Sophie Uesson lives in London where she is doing her MA in Digital Media at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her first report below for Media Evolution is a glimpse from London Web Summit 2013 and London-traffic.
//Christin Persson, head of publications
Transforming maps into collaborative helpers
A while back I listened to an onstage interview with Di-Ann Eisnor, VP Platforms and Partnerships at Waze during London Web Summit. Waze is a free, social, real-time traffic application which helps drivers find the fastest and smoothest route to any preferred destination. While maps like Google, Nokia and Apple have become increasingly dynamic through adding locations and names to their databases, Waze takes maps one step further and focuses on traffic – with help from the crowd.
With the use of GPS-tracking and a committed community of drivers, Waze provide a fluid real-time map displaying traffic jams, road blocks, police traps and more. Drivers can passively provide information about their current routes just by opening the app or actively report accidents and road closures.
Crowdsourcing in our daily lives
- this time through traffic
‘Crowdsourcing without a crowd is not a very interesting thing’ says Di-Ann and tells the story of how the Silicon Valley based startup started their journey using static base maps from the government and slowly built a crowd of users which recently surpassed 40 million drivers. The community combined with Waze’s own algorithm create a full layered database with maps, traffic, incidents and a social layer with gaming elements such as collectable cupcakes and scoreboards.
How big data saved LA from carmageddon
Waze is not only an app but also a big data business with the most interesting uses coming from mistakes and problems. In 2010 during what has been known as ‘Carmageddon’, a 53-hour shutdown of the main highway in Los Angeles with 500.000 displaced vehicles, Waze was the only crowdsourced app which could help the city with traffic management. They were embedded in the major news channels and reported about the traffic situation during three whole days. During hurricane Sandy ‘wazers’ helped others to find gas stations with fuel by leaving notes within the app about the situation at different stations. Crowdsourcing was proven to not only be a fun gamified activity but also as a tool to gather data to a improve a whole infrastructure.
Citizen participation for big social impact
These examples show how crowdsourcing does not necessarily only provide information within a specific community. It also has a big impact on a larger scale, acting out to make cities smarter with the help of citizens, making separate communities come together and providing governments and other actors with data that can improve society. As Waze is turning cars into ‘the internet of things’ through big data, they are taking this one step further in July 2013 by launching their service in a fully embedded car in collaboration with a big car manufacturer. What this may mean in the context of creating smarter cities and the impact of citizens and the crowd will be extremely interesting to follow.