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With courier deliveries booming due to the rise in e-commerce, few customers are aware of the obstacles and complexities that face drivers in seeking to deliver a parcel on time, and to the exact location. The legacy of apartheid spatial planning has meant that many South Africans still fail to own a clear or adequate address, which is unacceptable, unnecessary, and causes frustration for both the recipient and the courier company, while potentially placing drivers at risk.

An innovative use of GPS technology has been tackling this challenge. Express parcel experts, Dawn Wing, have teamed up with what3words, who are developing a global standard for communicating location and have given a unique three-word address, to every single 3x3m square of the country – and the rest of the planet – so it’s easy to find and share any exact location.

This makes it possible for anyone, anywhere to describe their precise address using just three words and discover them in four available South African languages: Afrikaans, Xhosa, IsiZulu and English. For example, instead of saying, ‘I’m in Mabopane, near the church and opposite the field’ callers can now say ‘I am at archives kickers slides’ and be located accurately.

In fact, the concept has hooked locals who use what3words to help people find their homes and businesses more easily – displaying their 3-word address on their websites, business cards and entrances, or simply giving, or asking for the 3-words in advance, providing a precise destination or meeting location. Apps, websites and devices accept and display what3words  addresses, from e-commerce websites to navigation apps and car navigation systems.

Explains Hilton Eachus, Chief Customer Officer at DPD Laser who trade as Dawn Wing, “With this technology, it means we can pinpoint the recipient to within three metres and ensures accuracy, reduced delivery time, but also supports more accountability from the driver. If the driver can’t deliver the parcel it will not be because he cannot find the recipient, it can only be another difficult, like a diversion or traffic, for example. In a highly competitive and demanding marketplace, the use of intelligence and accountability are a vital partnership.”

Dawn Wing driver, Nasser Abrahams, adds, “Sometimes it can be complex to track down the exact location, so this grid system approach makes it incredibly accurate. As drivers, we can’t afford the time to go to the wrong address and are understandably nervous to find ourselves in a dangerous place. We share the same desire as our customers – a parcel to arrive on time and safely.”

Eachus adds, “We decided to partner with what3words for a number of reasons. It’s important that anyone who requests a parcel delivery receives one, irrespective of where they live. That is something that has been important to attend to. Secondly, our business customers also want an express parcels company that can deliver on time and accurately – we are an extension of their brand, enabling the important and final leg of the transaction. And finally, we want our drivers to be as efficient and safe as possible. This partnership with what3words assists us in each of those areas.”

The technology is popular around the world, now in 71 countries and available in 44 languages, rapidly adopted by businesses who need to reduce margins for error.

The success of the tool has also impacted emergency services. Up until recently, thousands of people struggle to tell emergency services exactly where they are and how to find them. In areas without addresses, callers are often only able toprovide vague descriptions or references to landmarks, which means emergency services spend vital minutes, and often hours, searching for those in need of urgent help. For this reason, Vodacom zero-rated the what3words find me page meaning no data is used for emergency services.

Chris Sheldrick, Co-founder and CEO of what3words said, “It is exciting to see what3words helping to change the lives of South Africans every day – whether that is providing them with a way to give their location in an emergency, or with Dawn Wing, being able to ensure their delivery can be made to exactly where they need it.

Eachus concludes, “If this is what it is doing for the emergency services, we are excited about what it can do for deliveries. Our volumes have exploded over lockdown, so it has never been more important to be precise and punctual, ensuring great service to the rapidly growing e-commerce market. If your courier is using what3words, then you can expect both.”