/// After Waze, What Else Can Mobile Crowdsourcing Do?
Google spent $1.1 billion to buy the mapping startup Waze last month, a deal that the Federal Trade Commission is still investigating. Shutterstock/ima And while Google won’t be swapping out its flagship Google Maps in favor of its sassy new step-sibling Waze anytime soon, one thing is certain: The jumbo acquisition is a clear validation of mobile crowdsourcing. That’s because Waze’s mapping and traffic information are built off the contributions of 70,000 volunteer map editors and some 15 million active users, who contribute their live driving data by default, so others can benefit by seeing how fast they are going. Given the increasing number of people who carry smartphones in their pocket, it seems likely other services could be built on the back of willing users who contribute a little bit of data from wherever they are so it can be mapped and analyzed for the common good. And indeed, since the deal was announced, my inbox doth overflow with “We’re the Waze for [fill in the blank]” pitches — including three of them for mobile weather apps: Weathermob, Minutely and WeatherSignal. While there don’t seem to be any Waze-sized opportunities obviously lurking, there do seem to be useful little twists on the idea — for instance, multiple public transit apps already incorporate user reports, like HopStop and Moovit . And don’t forget Ushahidi , the non-profit that provides tools for organizations to incorporate citizen reports from out in the field of things like disaster recovery needs and election fraud. There are also smaller efforts, such as a non-profit called Rainforest Connection that’s planning to install used Android phones in rainforests to detect the sounds of chainsaws used in illegal logging. OpenSignal maps cell coverage based on users’ mobile submissions. Plus, there are some more out-there startups trying to do massive user-driven surveillance networks, where people set up old smartphones with power sources and Wi-Fi to create video feeds that can be analyzed for the common good. Why? To help others find parking spots, show when a park is crowded , or depict how bad traffic is on a nearby freeway off-ramp. I’ve written about Koozoo and there’s another one that sounds quite similar called Placemeter .
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After Waze, What Else Can Mobile Crowdsourcing Do?