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Geographic Information Systems

Deutsche Bahn invests in three-word addresses

Around four billion people do not have a reliable address. A British startup has found a smart solution for this, with Deutsche Bahn acting as a venture capitalist.

20 Apr. 2017
what3words Geoinformation systems
(Source: what3words)

The company Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures GmbH , founded in fall 2016, is investing in the global address system what3words , which has found a surprisingly simple method to convey each and every location in the world: using three words. To achieve this, the startup has divided the world into a grid of 3 m x 3 m squares. Address data – consisting of a combination of three words – is assigned to each of these squares, or the associated geographical coordinates, as the map illustrates. Berlin Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) is therefore described with the words "kurzfilme.rechne.grenzen" (as are apparently also a valley in the Chinese province of Gansu and a mountain range in Scotland). Instead of using traditional longitude and latitude coordinates, this system enables users to convey a specific location using easy-to-remember information.

For DB Digital Ventures, the system is of interest, since it could significantly improve the quality and efficiency of worldwide goods traffic: Managing Director Boris Kühn argues that in the logistics sector, just a few minutes of time could save millions of euros and boost customer satisfaction. Such a localization service would also be valuable for emergency services, and the system could also prove hugely beneficial for international aid operations in parts of the world with no reliable addresses. Couriers in Europe and the US are already using what3words.