Have you ever heard of a little app called Waze? It’s a free GPS mapping app with turn-by-turn navigation that has so far garnered around 50 million users across the globe, and it’s just been acquired by Google for a tidy $1.1 Bn. For some of us this may come as something of a surprise because only a short time ago, Facebook was trying to do that very same thing for $1Bn and Apple had already tried the same thing a few months earlier with a more modest offer of $500 Mil.
Apparently Google had kept their desires for acquisition quiet right up until the last moment. How quiet? Well apparently Facebook representatives were in Israel (where Waze was made and is based), negotiating their version of the deal when Google swooped in and grabbed it out from under them.
Why all this attention on Waze?
Well, aside from the 50 million users they’ve got, which any of these companies will be happy to gain, the technology behind Waze is something each of them could use. That is, aside from some fairly accurate mapping, Waze uses crowdsourced data from its users to provide up to the minute data on traffic conditions, road works, speed traps and anything else that could affect your journey time. This mapping by Big Data is the next step forward in turn-by-turn and no one wants to be left behind.
Apple’s acquisition attempt
Apple’s acquisition attempt wasn’t too long after their… rocky, entry into the mapping world, so it’s pretty clear what the reasoning behind their attempts is. They wanted to gain a technological advantage and be able to provide a service that no other mapping company can do to put themselves back into the running. Facebook, well, with more and more of their ad revenue coming from mobile, FB undoubtedly want to move into a more prominent space in the industry. This can be seen with Home, the quasi-launcher/OS, and if they had got mapping tech behind them they could have started to make a serious attempt at changing their image.
But with Google, more than either of the others, it makes sense.
They already lead in mapping technology, they set the standard for it. They are the company who have mapped out huge sections of the world’s roads with Street View and possess massive amounts of data on everyone who uses their services. Adding Waze and their Big Data style mapping and navigation (which suggests alternative routes for your journey in real-time if there are blockages on the roads), can only help Google solidify their hold on the mapping market. And for a company that’s based almost entirely on the idea of providing services, this is not a bad move.
We’ll have to wait and see what Google do with the Waze technology (Google are also known for acquiring startups only to kill them after a couple of years), but our bets are on them integrating them into Maps and creating the next generation of mapping tech for Mobile.
After all, can you imagine if maps could react to your journey in real-time, reading ahead to check if your route is the fastest and using crowd sourced data to create new routes on the fly to ensure you get to you destination in the shortest time possible. And wouldn’t that just be fantastic to have integrated into your app?