OpenStreetMap

waze + google = good news for OSM

Posted by SimonPoole on 14 June 2013 in English (English)

I suspect that nearly everybody has heard that google has acquired waze for a substantial amount of money.

While waze has historically made noise about generating their own map and have occupied a substantial part of the mind share in the crowd source data space, the effort seems to have never really beared much fruit and inspection of the maps has mainly uncovered third party sources. Still, in the heads of potential consumers and contributors to OSM, waze has continued to be present as a OSM competitor.

The acquisition by google will remove waze from the equation leaving the well known players and OSM as only visible and viable players at a global level.

Very often, if not always, in such high visibility corporate acquisitions, the resulting construct is less than the sum of the individual undertakings and it is not unheard of the net result in the long run ending up smaller than the size of the larger player in the beginning. Now that is unlikely in this case, but on the other hand, just from a numbers point of view, waze is just a pimple on googles user base. Naturally the constructors of such deals are not stupid and it is more likely, regardless of what google say in public, that this was not about acquiring additional market share and technology but more denying that a competitor.

Waze has had in the past had an enthusiastic and loyal community that in the end is mainly responsible for its success, I believe it will be very difficult for google to maintain that community in its context and given the complete integration of waze that will happen regardless of any statements now, it is likely to fall apart in a short time.

Any way I look at it, the google-waze deal opens up opportunities for companies and organisations in OSM-space to provide similar crowd based traffic reporting and avoidance services and to fill the void left by waze.

This is really good news for OSM.

Comment from mcld on 14 June 2013 at 20:21

Your optimism is nice. But you're considering the effects of the takeover in terms of competitors and user-bases, whereas I'd suggest that Google's reasons for acquiring Waze are not about "denying a competitor" but probably more centred on: (a) buying their expertise (their developers, geo-hackers and geo-crowdsourcing experience); (b) buying their data and their data workflows (e.g. getting people's travel-times etc) to enrich their geodata. It suggests to me that they're keen on spending money to beef up their maps offering even more, and in ways that specifically overlap with osm.

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Comment from DaCor on 14 June 2013 at 22:24

Firstly, as far as I am aware, the deal will not be "done" for a while yet, there are still anti-trust/anti-competition hurdles that have to be sorted first for Google but others more knowledgeable can correct me on that if I am wrong.

Secondly, as well as this move denying competitors an opportunity, and removing another player from the field, I see this move by Google as achieving one main benefit for them and that is, they get an established and proven technology and more importantly they gain a user base with skills in mapping which will eventually feed into map maker edits even if they still leave Waze as a standalone entity.

This allows them to increase the volume of user-generated data they have which only they have rights to and gradually allows them to remove data sources not owned by Google

Long-term, I think you can expect to see Mapmaker, Google maps and Waze functionality all tied into a single app for your phone. What this will mean for OSM, who knows, likely very little. People who want open, will come to us, people who don't know any better or don't care will use the Google option because it will be better known

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Comment from jutezak on 15 June 2013 at 07:48

Why the negative view? It is probably better to learn from others and improve OSM even further.

The travel times are already available at Google and Waze (heck, even offline TomTom units report travel speeds back to the mothership when they are updated).

For OSM something similar could be achieved. Give the users of maps (OsmAnd, ...) the possibility to report back travelled routes and their speed, and that data can flow into OSM. Make it part of an "OSM application kit". And make it smart, it can upload off line, when the user installs map updates. Make it trivial for the user and easy for the developer and the data will flow.

The easiest one would be to report on which spots routes are recalculated, i.e. where the user makes a mistake or does not agree with the decisions. The second is to collect segment speeds.

I think node IDs may get lost when data is preprocessed for navigation, but it might be the way to go anyway: the apps report travel time between nodes associated with a turn, and if the node ID is not available because it got lost in translation or the user is 'off the map' report the coordinates. And report some more if great distance and time have elapsed singe the last turn. That should be a nice small bit of code. Add some metadata to each report (App name, OSM map version date).

Privacy can be an issue: for this purpose date and time are needed, which are at least in some stages tied to the device. Anonymizing on upload makes sense.

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