“Crowd-sourcing” might be the latest catch-phrase in mobile tech, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be awesomely super-cool. The term basically refers to a method of collecting data from a group of people out in the real world. The benefits with crowd-sourcing are the ability to get real-time data from a massive network of people. Waze is just such an application. By using the power of the “crowd” (not to be confused with “the cloud”), Waze gives users real-time traffic information and helps the user navigate their commute as quickly and efficiently as possible. I had been waiting for Waze to hit the iPhone but honestly didn’t think it would hit the AppStore until next month (at the earliest). Today, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the new crowd-sourced traffic navigation application had been approved by Apple!
First of all, Waze is completely free. But, that’s not even the coolest part. Waze does what every other navigation/mapping application wishes they could do – it provides real-time traffic information submitted from its network of users. By using GPS tracking and cell-tower triangulation, Waze tracks individual users’ driving speeds to heuristically determine traffic flow. Waze even provides turn-by-turn directions, re-routed based on real-time traffic conditions, to your destination – which is awesome, considering the app is completely free!
Users can use Waze passively, by keeping their iPhone powered on the the Waze app running (or running in the background, if you’re jailbroken and know what “Backgrounder” is). But, Waze goes a couple steps further by allowing users to submit traffic reports (including pictures of road conditions), speed trap reports, accident reports, available parking and even allows users to tweet their current traffic situation.
The catch here is that Waze needs a decent network of users feeding it real-time traffic info to perform optimally. Waze starts with a government street-map template and uses complex algorithms (calculations are done server-side, not on the iPhone) to build out its maps of lesser-known roads using user-data. Waze offers incentives in the way of “Waze points” whenever a user drives along an unmapped road. The good news is that Waze has already garnered more than 40 user reviews on the AppStore. Most of them five stars. And all submitted today. With a little luck, Waze should soon scale to the thousands of users it needs to work in a metro the size of San Francisco.
We can’t wait to see how Waze progresses as more users sign up and start to use the service!
Download Waze for free from the AppStore (iTunes link).