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our interview with clare jones: addressing the address problem – three words to change the world

With a background in impact investment and social enterprise, Clare Jones is the CCO
of what3words, a new system that divides the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigns each one a unique 3-word address. From routing cars, autonomous vehicles and drones, to delivering humanitarian aid, the technology has a range of revolutionary applications, both socially and within the world of business. Here, Clare shares her thoughts and insight
to whet your appetite in advance of her talk in our New Urbanism track.

When it comes to what3words, what three impacts most excite you and why?


For me, one key way in which what3words is a game changer is in voice navigation. Most addresses are based on postal systems that were created hundreds of years ago, and these were just not designed for machines – and certainly not for voice.
With what3words you can simply get into your car, say just three words and know you’ll get to the exact 3m x 3m square you need, every time.
what3words has also created a way for everyone to feel con dent they know where they’re going when travelling – and to feel inspired to explore off the beaten track.
Finally, according to the UN, 4 billion people live without an address. Now what3words is a recognized postal addressing system in seven countries (and counting), millions of people can use three simple words.

Addresses seem mundane at first thought, until you consider the applications of what3words. What are some of the most obscure or unexpected ways people are using the system?


It’s definitely one of the most interesting parts of this job – seeing how people around the world use 3-word addresses to do all kinds
of things. One I loved was seeing a company in Costa Rica using a Facebook bot to request 3-word addresses from customers – and then giving the 3-word address to a drone for an exact delivery drop. But it’s great to see hidden lodges or restaurants on TripAdvisor sharing their 3-word addresses so people can find them, or bus stops in Ulaanbaatar labelled with their 3-word address in Mongolian. And someone the other day told us he’d used what3words on a road trip across the States – stopping off at ///chipmunk.chapels.storm to find an art installation (ten Cadillacs buried in the sand in Texas).
It’s used for so many things every day around the world – from helping get medicine or solar lighting to those in slums to being used in the shooting of Steven Spielberg’s new lm Ready Player One, to help the crew coordinate their shots.

So many startups de ne themselves as social enterprises these days. How do you identify a business with the potential to truly transform the world?


Having worked in impact investing before what3words, I think the key thing is not what the business calls itself but the impact it has in the world and its vision for change.
At what3words, we’re incredibly lucky that there are innovators out there – in NGOs, and in organizations like the UN – who are just able to take the technology we have built and do amazing things with it to make the world better. From Gateway Health in South Africa, who use it to get medical aid to women giving birth in informal settlements, to the disaster teams in Haiti who distributed cholera vaccines and used what3words to coordinate across teams, we see all the time how people use our technology to create positive change and deliver critical services.
It’s one of the reasons I love tech-for-good
– technology that is simple to use, with free apps like ours, means people all over the world, in so many different contexts, can use it in ways that make sense to them and answer their own specific, local problems.

Will “hidden gems” become a thing of the past?


The world is so full of so much to explore, and sharing hidden gems, and your stories
of what you saw there – particularly these days on social media – is one of the joys, letting you relive your experiences but share them with others too. With 57 trillion 3m x 3m squares in the world, I think hidden gems are here to stay – but when you’ve found them, at least now you have a simple way to tell your friends which particular spot in the national park you are going to be meeting them at that day.

What’s the one place in the world you’d like to keep all to yourself?


There’s one absolutely beautiful hot spring in Mexico but I don’t mind telling people the 3-word address — because it’s hidden deep in the Baja California countryside and only the truly adventurous, usually those in a 4x4, will make it all the way there (so I don’t mind sharing it with them). It’s at ///stony.crazes.bubble and it’s definitely worth the drive.

Whose me Convention talk would you recommend and why?


Natasha Jimenez – I love her blend of engineering and design, and that she is using her skills to do important things in the world. I heard about Translation Cards
a while ago, and it’s such a simple and powerful idea. Having worked with refugees, I know first-hand how absolutely critical communication can be, and the team working on those came up with a simple technical solution that can have profound impact.

watch clare jones’ talk at me convention

Addressing the Address Problem: Three Words to Change the World.

Disclaimer: The views of me Convention speakers do not necessarily reflect the opinions of either Mercedes-Benz and/or SXSW.