App of the Week – Waze

Published On February 1, 2015 | By Tom Huskerson | App of the Week

Black people love their GPS. Not everybody remembers the bad old days when you had to know how to read a map to get somewhere you were not familiar with. And of course those maps could not tell you about traffic problems. That is why Waze is the App of the Week.

Waze works by creating a community of everybody on the road working together to avoid traffic hazards. For those of you who don’t know this is called crowd sourced traffic information. And this community, or crowd, is 50 million drivers strong and all over the world. Its the next step up from GPS.

Traffic is the first thing that comes to mind with the Waze app. Nobody likes the idea of sitting in traffic. Many GPS systems provide traffic updates but not in real time like Waze. What makes Waze really special is the way it blends human intelligence and technology to work for the driver.

Waze users contribute to the community by driving with the app open on their phone. This allows the app to passively contribute traffic and other road data. Users can be more active by alerting other “Wazers” of road hazards such as accidents, police traps, or other road situations. This can save the user time and money by navigating around the problem. The police are not exactly fond of this feature but we will get to that later.  This  crowd sourcing helps other Wazers to get an early heads-up about what’s up the road “awaze”. Waze also uses the local community as active map editors creating the most up to date local road map possible.  But you can also use the app in an anonymous mode to be completely invisible to other Wazers.

But Waze gets better. It has the ability to learn your routes and be a step ahead of you as you drive. Your trip is mapped and kept on the servers so that roads on the Waze system are always up to date. Most commuters usually have more than one route to work or home in their head. But the question is; “what is best route for me right now ?” Waze works by  remembering your route after  3 or 4 trips.  Waze collects this information and learns your optional routes.  That’s how Waze answers the question; “what is best route for me right now?”  

Waze is also a social app. It matches your friends from your phones contact list with those who are also using Waze and lets you know.  Waze will also notify them you are using Waze as well. This is known as the “system suggested” friends. You can approve of the friend connection or not. There are obviously some privacy issues there and Waze allows you to disable the feature. You can also use the messaging feature to contact other Wazers privately using the MyWaze messaging feature or talk to everybody by using the Map Chat feature.  

As a Waze user you can collect points and move up in the ranks from a Baby Wazer to the ultimate Waze Royalty. Along the way to these illustrious rankings you collect points that are translated into Candies. In all honesty I really don’t see what the value of these mystical prizes are. My question is do they relate to some form of credibility for a Waze user? To me it actually seems to be some kind of game. You be the judge.

Another feature of the Waze app is that users  can point out cheap gas stations on the maps.

But there is one issue with the Waze app that have cops pretty upset.  With this app users can alert one another about the location of police officers, speed traps and other law enforcement activity. Many police officials believe the app can be used by criminals to avoid the police or worse, target them. The National Sheriff’s Association has requested that Google, who owns Waze, remove the police sighting feature before they take legal action. Some critics have said that the government does not like the Waze police spotting feature because it could significantly reduce the number of tickets written and the revenue that comes from that source.

Some police officers believe that the app can be a benefit by letting the public know where the cops are and increasing their visibility. But others feel that it is a serious danger to police safety. The debate will be interesting.

Waze is free and available for Apple, Android and Windows platforms

 

 

 

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About The Author

Tom Huskerson Bio Born in Richmond Virginia Tom Huskerson is a military veteran who settled in California after his discharge. He attended Santa Barbara City College where he began his writing career as a campus reporter. He worked as an intern news reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press writing feature stories before moving on to San Francisco. At San Francisco State University Tom studied broadcast communications and began to focus on the Internet. He completed his graduate thesis on Internet advertising. Tom was the first student to ever focus on the Internet as a graduate student at San Francisco State University. After graduation he went to work for Zona Research in California’s Silicone Valley. As a research associate Tom supported senior analyst writing on the latest developments in the Internet industry. During the dot com boom Tom worked for several web businesses as a market researcher and analyst. As a writer and researcher Tom has authored various technical works including a training program for Charles Schwab security. Other projects included professional presentations on workplace violence and hiring security contractors. Tom has returned to focus on writing both fiction and non-fiction works and blogging for a travel website. He has published two books of short stories and completed two novels. Tom is the owner of Scribe of Life Literature and EbonyCandle. Most recently Tom has launched the blog African American Cyber Report. The blog is the result of his desire to inform the African American community of the dangers and benefits of the cyber age. In his blog Tom reports on information security, new and analysis, scams and hoaxes, legal happenings and various topics that arise from the age of information. Tom believes that technology is a necessary tool for black people and they should know what is happening. Tom writes believing that techno speak is for the professional and that valuable information can be communicated using plain language. As a result he has embraced the motto, Less Tech, More Knowledge.

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