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  • Pioneering spirit: Sophie McArthur of what3words and the new GLE.
    1

    The new GLE.

    what3words: three words are all you need to discover hidden locations around the world. We tested this exceptionally simple navigation system in the new GLE, using it to find outlying places in the Salzburg countryside.

    Text: Ina Brzoska  | Photos: Uwe Düttmann

“This place is simply incredible.”

A morning breeze blows through the reeds, gently dispersing the mist that lies on the water to reveal Dragon Wall, a dramatic cliff face rising up from the edge of Lake Mondsee. Two herons swoop down suddenly, ploughing through the lake’s mirror-like surface to interrupt the tranquillity. “This place is simply incredible,” says Sophie McArthur. It is exactly what an Australian imagines an Alpine panorama to look like.

Sophie McArthur of what3words is originally from Melbourne, Australia.

Sophie McArthur of what3words is originally from Melbourne, Australia.

Salzburg’s alpine panorama is pure joy.

Salzburg’s alpine panorama is pure joy.

Beautiful places can be hard to find.

Orignally from Melbourne, Sophie moved to London just two years ago. The 32-year-old came to Europe to discover places like Mondsee, but also to change her career. In London, she came across what3words and, fascinated by their vision, she joined the company. It is on their behalf that she is currently exploring Salzburg.

And it is in places like this, a mystic, far-flung lakeside location, that the idea behind the young company’s product becomes apparent. Often, the most remote and beautiful places don’t have addresses, and can be hard to find. 

The system is considered revolutionary.

Sophie reaches for her smartphone and takes a photo with the what3words photo app. “It’s very easy to use,” she explains. You just need to download the app, called ‘3WordPhoto’. The programme then pinpoints the location. Sophie checks the screen to see whether the place scanned is exactly the right one. Once the app has tagged the photo with the three words, Sophie shares it with her colleagues, who are still out looking for the location. Within just a few minutes, the rest of the team has arrived at the spot. 

what3words is an astoundingly simple address system able to locate any spot in the world using only three words. 

Essentially a new form of geocoding, the system is already considered revolutionary, and currently gaining in popularity around the world. Among the companies to use it is Mercedes-Benz, which incorporates the navigation into the multimedia system MBUX in almost all its new vehicles to provide drivers with a faster, more reliable means of searching for and arriving at their destination. Daimler saw the potential of what3words and how it could help improve customer experience and continue their commitment to innovation. In addition to the partnership, Daimler invested in the company.

Time for some well-earned replenishment: the Blonde Hütte restaurant serves delicious Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancakes).

Time for some well-earned replenishment: the Blonde Hütte restaurant serves delicious Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancakes).

Problems in conveying precise addresses.

The what3words story is one typical of many start-ups, Sophie tells us, and involved three bright minds joining forces to solve a problem. It all began in London a few years ago. Briton Chris Sheldrick was working in the music industry at the time, coordinating multiple bands and concerts and regularly encountering problems in conveying precise venue addresses to bands. He would send the bands the right GPS addresses by email or text message, but the bands would often end up at the wrong place nonetheless. This often resulted in chaos, even in the loss of equipment, explains Sophie. 

57 trillion squares.

In search of a solution to his problem, Chris called an old friend who had studied linguistics and mathematics at Cambridge. Together they created an algorithm based not only on numbers but also on words. They divided the world into 57 trillion squares, assigning a unique three-word address to each.

During her trip through the mountains, Sophie explains how the system would be of everyday use here. She points to the travelling merchants and the food trucks selling grilled fish, apple juice and wine. 

 “You can find them much more quickly and easily with our system,” she says. A function that will clearly benefit travellers, too. Visitors to the Salzburg region keen to experience the area’s most captivating sights will tend to ask locals for tips and advice. The best spots are often well off the beaten track, after all, and hard for travel guides to list. In fact, that is why Lonely Planet has begun rolling out what3word addresses in their books. 

Favourite spots.

Sophie shows us her own favourite spots, among them a hidden gorge with a turquoise blue stream, a roaring waterfall in the middle of a small forest at the edge of the road, and the starting point of the region’s most spectacular hiking trail. She has saved all the locations in the app, tagging them with their own individual three-word address. This way she can refer back to them or share them with friends. 

Around the world, countries are beginning to adopt what3words. In Mongolia, for example, what3words’ recently established partnership with Airbnb enables travellers to find nomads, lodge with them and accompany them on their travels, promoting a more gentle form of tourism. And in Africa, the governments of numerous countries have opted to implement the principle of the three-word address. 

Trip through the mountains.

This is set to be especially beneficial in Nigeria, a country with the seventh-highest population in the world, but with an address system that is still inconsistent. Indeed, only one in five of its inhabitants can receive post to their homes. A partnership with what3words could therefore be a blessing for the economy, not least in terms of its potential with regard to online shopping. 

By the end of her trip through the beautiful mountains around Salzburg, Sophie has saved eight of her favourite places as photos with three-word addresses. That way, she’ll also in the future be able to travel the route again with friends or with her husband. The question of what makes what3words better than GPS coordinates is one Sophie hears regularly. And to her mind, the advantages of the three-word address are clear. “Three words are much easier to remember and communicate compared to a long list of latitude and longitude coordinates,” she says. 

Pioneering spirit: the new GLE.

Pioneering spirit: the new GLE.

Made it! But the address of this charming wooden cabin is to remain a secret.

Made it! But the address of this charming wooden cabin is to remain a secret.

The advantages over GPS.

This advantage becomes especially apparent in emergency situations, for instance when the three-word address system was used by NGOs to locate and help flood victims. Even the United Nations has now integrated the app into its disaster relief procedures. The app would also be of huge use in the event of avalanche accidents in the Alps or rescue operations in ski resorts. In Sophie’s case, today, it serves to keep a record of the charming wood cabin she stumbled upon on her way back down the mountain.

 “The best-kept secrets often lie off the beaten path — but you need to be able to find them. With what3words, every hidden gem can be found, saved and shared,” explains Sophie. The most mystical locations can, of course, still be kept secret. 

The new GLE: strength and intelligence combined.

Invariably calm and poised, no matter the conditions, the new interconnected, intelligent GLE is your ideal companion for all types of endeavour, whether on or off the road. It boasts an active chassis with individually adjustable spring and damping forces on each wheel, and a curve-tilting function and camera-based road-scanning feature for added comfort and safety. Its interior is more spacious than that of its predecessor and features innovative touchscreen-based infotainment, as well as cutting-edge driving assistance systems. And, of course, it comes with integrated what3words navigation, which can be activated by voice or by touch. On request, the GLE can be fitted with a third row of seats: perfect for excursions with friends.

The GLE’s interior, too, is a sight to behold, boasting a wealth of innovative features.

The GLE’s interior, too, is a sight to behold, boasting a wealth of innovative features.

Crystal-clear water, billowing reeds: the shores of Lake Fuschl are among the Salzkammergut region’s most captivating locations.

Crystal-clear water, billowing reeds: the shores of Lake Fuschl are among the Salzkammergut region’s most captivating locations.

A strong partnership.

Mercedes-Benz was the first car manufacturer to invest in the new address system created by what3words. The service now is a feature in its new vehicle models. Mercedes-Benz drivers can have their cars navigate them to any place in the world via voice control or by entering the three-word address on the car’s screen, or they can convey the infor­mation to their friends. The system’s algorithm keeps similar word combinations geographically far apart from each other to prevent any confusion. And the system itself is so intuitive that users tend to grasp it in no time.

For more information, please go to: mbmag.me/what3words

Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert CO₂-Emissionen kombiniert Stromverbrauch im kombinierten Testzyklus

1 Die angegebenen Werte wurden nach dem vorgeschriebenen Messverfahren ermittelt. Es handelt sich um die „NEFZ-CO₂-Werte“ i. S. v. Art. 2 Nr. 1 Durchführungsverordnung (EU) 2017/1153. Die Kraftstoffverbrauchswerte wurden auf Basis dieser Werte errechnet. Der Stromverbrauch wurde auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO₂-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch aller neuen Personenkraftwagenmodelle“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.

2 Die angegebenen Werte sind die „gemessenen NEFZ-CO₂-Werte“ i. S. v. Art. 2 Nr. 2 Durchführungsverordnung (EU) 2017/1153, die im Einklang mit Anhang XII der Verordnung (EG) Nr. 692/2008 ermittelt wurden. Die Kraftstoffverbrauchswerte wurden auf Basis dieser Werte errechnet. Der Stromverbrauch wurde auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Aufgrund gesetzlicher Änderungen der maßgeblichen Prüfverfahren können in der für die Fahrzeugzulassung und ggf. Kfz-Steuer maßgeblichen Übereinstimmungsbescheinigung des Fahrzeugs höhere Werte eingetragen sein. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch und die CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.

4 Angaben zu Kraftstoffverbrauch, Stromverbrauch und CO₂-Emissionen sind vorläufig und wurden vom Technischen Dienst für das Zertifizierungsverfahren nach Maßgabe des WLTP-Prüfverfahrens ermittelt und in NEFZ-Werte korreliert. Eine EG-Typgenehmigung und Konformitätsbescheinigung mit amtlichen Werten liegen noch nicht vor. Abweichungen zwischen den Angaben und den amtlichen Werten sind möglich.

6 Stromverbrauch und Reichweite wurden auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Stromverbrauch und Reichweite sind abhängig von der Fahrzeugkonfiguration.