what3words is the simplest way to talk about location. It has divided the world into 3m x 3m squares, each with a unique 3 word address. It means that anyone, no matter where they live, can discover or be shown the 3 word address for their property. It is particularly useful for informal settlements with limited or no street addressing and it means that all of the 4bn people on earth now have a simple way to describe where they live.

When working at scale, individually assigning addresses on a house by house basis is time consuming and inefficient. Managing and upgrading settlements of tens of thousands of homes is an enormous task. By partnering with what3words, Aurecon now have a solution.

Aurecon is a global engineering firm with particular expertise in working with informal settlements and urban planning. They have created Geo-Locate, to remotely assign the most relevant 3 word address to any property.

Using their technology combined with satellite imagery, including a deeper remote sensing integration still under development, they can remotely identify a property and then discover and record the most appropriate 3 word address for any house or asset in an informal settlement or rural region.


A list of 3 word addresses for an entire area can then be compiled and shared with government, town planners, NGOs and residents. For established and recognised but unaddressed towns and villages, the 3 word address gives a permanent address that can be used to deliver health, utilities and other services, as well as products via eCommerce deliveries. In certain countries an informal settlement cannot legally be assigned a permanent address so what3words can be used to assign “temporary addresses”.

A pilot was recently conducted in Sinethemba informal settlement. Like many settlements, there is a close proximity of variously sized dwellings with no uniform layout or structure.

Aurecon’s technology was able to automatically assess the footprint of properties, identify all possible 3 word addresses (it may sit across 2 or 3 squares in the what3words grid, or even more) and then allocate the most useful temporary address for urban planning and management.

Without the need to go from house-to-house on foot, permanent and temporary addresses can be simply discovered in bulk and then communicated more efficiently with individuals living there, while urban planners, support organisations, eCommerce and delivery companies can more easily manage their planning and service delivery.