For connecting people, data and towns to outsmart gridlock
At first glance Waze is simply a super-useful navigation app which helps you beat gridlock with crowd-sourced information – users share real time traffic and road information which helps drivers to plot a better route - so far so handy for navigating the daily commute. Like any app worth talking about, as well as becoming a daily tool for drivers across the US, its also fielding its fair share of controversy, including a media furore that Waze users were using the service to report the location of police officers – a feature that either spells the end of days for law enforcement or is no big deal depending on which article you read, and complaints by some that Waze’s traffic-avoiding shortcuts are turning their previously quiet residential streets into highways from hell.
This year, having been purchased by Google back in 2013 for $1.1 billion, this growing, ongoing, crowd-sourced pool of data about where we go and how quickly, looks set to become indispensable, not just to drivers but to organisations and governments too. In late 2014 Waze launched their Connected Citizen programme, partnering with New York Police Department, Rio de Janeiro and the city of Boston among others, to exchange free access to their data for urban-planning purposes – be it mapping potholes in Washington DC or informing the residents of Rio about traffic changes related to next year's Olympic games. As a quid pro quo for ‘free’ access to this data the government agencies agree to feed relevant information back to the app – giving Waze an edge over any, less well-connected, rivals.
It's a brilliant example of accessing abundance – users share information that helps them get home a little quicker and improves their neighbourhoods, governments get real-time information about how we’re using our cities, and Waze sits right at the centre.
One to watch indeed.
Helen is eatbigfish's chief cynic, secret idealist and reluctant entrepreneur. She can mostly be found drinking wine and eating crisps in East London pubs.