Inside Waze's Global Citizens Summit
Join us at 12 p.m. ET Tuesday, April 14th for live coverage of Waze's meeting with the governments of some of the world's biggest cities.
I'm on my way to an unusual conference at Google's headquarters in Mountain View: Government and aw enforcement officials from around the world are having a sit-down with Waze to talk about both how citizens use Waze and how the law can use the popular crowdsourced traffic app.
In my home base of Los Angeles, Waze has been in the news for both residents reporting fake traffic accidents through the app in order to divert traffic away from their home streets, and police anger that Waze can be used to report the location of police cars. Today should be interesting.
This event, formally titled the "Connected Citizens Summit," is a fascinating look at how governments worldwide are using Waze to obtain citizen data for all sorts of projects.
Rio de Janeiro's Pedro Paracio is now explaining how his city's Operation Center, which leverages feeds from hundreds of security cameras and an array of sensors around the city, to create real time maps of everything from traffic to mudslide risk to flooding.
Thanks to reports by Waze's users, he says, Rio has '1 million cameras' (aka Waze users) keeping track of events citywide.
And to clarify, this event, the Connected Citizen Summit, involves over 70 of Waze's existing and potential governmental partners from around the world - not just law enforcement. Although police departments will be discussing projects here, the Waze summit covers all sectors of public life relating to transportation.
Waze is embarking on an unusual initiative: Using their app as a way for police departments to notify the public of road closures. I just listened to Chip Googe of the Mount Pleasant Police Department in South Carolina explain how his PD feeds road closure information into Waze in order to keep citizens updated on how the large Cooper River Bridge Run effects the town.
Other efforts of this sort include Texas' Harris County (Houston, essentially) and the New York Police Department sending information on road closings to Waze.
For the police departments, using Waze to reach citizens seems like a similar step to notifying television or radio stations. It remains to be seen how it would work, however, at scale.
One thing I'm fascinated by here: The Florida Department of Transportation using Waze to obtain incident report data on highways. Many organizations worldwide are relying on Waze and social media sites such as Twitter to keep informed about urban events--Does this save taxpayer dollars? What are the accuracy issues? What are the pluses and minuses on crowdsourcing road information versus using conventional methods? It's interesting, to say the least.
A last thought for today, before I write a proper article for Fast Company... Speaking with government officials from across the world and hearing about the way they use Waze drove home the importance of the sensor revolution. It's safe to say every item in the urban (and even many in the rural!) landscape either has become or is becoming a data point. Passengers in cars entering information on a stalled vehicle or an emergency are data points for Waze; in a few years, even fire hydrants and streetlights will become data points for a wide variety of databases. Of all the innovations the smartphone revolution foisted on the world, this might be the most unexpected one.