Waze today launches version 2.0 of its social-based navigation and mapping application, adding a number of small changes and one big feature: Waze Groups, which allows users to easily share traffic information and track the location of group members. The new feature is specific to iOS4 (s aapl) and Android (s goog) versions of Waze and is currently limited to public groups, although private groups are planned in a future release of the software.
In a sense, Waze has always supported one large group at a macro level, as users of the application can already update travelers by reporting real-time road conditions such as traffic jams, accidents or construction. The new group function, however, brings data down to a micro level of individuals with a common destination or interest. For example, taxicab drivers could use the new group function to see the real-time location of every car in the fleet. Or a convoy of families headed to the same vacation destination might use Waze groups to stick together when navigating. The potential uses of the new group function are fairly endless, and I could even envision this solution for pedestrian groups or families in large theme parks.
Perhaps the most useful part of Waze groups is the ability to push informational updates to members; for example, the lead car in a caravan will be the first to see an upcoming accident and can immediately shoot that information to all group members. All group updates are captured and prominently displayed in a simple graphic bar at the top of the application, as well. And for the true social networking addicts, all groups can have their own Twitter account or Facebook fan page for additional methods of information sharing. I anticipate we’ll hear about more ties between location-based services and social networks like this at our Mobilize event next month.
In addition to the new Groups feature, Waze 2.0 brings other welcome enhancements. New to this version is support for true 3D maps using Open GL, more prominence for Waze users earning points for adding crowdsourced data, and faster navigation to the search features.
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