What Three Words

The opening lines of this post are a bit abstract, but I need to explain it in this way as it was both comedic and eventually utterly disheartening.

My Mum visited the other day, I made us coffee and we went to sit in the garden. As she approached her chair, she said,
"Sarah (my sister-in-law) told me this thing the other day."
"Oh yes" I said, "what's that?"
"Well, what three words connect the Police, Ambulance and Fire services?" she asked.
"I don't know, what three words do connect them?" (I'm now thinking this is a cryptic clue puzzle, a riddle, my Mums always liked those.)
"What three words." she says.
"I don't know Mum, give me clue!"
She said, "well, it's what three words!"
"OK, but what are they??"
Exasperated, she gets out her phone and tells me she'll show me, which was a start as I hadn't the faintest idea what she was on about!!
She shows me her phone, it has a map gridded out with an arrow pointing to her house and then she mutters that it hasn't updated and should show that she's now at my house. Then she says, "Everywhere on the globe is mapped out in 3 meter squared boxes, and each one has a name, look, this is the name for a 3 meter box in my house." "Oh" I said, "Did you get to name it?" Now she looks at me as if I'm stupid and I do really feel a little stupid at this point. "No, they name it." she says. "So, it's like a grid reference, but more finite? Is it like GPS, does it use your phone as a tracking device?" I ask. "No!" She replies, then my son comes out to join us and she starts chatting with him and I'm left in my own tumbleweed world wondering what an earth just happened!:huh:

Eventually, I get to grips with what she was, in a shockingly bad way, trying to explain. There is a new app, it's called What Three Words. It utilises the 3 meter squared mapping of the entire globe, each 3 meter square is given a permanent identity in the form of 3 random words...say, igloo - monitor - leaf , that's how it's displayed on the phone screen, above a map showing your location. The premise is, if you're out walking and the weather gets bad or you injure yourself, if you have this app, it will display the three words unique to the 3 meter square you are in and you can then relay this to whatever emergency service you need...instead of them having to rely on post/zip codes or a general description as to where you may be, they now know your exact location. Sounds genius, what's not to love?
My brother used it last year when him and my Mum were out for a walk. Mum went back to the car and my brother carried on for a bit, said he'd be half an hour. Anyhow, he slipped, broke his leg, the same leg that he had major surgery on last year after the discovery of bone cancer. A couple of young women out walking found him, but he'd phoned the ambulance and given them the 3 words and they knew exactly where he was.

I have my thoughts on this, some good, but mostly bad. It's sold as a 'keep you safe' tool, because we know that we live in a time where everyone needs protection against anything remotely 'unsafe'. It's seems that, increasingly, people struggle with the idea of danger, perceived or otherwise....that we have the right to be rescued, even when we don't necessarily need to be and it raises huge questions regarding personnal responsibility and accountability for our actions. Then there are the obvious big brother elements, which is essentially the purpose of the app, but the purpose of the mapping system at the outset is curious? I'd like to know what people think.

My mum wondered if it could be used in reverse, so your phone sends back your location, using the 3 words, to whoever could request that, bypassing the triangulation needed for phone tracking? I told her not to worry, I doubted the Feds were onto her, and anyway, it only works if you have the app...(maybe, for now?)


FOTCM Member
Wow. It's one of those 'technology cuts both ways' thing. The perky TED talk the inventor gives highlights all the benefits. But for sure, there's gonna be a downside. It makes me feel like a pinned bug. I don't think I'll be downloading that app.

An article from Popular Mechanics has more information:


FOTCM Member
I can see the benefits of it, kidnappings, robbery, injuries, lost children and what have you. But that's how most control tools are sold isn't it? Because of its convenience.

But yes, the downside is that now you're always locatable whether you want to or not, I think the trouble comes when the apps start talking to one another and then you'd only need a portion of the population to have it in order to be able to include everyone else in it by proximity. Or maybe your phone doesn't have it but your car does, or some other form of "internet of things" device that can connect to the internet.

Maybe the idea at the inception of it is quite innocent and perhaps even positive and creative, I remember reading that one of the drives to sea exploration was the intent of creating a navigation chart and along the way they ran into discovery, so map the world so that people may know where you are. But that kind of information in the hands of the wrong people can be quite devastating me thinks, specially nowadays.
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