If I Had A Billion Dollars

I must admit that I was completely intrigued to figure out what a piece of software worth $1B looked like.  So, I downloaded the Waze application to my iPad to check it out.

Simply put, Waze is a mapping, turn by turn travelling, crowd-sourced traffic reporting, geographic discovery utility.  By monitoring crowd reports, the driving public in theory can become smarter about travel, avoiding heavy traffic, bypassing accidents, find local businesses, and so much more.

The concept of layers on maps is one that I think we all have come to take for granted these days.  It almost makes looking at a plain map kind of “blah”.  We want more information to add context to the map.  Unlike a tourist map, Waze applies its layers real time.  The idea of all of these social layers (see below) is very interesting and provides a really engaging look at your drive.

So, I fired it up to check it out.  From my comfy chair here in dougpete labs, where would you expect to find traffic congestion?  Of course, Huron Church Road in Windsor on the way to the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit, Michigan.  After all, the Detroit River International Crossing and the ongoing construction has made travel interesting as of late!

Let’s see what Huron Church looks like during rush hour — you can see that Waze has overlaid the basic map to show a slow traffic of 31mph.  Hmmm.  I need to change the defaults to metric if I’m keeping this!

And, unsurprisingly, it gets slower as you get onto the bridge and head over the Detroit River.

I did find the graphic representation addictive.  Moving around Windsor, that was the only reported slow area at the time that I did some screen captures.  Across the river, in Detroit, things were completely different.  Particularly in the downtown area, things were not moving terribly well!

I then turned my interest to the other layers that were available with Waze.

Things that get in the road of a smooth drive can be crowd sourced – police speed traps, traffic, accidents, etc.  It’s just a matter of selecting which one to check it out.  There was nothing from the police on this side of the border but just north of us…

In addition to the visual layer of traffic slowdowns, they’re also itemized on the traffic screen.  Presumably the passenger could be following this and giving directions to help find an alternative route.  Of course, nobody would use your portable device while driving.

The objects appear on the map to provide information for the route seeker.  If you’ve ever used a standard GPS system, you’ll be well versed with how it’s going to work.  The addition of the wisdom of the crowd adds the value to the product.

The acquistion isn’t going unnoticed.

Crosstown Traffic: Why Google’s $1B Waze Deal Faces U.S. Antitrust Scrutiny

In the meantime, I’m having fun playing around with the product.  Those who are concerned about privacy will need to pay attention to how the data is gathered.  For the classroom, it’s a great place to talk about the collection of big data and what can be done with it.

And, finally, you get a chance to see what a $1B piece of software looks like!

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