App Review: Waze, a social GPS

On: October 4, 2011
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About Juliana Paiva
Brazilian, 24 years Graduated in Industrial Design in Rio de Janeiro. Worked on design offices, new media festival and TV channel. Doing a New Media Master and trying to figure out the relationship with behavior and design. Likes films, travel, cartoons, music, memes, design, design thinking and service.


As the fever of Geolocation apps continues, Waze seems to stand out with integration in different media and personal communication among their users.

Waze is a GPS application available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Nokia and Windows Mobile that blended geolocation with crowdsourcing. Waze is a GPS system that uses people’s input to create the maps. With the app turned on in your mobile device it feeds the maps with the routes that you are driving through. Along with that, Waze gives the best route to your destination and real -time traffic updates for you based on the information generated by the others who went through the same streets.

For that kind of information, Waze works with two different user’s personalities: A more passive and a more active. You can generate information for the app just by turning it on when you begin your route and Waze will record the streets that you’ve going through and will embed in the app, it can also see if you are in a traffic jam and automatically warns people who are driving by the same way. For a more active user, you can also help by reporting accidents, police traps, traffic jams and by constructing the maps on Waze’s website – giving the street’s names, fixing a wrong way, etc. Waze wants to be you ultimately GPS system.

To create engagement with the users, Waze utilizes other platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare for you to share your routes, traffic reports and experiences with the app.  To encourage the increase of road information, they count with mini-games and scoreboards. Every time you add information to the maps, you earns points and you can appear on the  Waze blog as the fan and follower of the week – the person who was most helpful that week. You can also join groups, share your location with others Wazers and check the scoreboard to see how many points you and yours friends have.

The experience of using this application becomes more personal with the different features. You can save yours most common routes and places – home to work or home to supermarket – and Waze will give you the best route in that time. It also has the possibility to give alternative routes, that maybe are not the fastest one, but you like for some specific reason. You only need to use that route a few times for the app recognize as a preferred route and put it on yours alternative route list. You can have voice alerts for hazards and police traps as well. Waze will warn you about hazards and, if needed, will show you another route to take. Waze learns fast and communicates with their users.

The concept of crowdsourcing is really interesting for a free GPS app. People are already driving; why not take some advantage of that? Waze meets the needs to access of information with the  intrinsic motivation of the people to do something useful for community. As Clay Shirky would say, is a public use of our cognitive surplus, something that creates public resource and rewards our intrinsic motivations. According to the NY Times review of Waze, they encourage people with games and personal motivations.

Waze now works anywhere in the World, but counts with full maps only in United States, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Israel, Panama, Argentina and Ecuador. The app is free and can be downloaded in the Waze site.


Shirky, Clay (2010) Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. US: Penguim Books

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