The App Spotlight: Waze

Waze In the second installment of our new series going behind the scenes with the world's most popular apps, we're looking at Waze, a satnav app with a twist: it crowd sources all its maps from its users…


While your average GPS app will guide you from A to B based on comprehensive maps, usually licensed from a third party, Waze does things a little differently. Its users fire up the app when they're driving: this helps plot an up to date map of where you are, and can then put you in touch with other nearby drivers – so you can avoid that nasty traffic jam caused by a water main randomly bursting.

We're speaking to Ehud Shabtai, an Israeli computer expert and the co-founder and chief technology officer for Waze.

"Waze started rom a project I did in my spare time," he says. "It all started from a birthday gift which my wife gave me, around 2004." It was a satnav.

"It was like science fiction. It was my first time experience with the technology. I was pretty amazed. I started using it every time for my daily driving, and I started to think about how can I improve the experience."

Shabtai began by trying to create his own maps – he clubbed together with a community of Windows Mobile developers in Israel, and pretty soon, with everyone using the same software, they'd drawn an accurate map of the country. "That was my first experience with crowd sourcing, and it blew me away," he says.

From this concept, Waze was born. The company now employs around 30 developers, and has approximately five million users worldwide. Especially on BlackBerry, which lacks sophisticated alternatives, it's a superb and cheap (free) navigation system. But it's not just about that, says Shabtai.

"Waze is a human experience, it's not just for getting people from A to B, it's to be your daily driving companion. Just by driving, users are improving their roads. We now get realtime traffic data, and distribute it back to the user," he says.

"When you open Waze, the first thing you see is the Wazers around you, the users who drive like you and are a bit ahead of you on the road…You get the most optimal route according to the Wazers. You can communicate and see how long the jam is."
 
Waze is currently available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Nokia and Windows Mobile phones, but Shabtai says the company is considering a Windows Phone 7 app in the future too.

Right now though, it's concentrating on getting the numbers up. About 100,000 early adopters are using Waze in the UK but the more the merrier, and once it hits critical mass, it'll appeal to more than early adopters.

"My first goal is to get as many users happily using the application and getting real value out of it, and to save you time on your daily driving."

What the critics say…

"[This] has A LOT of potential. Waze is an extraordinarily-relevant application and, until we invent flying cars, will remain so." 148apps.com

"Would I recommend Waze? As a free GPS app with tons of potential, yes. As a secondary navigation aid for community incident reporting, absolutely. As a location based social networking and gaming platform, most definitely." isource.com

Like Waze? You'll love these…

Google Maps
Free
Available on every platform, Google Maps is the ultimate mobile app: find your location, get transport details, see street views of what you're looking for, and on Android, it will even provide free voice guidance, just like a satnav.

CoPilot Live
From £19.99 for iPhone and Android
Waze is for the adventurous, but for a cast iron quickest route, you really can't go wrong with CoPilot Live. The good news is that you can download maps beforehand, so it doesn't require a 3G connection to work, or use up any data.

Wikitude
Free for iPhone, Android and Nokia
Curious about the world around you? Use your smartphones camera and watch as it pops up with extra information about what you're looking at. it's a great introduction to augmented reality.

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