Waze is a GPS-based geographical navigation application program for smartphones with GPS support and display screens which provides turn-by-turn information and user-submitted travel times and route details, downloading location-dependent information over the mobile telephone network. It was developed by the Israeli start-up Waze Mobile, which was acquired by Google in 2013.
Waze won the Best Overall Mobile App award at the 2013 Mobile World Congress, beating Dropbox, Flipboard and others. On June 11, 2013, Google completed the acquisition of Waze for a reported US$1.3 billion. As part of the deal signed, each of Waze's 100 employees will receive an average of about $1.2 million, which represents the largest payout to employees in the history of Israeli high tech.
Waze supports Android, iPhone, Symbian, Blackberry 10 (except Blackberry Q10), Windows Phone 8 and Windows Mobile from version 5. In July 2013 Waze said that they were planning to support both iPhone and Android, and would consider supporting new platforms. As older platforms (Symbian, WM, Blackberry) do not support either a full native UI or other APIs they rely on, they could not support them, although existing versions would continue to work.
Waze Ltd. was founded in 2008 in Israel by Uri Levine, software engineer Ehud Shabtai, and Amir Shinar. The company was originally called LinQmap. In December 2011, Waze employed 80 people, composed of 70 at Ra'anana, Israel and 10 in Palo Alto, California.
In 2010, the company raised $25 million in the second round of funding. In 2011, the company, which planned to monetize through location based advertising and to expand into Asia, raised an additional $30 million in financing.
Takeover by Google
Facebook and other companies were interested in purchasing Waze, but did not reach an agreement. In June 2013 Google bought Waze for $1.1 billion, adding a social data aspect to its mapping business. In June 2013 the United States Federal Trade Commission started considering whether Google's purchase of Waze might violate competition law—Waze was one of very few competitors in the mobile mapping sector, to Google's other property Google Maps. As of October 2013 the FTC has decided that it will not be challenging Google's acquisition of Waze. The UK Office of Fair Trading and the Israel Antitrust Authority are also investigating.
Waze differs from traditional GPS navigation software as it is a community-driven application which gathers some complementary map data and other traffic information from users. Like other GPS software it learns from users' driving times to provide routing and real-time traffic updates. It is free to download and use. People can report accidents, traffic jams, speed and police traps, and from the online map editor, can update roads, landmarks, house numbers, etc. Waze also identifies the cheapest fuel station near a user or along their route, provided Waze has enabled gas prices for that country. As of January 2012, the app had been downloaded 12 million times worldwide. In July 2012 Waze announced that it had reached 20 million users, half of them recruited in the previous six months. According to Yahoo! there were nearly 50 million Waze users as of June 2013.
Waze can be used anywhere in the world but it requires a critical mass of users to have real utility; currently only 13 countries have a full base map, the others are incompletely mapped, requiring users to record roads and edit maps. As of 2013 Waze has a complete base map for the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Israel (claimed to be the best map for that country), South Africa, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and Panama, but the company has plans to complete maps for other countries in Europe and elsewhere.
In addition to turn-by-turn voice navigation, real-time traffic, and other location-specific alerts, Waze simultaneously sends anonymous information, including users' speed and location, back to its database to improve the service as a whole. This crowdsourcing allows the Waze community to report navigation and mapping errors and traffic accidents simply by running the app while driving. Waze uses gaming conventions to engage users and encourage them to provide more information, allowing them to "drive over" icons of cupcakes and other things to earn points. Waze also offers points for traffic or road hazard reports, which can be used to change the user's avatar, and to increase their status in the community.
In 2011 Waze Mobile updated the software to display real-time, community-curated points of interest, including local events such as street fairs and protests.
In June 2012 Waze launched an update to provide real-time fuel prices. As with all Waze real-time updates, prices are submitted by users, however this feature is not available in all countries.
Since November 2012, in monetizing its app, Waze offers resellers and advertisers a web interface to advertise based on locations where a small icon will appear on a given location for an interested Wazer to engage with the ads. It also offers to TV news stations a web interface to broadcast current traffic reports and alerts directly from the Waze app; the service had been used by 25 TV U.S. news stations by June 2013 It has also been used in Rio de Janeiro inside Centro de Operações Rio (Rio's Operations Center) since July 24, 2013, as well as in New York and New Jersey since 2012.
In June 2013, Waze introduced a global localization project that enables future road closures and real-time traffic updates during major events in a given country, for example Tour de France.
Safety and security risks
Some road-safety advocates have voiced concern over the prospect of more drivers using Waze, which they say has the potential to distract them with a flurry of icons and notifications and put them at greater risk of an accident.
In March 2014, a hacking attempt was successfully made by students from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to fake a traffic jam.
In December 2014, in a letter sent to Google, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck complained about the police locator feature, claiming it could be "misused by those with criminal intent to endanger police officers and the community".
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