November 17, 2012
I own a Toyota with a navigation system but have hardly used it since I got a smartphone with Google Maps and Google Navigation. The problem with in-dash navigation is that the maps can only be updated by going to the dealer and paying a hefty fee and that they have to be updated annually.
Smartphone apps continually update their data. When Google Maps introduced real-time traffic, it was amazing. The thing about technology is that the next best thing is always around the corner, and around that corner I discovered startup Waze, which has taken maps and navigation to the next level.
Waze is available on both Android and iPhone and mashes map data with real-time contributions from the users to provide directions, diversions, and traffic incidents. Users report traffic stops, cameras, slowing traffic, and hazards on the road, and the information is sent as a notification to other users nearby. Waze users can also edit and submit changes to the Waze maps.
Apple's CEO gave a shout out to Waze as an alternative maps app in his explanation about the iPhone maps imbroglio. This month Waze announced the introduction of the location guided advertising platform, and according to ShalomLife Blog, Waze's 30 million users lent a helping hand during hurricane Sandy:
“Close to 30 million mobile app users turn to Waze to tap its crowd-sourced data for car directions. The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and the White House saw an opportunity to use the app in a new way, following widespread gas shortages due to Hurricane Sandy.”
Top features of Waze:
- Maps via your GPS
- Driving directions
- Alternate routes
- Real-time estimates on when you will reach a destination
- Gas prices at nearby gas stations
- Hazards on the road submitted by users
- Police and speed cameras submitted by users
- Easy way to check in to Foursquare
Recently, Waze also introduced the ability to connect with your Facebook friends; if you are traveling to the same destination, you can see when your friend is arriving. I have not tried this feature yet. Waze has also signed on advertisers to give you offers depending on your location. I think they present the ad in such a way that you are actually delighted to get the offer.
I am always hoping that technology companies will keep innovating and pushing the envelope to create more features for users. Here is a list of features I would like to see on Waze:
a) Speed limit notification: Waze lets you see the speed at which you are traveling. If Waze could include data on speed limits and have an optional feature that notified me when I am driving over the speed limit.
b) Waze for public transit: Waze could get access to public transport data and provide real-time information on the transport you are using.
When I was in India on a holiday, I used Waze (which was amazing) even though India can be a tough country to map and to give directions in. The success of the crowdsourced traffic information depends on growing users. When I travel in top metros like DC, Chicago, or San Francisco, I can see masses of Waze users (You can see other users by their avatars even though they are anonymous.)
This guest post is by Shashi Bellamkonda, senior director of social media and public relations — employees call him Social Media Swami — at Web.com, a company that helps small businesses establish an online presence and conduct online marketing. He is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.
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