, used as an address when ordering online, or simply given as a meeting point for a picnic in the park.

what3words is used in 170 countries, in 14 languages so far, and is being adopted by governments all around the world as an official addressing system. Its investors include Intel Capital, Aramex and Deutsche Bahn.

They have a free app to discover and share 3 word addresses and a few lines of code to build 3 word address functionality into any app, website or map.

what3words is all about voice. Is voice the future of the digital world?

Yes, what3words is indeed all about voice, and certainly it looks like voice assistance will be a big part of our future - who doesn’t want simply to speak to their car rather than get out their phone to type?

Anyone who’s successfully used a voice assistant will know how smooth and seamless the experience can be - when it works. It’s must faster than typing and it feels much more natural.

The problem is that addresses were simply not designed for voice, with duplicate addresses all over the place (there are 632 Juarez streets in Mexico City!), issues with pronunciation (Godmanchester in England is actually pronounced "Gumster"), and sometimes long and complicated addresses that you have to enter multiple times to try and get it right.

With what3words it’s as simple as saying 3 words from the dictionary - with error detection if you make a mistake - and getting to exactly the right place.

Your CV says, you are "interested in how innovative business models can tackle social and environmental challenges". Why is this so important for you?

It doesn't seem enough that governments and charities should be responsible for creating social change when there’s so much power in technology to do good. For us at what3words, seeing how people use our tech to save and improve lives is incredible - for the 4 billion people in the world living without an address using what3words enables them to access critical services such as healthcare and financial services, or even simply to order online.

It’s a big part of what motivates us as a team - and I’m sure that’s for the other tech for good businesses out there. Some of my favourites are companies like OpenBionics, which makes 3D printed limbs for amputees, and Playmob, which gets gamers to donate to charity as they play their favourite games.

What is a typical social enterprise?

A social enterprise for me is a company that aims to tackle social or environmental challenges through business models. There are so many brilliant examples in Europe and around the world, from famous examples like Justgiving and Toms Shoes to local social enterprises like LEYF in London, which uses an innovative business model to provide education to disadvantaged children across the city.

We are very happy to have you at CeBIT 2018. What will your talk be about?

My talk will be about what3words and how people and businesses are using us all around the world to make the world a less frustrating, more efficient, and safer place, from San Francisco to Mongolia, driverless cars to disaster zones.

CeBIT changed radically. What do you think about the new CeBIT?

It’s exciting to see CEBIT embracing new technologies of the future - and of course, our favourite bit about the new CEBIT is how it’s using 3 word addresses to make sure people can find their way around.