The milkman has reached out to Giles Rhys Jones, CMO of What3Words, the groundbreaking Startup that has converted the entire globe into 57 trillion 3mx3m squares, allocating a simple three-word address to each one. Created in London in 2013, W3W received $6M of funding in the last 24 months and it’s currently used by both logistics & services providers and humanitarian missions across the Globe.
When I talk about W3W to other logistics professionals, mainly operating in the last-mile sector, their major issue with W3W is: “You would have to persuade customers to download their App and that’s a massive task”. That’s not entirely true, as Direct Today (a courier who serves rural England and who’s experiencing 83% fewer missed deliveries) results show. What are, in your opinion, the pros that W3W can bring to last-mile?
Simple 3-word addressing can bring huge business efficiency for last-mile delivery companies. By being more specific about a single delivery point or drop-off area they can save several hundred meters and 4 or 5 minutes. Multiply this by a hundred or so deliveries a day and the savings are significant. This in turn means better route planning and translates into better service for consumers. Tighter delivery windows, delivery to any location and fewer missed deliveries. Many companies are integrating us into their apps that their customers already have. We are also being built into e-commerce sites, so customers can simply specify the 3-word address of the delivery point in the checkout. All of our partners are actively telling their customers about their new what3words feature as they see the huge benefits for both parties.
Lack of address is a major issue in many countries (to the point of being a social issue). Do you envision a future in which W3W finds its place for logistics also in metropolitan/western areas?
Even in countries with well-maintained addressing systems, geocoding is imprecise in urban areas. In rural parts, postal codes cover large areas even in developed parts of the world. A pin might drop in the centre of a large office complex in a city or in the middle of a field, instead of the farmhouse. Last year I stayed at a villa in Sardinia when the taxi I ordered could not find us I had to run down several streets to the main road to flag him down. What might seem like tiny improvements will save considerable time and money. For example, UPS have said that if they can save 1 mile per driver per day that would deliver a $50M saving. We can help drivers get a little less lost.
Your partnership with Black Bay promises to deliver parcels: “from a beach towel on the Brighton front, to your seat at a concert”. Is that really possible and economically viable?
Yes. This is the future of delivery. Today’s customers expect next day, same day or even within the hour delivery of goods.
Last year I’ve been in India for a month and I wondered: how do they deliver stuff to people? Sounds like your turf!
Anyone who has travelled extensively will immediately see the numerous applications. We have been built into a number of travel guides and are being used by hotel groups to help people get to where they want to when abroad. India is a prime example and whilst English is widely spoken we are also working on a number of Indian languages.
W3W has proven to be a game-changer in many situations where traditional geolocalization was impossible or incorrect: is there a scenario of which you’re particularly proud?
There are so many examples of how we have made a difference in people’s lives, both large and small. Enabling hundreds of people in the favelas to receive goods delivered to their door, tracking Zika in the Americas and Cholera in Tanzania. We get sent stories all the time, even from a man who used it to find his wife, who had broken down in her car.
What languages are going to be implemented next and what are the biggest challenges of adopting a new language for the app?
We are working on 15 more languages including Arabic, Mongolian, Hindi & Tamil. A word list of 25k words is needed to cover the world’s landmasses. Rude and complex words are removed as do homophones – those that sound the same but are spelt differently – sail and sale for example. They need to be manually checked so it is quite a labour intensive task.
Is the military already aware of your potential?
We have been used in a number of security and rescue scenarios – the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) uses us extensively across Africa and at the recent World Humanitarian Summit. We were also used at the Superbowl and are working on a security product for the summer Olympics with Digital Globe. Shouting the 18 digits of GPS down a field radio when the communication of a precise location is required is prone to error. There are a number of examples of when incorrect GPS coordinates have resulted in catastrophic results. This is a scenario where we can have a dramatic impact.
By the way: My seat at Milkman is located at cope.streaks.stormy.