Is Google missing a golden opportunity by not fully integrating the Waze into their suite of services?
In June of 2013, Google announced that it had purchased the popular navigation app Waze for $966 million. The move appeared to be perfect marriage as it seemed that Waze’s features would blend perfectly into Google’s far reaching lineup of services. If Google was a navigation app, it’d be Waze. Sixteen months later, Waze’s contribution to Google appears to be little more than a footnote in a Google Now traffic card. But ask anyone who uses the Waze app and you’ll soon understand that there is a lot more there than a warning that your ride home will take 10 minutes longer.
Waze is far more than a navigation app. Sure, it’ll get you from point A to point B, but the power of the app is not in its directions, it’s you. You see, Waze uses crowd-sourced information from its users to build a real-time database of traffic and commuter information (such as the cheapest place in the area to get gas). Users report back and receive ‘points’ when they encounter accidents, slow downs, moose… and the end result is extremely accurate information to pass along to other drivers nearby, often reported back to users far quicker than more traditional traffic reporting services. It is a little digital navigator constantly scanning your drive to work, looking for any and all obstacles ahead of you on your commute or trip to the beach. And to add to this bonanza of user data, Waze had also monetized their application, selling advertisements in the form of small bubbles presented to drivers on the on-screen map. It was a marriage made it data-mining and advertising heaven.
Surely Google has more plans for Waze than a small, italicized citation in Google Now…. or do they? We are over a year removed and Waze is still an independent app, as popular as ever. Google of course still has a stand-alone navigation app built into Google Maps (still curiously reporting itself as in beta) as well. To make things even more curious, there is no option for Waze users to utilize their Google+ account to access the service (instead allowing them to use their Facebook account).
There is so much more that could be done here. Google has recently started to open up Google Now to allow for increased 3rd Party Support, why not integrate Google Now into Waze directly? Send Google Now cards in the form of map bubbles to drivers on their daily commute home. Remind them that they were supposed to pick up some milk on the way home and give them the shortest route to the market automatically, give showtimes at the movie theater you are passing by, or pop a little icon showing you where there is a great Thai restaurant nearby. And lastly, do something with the otherwise useless points system, such as allowing users to trade in points for Google Play credits. The possibilities are endless, but that is exactly what they are still; possibilities.
We’ve reached out to the Waze team at Google, but as of the time of publishing, we have not received comment. We’d like to know what you think. Please leave a comment below, or on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.