How what3words will Solve Nigeria’s Postal Addressing Problem, Enhance Business, e-Commerce
Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) recently entered into partnership arrangement with what3words, a global addressing solution company with a view to revamping delivery service against heightened competition. Anne-Claire Blet, Partnerships Director, what3words in this interview with BrandCrunch, talks about how what3words will solve the excruciating postal delivery system challenges and provide solid base for e-commerce and business in general. Excerpts…
What is what3words all about?
To put it in context, around the world, 75% of countries have insufficient or complicated addressing systems. Some don’t even have an addressing system at all. That means approximately 4 billion people do not have an address and obviously this has tremendous impact both on people’s lives and economic growth. For instance, businesses cannot be found and individuals cannot receive urgent medical attention. Traditional addressing solutions are no longer relevant, and are inadequate for the needs of 2017: street addressing is very costly, and landmark-based addressing is not precise or scalable. Obviously we have GPS coordinates which are very precise, but the long and complicated strings of numbers are nearly impossible to communicate without mistakes. If you look at this, you will realise that there is a real addressing problem around the world and Nigeria is no exception. what3words was created to provide a solution to this issue. It is a global addressing system that provides a precise, yet very simple way to talk about location.
How come the concept has largely remained unpopular, or unknown in this clime?
what3words is used in more than 170 countries and by over 400 companies around the world. With the adoption of what3words by the postal services of Djibouti, Côte d’Ivoire and now Nigeria, as well as big partners such as Aramex and the United Nations, for instance, we have been seeing a lot of traction for what3words.
You rated what3words over the popular GPS coordinate. What is the advantage w3w has over other location apps like GPS?
what3words provides the precision of GPS coordinates, but uses just 3 dictionary words to talk about an exact location. 3 word addresses are much easier to remember, use and share with others by phone, text or email. In comparison, is almost impossible to remember and communicate the 16 digits of a latitude-longitude, and errors are common when they are typed or read out.
How best can what3words be described?
what3words is a global addressing system that provides an incredibly simple way for everyone to talk about location. what3words has divided the world into 57 trillion squares of 3 metres by 3 metres or 10 feet by 10 feet approximately, and has given each of these squares a unique address made of 3 words: a 3 word address. As we have already assigned an address to each square, it means that with what3words, everyone and everywhere has an address, including the whole of Nigeria.
How does this affect E-commerce?
Obviously, e-commerce is booming and ever more parcels have to be delivered. Customers are becoming more demanding, they want to have delivery at home, the same day or even within the same hour. Logistics companies and couriers need a much more reliable way of finding their customers. They need a reliable addressing system in place that is efficient enough for them to deliver faster and meet high customer expectations. With what3words, they have found the solution. This is the case with NIPOST, who will now be able to deliver right to their customers’ doors, enabling them to improve their customer satisfaction because they are providing more options. Customers can now decide to have their goods delivered to their office, to their home or to any 3 word address they choose.
I presume you have a database of the 57 trillion locations that have their peculiar addresses, how do people or organisation figure out their location or where a shipment is going?
Well, actually it is not a database, it is an algorithm, making the what3words app small enough to sit on any smartphone. They can use the free what3words app or online map to discover their 3 word address. They can quickly and easily discover the 3 word address for their current location, a place they want to go to, or anywhere else. Companies can then display their 3 word address on their website, on their business cards and on social media.
Education and internet penetration are problems around here. Do I need to be a graduate or high school leaver before I can use this service?
Not at all. It is not necessary to understand the words or their meaning to be able to use the address. What is necessary is to discover your 3 word address. Someone who has a smartphone can easily do that using our app, someone who has a computer can do that using our online map and someone who doesn’t have either of those can request assistance from a family member or even from the postal workers. Very soon, when the post is operating, you will be able to go to a post office and seek assistance to identify your 3 word address.
You talked about downloading the app from Apple store or Google apps this has to do with internet connection. Considering the fact that internet is still epileptic and yet to be efficient in most of the hinterland, does it mean what3words will be restricted to the urban centres for now?
what3words can be used across the entire country, both urban and rural areas alike. Everyone can benefit from the new addressing system. One thing that is very interesting for areas with poor internet connection is that the app works offline, without a data connection. Once you have downloaded what3words you don’t need to have a connection to see the 3 word address of where you are. The app will use your phone’s GPS to show this.
Now that you are partnering with NIPOST, what is the assurance that what3words will affect the organisation’s bottom-line and efficiency?
Using what3words will help NIPOST optimise its last mile operations. It will also help open new markets: NIPOST will be able to offer door-to-door delivery, reach new regions in the country and also reach new customers. This is all beneficial for NIPOST’s bottom-line. With other partners, we have seen that the use of what3words has improved efficiency. For example, even in London, which is one of the best addressed cities in the world, we tested traditional addresses against 3 word addresses and showed that what3words enabled a delivery company called Quiqup to save 30% of time on the road. If you save time, you are saving money, you are saving resources and obviously, you are more efficient.
Cost is obviously involved in all these, what is the cost going to be like when your partner starts deployment?
The what3words app and map site are free for everyone to use. We have developed other tools and products, including an API and SDK, which allow businesses to build what3words into their existing online platforms and systems. These products are sold to high volume users such as companies and government agencies who will be able to improve their operations and efficiency using our system. As for Nigeria, as with any partner, we never share specific details of our partnerships.
Can you avail us the background to the what3word?
what3words was created four years ago. The CEO and co-founder, Chris Sheldrick, was in the music industry before starting what3words. As he organised concerts around the world, he would very often have to handle the consequences of musicians being late because they could never find the location of the concert. A bit frustrated, he decided he’d have to invent a better addressing system. He discussed with a few of his friends and colleagues and they devised what3words, starting on the back of an envelope.