German logistics giant DB Schenker integrates with what3words for precise deliveries

Photo: what3words

DB Schenker, the logistics division of German railway corporation Deutsche Bahn AG, has announced that it has integrated its eSchenker portal with what3words, a startup redefining the way street addressing works. what3words splits the world into 3×3 meter squares, and provide a three-word address for each one of them, helping people navigate better and more accurately.

Through the association with what3words, DB Schenker’s customers can now optimize their supply chains by specifying accurate pick-up and drop-off points using three-word addresses. DB Schenker boasts of a 110,000 strong clientele, who make over half a million bookings every month.

“Our cooperation with what3words is another new service of DB Schenker’s connect strategy towards a fully digital ecosystem,” said Markus Sontheimer, CIO of DB Schenker. “Especially with regard to trade shows or exhibitions, it provides our drivers with exact delivery points and thus allows us to serve our customers even faster and better.”

In a study done recently in Germany,  what3words gleaned that 73% of the deliveries made in the country were not done without a struggle in locating the exact address. In more than 25% of these cases, the last-mile driver had to seek additional information to find the drop-off point accurately.  

“what3words is a simple way to talk about location. This is important because talking about location is difficult. Street addressing does not cover everywhere – it does not cover parks, beaches, or large rural areas – and even in places where you have street addressing, it can be inaccurate,” said Giles Rhys Jones, CMO of what3words. “If you are in delivery or logistics, that can be a problem. For example, if I type in a building name, the pin might drop in the center of the building rather than at the entrance or the exit, so I have to circle the building a couple of times to find it. If I’m doing it hundreds of times a day, that adds up to a lot of time.”

The company provides its maps for free to individual users, in the form of a smartphone application and through its desktop site. However, its revenue stream comes from licensing out its software to large companies that end up saving millions of dollars by using a better navigation system – like DB Schenker. what3words has a wide array of customers, ranging from Mercedes Benz, which has also invested in the company, to different national post agencies, and even travel guides.

“We are being used by Lonely Planet, a travel guide that puts three-word addresses next to all their listings. Domino’s Pizza and Pizza Hut use us in different parts of the world. We are also used for emergency response – the police force in the U.K., by the UN, and the Red Cross for disaster response and tracking,” said Rhys Jones.

what3words is now adding more functionality to its solution, of which voice recognition is one. “Entering an address by voice into a machine is incredibly difficult because the underlying addressing infrastructure is so bad. So if I get into my car and say, “take me to Church Road,” it says, “there are 14 different Church Roads in London, which one do you want to go to.” It is difficult for GPS to distinguish between duplication and ambiguity,” said Rhys Jones.

The voice recognition feature developed by what3words is simpler, as it involves the user to utter three words for accurately zeroing in on the location. The company has also worked on an OCR solution, that can read three-word addresses written over parcels, identify and display the route to the location. “We are also working on adding more languages, and are currently available in 26 languages. We have a lot of English users, but the Mongolian and Arabic versions are also used a lot,” said Rhys Jones.

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Vishnu Rajamanickam, Staff Writer

Vishnu writes editorial commentary on cutting-edge technology within the freight industry, profiles startups, and brings in perspective from industry frontrunners and thought leaders in the freight space. In his spare time, he writes neo-noir poetry, blogs about travel & living, and loves to debate about international politics. He hopes to settle down in a village and grow his own food at some point in time. But for now, he is happy to live with his wife in the middle of a German metropolitan.