Travel Innovation: The Magic of #what3words

Travel Innovation: The Magic of #what3words
As the pandemic forces us to seek out fresh pastures for exploration, hyperlocal navigation is key, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Getting to that isolated homestay you’ve chosen for your much-anticipated workation is a matter of just three words

Prannay Pathak
August 10 , 2020
05 Min Read

I wish I’d known about the #what3words app when I travelled to Kausani. I’d just reached the village after a bumpy car ride, still groggy from not having slept the previous night, as I always do on overnight bus journeys. Finding your hotel in such cases is always an excruciating ask. Should there have been a provision of locating the property using the above cipher, I’d not have had to pay a couple of hundred for a five-minute drive!

The #what3words navigation app is by no means a recent development (it was launched in 2013) but the potential for its application is now shining brightly on the horizon of travel. With the coronavirus forcing us to adopt solo travel, exploring offbeat locations and staying put for longer durations of time, the need for a more hyperlocal mode of navigation is real. 

Wondering why you should pile on extra bloatware instead of just trusting Google Maps? Well, because #what3words is a game-changing upgrade on accuracy. The navigation model works on the principle of virtual 3mX3m boxes referring to precise points on the globe. These boxes correspond to sets of three random words which make for addresses that are easy not only to track down but also to remember, for even the unsavviest traveller. 

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Locate that remote homestay

Even the remotest of spots have an address now, and it’s just three words

The backpacker hostel chain, The Hosteller, recently took to allotting the #what3words location on the app’s map to all of their properties in India. Business owners and guidebooks are also increasingly adding #what3words addresses to their public details and listings. Even otherwise, locating your lodging—no matter how secluded its location may be—is super easy, and remembering the three-word address could be fun.

For instance, one of the #what3words addresses for No Society Café in Shoja, Himachal Pradesh, is ‘obsolete.hobbies.reflexivity’, where all three words, in some way, define the kind of experience you’re looking for at this place. No more calling up your homestay over and over and lugging your stuff all around the place!

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Explore hidden experiences

Get to the right café with the location navigation app

If you’re headed for a remote farmstay in Uttarakhand, you wouldn’t lose much sweat finding it. It’s great also for those of us more interested in appreciating the flavours of Hyderabadi biryani at a hard to find hole-in-a-wall joint than spending all our enthusiasm locating these places. What’s more—it can be used to even reach places that have no immediately definable boundaries or names, such as beaches or parks.

Just type the name of the place you’re headed for, have the app instantly locate the 3mX3m box corresponding to it for you, and once having got within reasonable proximity, use the in-built compass to arrive at the correct entrance.

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The precision also means that you’ll avoid confusion with places that have similar names or addresses. So, if you want to ensure your pals reach the right Sher-e-Punjab dhaba in Shimla, which has one with this title at every corner, give them the #what3words address instead.

Trail routes for hikers and bikers

Marking trails and accessing previously marked routes is easy with What3words

What3words was first used by emergency services abroad, and in countries where cycling is a much more actively pursued outdoor activity, accident detection apps are leveraging the system to trace the exact location of bike falls or crashes. With cycling being taken up furiously in the wake of the pandemic, such innovations can be expected all over the world. But even without them, you could fully harness the capabilities of the platform as a biker or a trekker. It can help mark trails, locate scenic or resting spots that could otherwise be hard to reach, log rare sightings on birdwatching trips, and a lot more.

The possibilities are endless.


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