IAM Talking: Di-Ann Eisnor of Waze on Crowdsourcing and Mobile

Welcome to IAM Talking, a periodic podcast interview series, with your host, Dan Keldsen, Chief Engagement Officer at Information Architected.

Today IAM Talking with Di-Ann Eisnor, VP Platform and Partnerships. Di-Ann runs US operations and is crafting the cartography of “live mapping” for Israeli crowd-sourced navigation and real-time traffic start-up, Waze.

If you have not already downloaded Waze (iOS, Android), I highly recommend you do so, and compare Waze versus other GPS-enabled apps on your mobile platform of choice. As we’ll touch on in the interview, you can also participate in correcting or enhancing the maps, by logging in at Waze.com.

You May Be Driving Solo, But Not Really

With our mobile devices being all but embedded in us 24/7, “modern” people are almost never really “alone” – but what does that provide us, and what does it take away?

In the age of telecommuting and working from home, there are more people working in isolation than even before. And with the “car culture” of North America, often, we are driving with nobody else in our vehicles, as we go about our lives, but with our trusty smartphones, we are continuing to be plugged into the world in ways we’re only just getting our heads wrapped around.

From Enterprise Social and Generic Social…

In enterprise circles, IBM was once famous for “I’ve Been Moved” as the Big Blue Faithful bounced from city to city over the career, while IBM now means “I’m By Myself,” with most IBM real estate having been shed as the future of work (anywhere) has taken over.

But just as social features are weaving into intranets and other enterprise apps to reconnect us to our fellow workers, and Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others aim to be general social platforms for the social web, we’re seeing new social features be weaved into our daily tools.

…To “Social Driving”

“Social” that is focused on very specific use cases, is still relatively new. Take Waze’s concept of “Social Driving” for example.

While GPS Navigation has been offered for over a decade, with dedicated hardware embedded in cars, window-mounted solutions from TomTom, or smartphone apps that provide turn-by-turn directions, social driving is a new twist.

This is “big data” turned into real-time insights to provide smarter directions based on the actual behavior (driving patterns) of over 30 million “Wazers” (Waze Users).

While Google Maps, as one common example, has leveraged traffic awareness to overlay some insights into navigation, it has not (yet) moved into providing routes around traffic, conversations amongst drivers, or warnings of accidents, etc..

Google Maps and most other GPS systems are also beholden by satellite imagery, or roaming vehicles that they own/rent to record all known roads, which is both too coarse (satellite imagery isn’t as detailed as you might think), and not scalable in real-time (given limited cars at the disposal of Google et al).

But what all of the millions of drivers who already have GPS and net-enabled devices with them all the time? A vast untapped resource is at hand (or dash, depending on the laws in your state), that can be used for both passive and active data collection, refinement and contribution.

What does Crowdsourcing Traffic Data do for us?

As we discuss in the interview, having 30 million drivers contributing Big Data about Traffic, just by virtue of having their phone and the Waze app turned on, churns out all sorts of insights.

We all know that Rush Hour isn’t really an hour, and while it’s somewhat predictable to know what traffic is going to be like on average, there’s nothing quite like having a direct pulse on the explicit traffic patterns of the past AND the traffic flow RIGHT NOW.

While traditional maps were purely about location, with the data at hand, we can now look at time, and make smart decisions about how and where to route traffic, depending on actual conditions, and not just by favoring highways or allowing for side-streets.

What about congestion-based pricing for faster or more direct access to downtown city areas?

How about smarter ads that know where we’re headed, and promote breakfast, lunch, or dinner near our destination?

For gas stations on busy highways, perhaps there’s no more need for giant billboards and lights – when you simply promote a fuel discount to those drivers who are passing by, introducing the possibility of smarter loyalty programs?

And much, much more…

I’m a fan of Waze, and I’ll make no bones about it. There is a LOT to learn from what Waze has done, from their use of really Big Data, to the subtleties of their user experience, the unique challenges of a smartphone app in an age where it is increasingly illegal to even touch a smartphone while driving, to the gamification of participation in crowdsourced initiatives, loyalty programs, and the move from maps as art from high priests, to the ultimate, democratized tools we use everyday.

Listen in for the full details – we cover quite a bit of ground. (no pun intended)

Comments or Questions?

Wondering how to apply crowdsourcing to your project? Do you have a reason to collect and use Big Data? Are you paying attention to the User Experience (UX) that really suits your users, and the jobs they want to do?

Comment below if you have any questions we can answer publicly, and we’ll answer and discuss together, or contact me at 617-933-9655 to talk about your crowdsourcing, collaboration, social, or mobile projects.

Listen now!

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