What3Words Geocoding Extensions

  • Wen JiangEmail author
  • Emmanuel Stefanakis


With the advent of location-based services, the demand for location data has dramatically increased. Geocoded locations have become necessary in many GIS analysis, cartography, and decision-making workflows. A reliable geocoding system that can effectively return any location on earth with sufficient accuracy is desired. This study is motivated by a need for a geocoding system to support university campus applications. Address-based geocoding systems have been used for decades. However, they present limitations in address resources, address standardization, and address database maintenance. These limitations have recently sparked an interest in developing alternative geocoding systems that apply alphanumeric codes as a reference to locations, such as Geohash, Google’s Open Location Code, and what3words to name a few. Comparing to other geocoders, what3words (w3w) has many advantages. It uses a simple format of code consisting of three words, it is less error-prone, codes are easier to memorize, and multiple languages are supported. However, its fixed resolution (consisting of 3 m by 3 m square cells) and lack of consideration of the third dimension may limit its applicability. To better support geographic applications with special requirements, the w3w geocoding system needs to be extended. This paper proposes extensions of w3w in two aspects: variable resolution and third dimension support. A geocoding processing tool that implements these extensions is being developed to support the need of a university campus’ facility management, emergency evacuation and route navigation planning, student survey data management, and other location-based services.


Geocoding systems what3words Geocoding processing Location-based services 



The authors wish to thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on the initial manuscript.


This work was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC-DG).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The manuscript is compliant with ethical standards.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

Not needed.

Informed Consent

Not needed.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geodesy and Geomatics EngineeringUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada

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