Maps are only growing in importance as they become the primary portal on mobile phones for a growing list of information and services. As Apple showed us last year, it's critical to own maps - and to do maps well, particularly as a growing percentage of time is spent discovering, accessing, and engaging content within maps. With that said, it's not immediately clear to me what justifies a $1B+ (reported) price tag for Google’s acquisition of Waze, but I'll assume they did great due diligence or offered a high price to get a deal done.
For instance, many companies do acquisitions for audience, but Google's audience - even just on Android or Google Maps is substantial. Waze's website says 30M users; other sources say 50M. Apparently, engagement among users is high ... but is it well distributed? Are there enough active users in each market for the same excellent experience?
However, Waze does add new features that Google Maps doesn't already have e.g., the ability of users to report traffic issues, police cameras, broken down vehicles - you name it. Layering user-generated content into maps in real time in a way that makes sense and is useful to everyone at that place at that moment is not typical. Mobile needs to be highly contextual in ways people are beginning to understand, but are really struggling to implement well. It also increases speed to market if Google/Android team were otherwise developing this on their own.
With maps integrated into every retail, travel, banking, insurance, (ok go down the list) app on your phone, I don’t think any company can have too much map technology, or too many engineers/developers for maps and navigation technology.
Mobile services must be contextual. Screens are small. Interfaces are limited. Consumers are task-oriented. “I want to pay a bill” or “I need to make this shopping list before my son is finished with soccer practice." Total context – the sum of everything you know about a consumer, including what he/she is experiencing now – must be used to create the relevancy in the delivery of content and services.
Context can help shorten the number of steps on a phone to complete a task. We already see this with companies like Apple – the application switches to “store mode.” Starwood Hotels switches its app to 'travel mode' when a guest is within 48 hours of a stay. Services we only envisioned two years ago are real today.
Why don’t more companies use mobile context? Our research tells us it's lack of bandwidth; executing on the basics keeps us busy enough. It’s also hard to do – and most enterprises don’t have the right analytics or metrics in place to measure the impact.
Google rolled out a number of tools/features for developers today to make using context easier. It’s exactly what we need.
Here’s the list:
1) Geofencing within apps: This allows developers to set up 100 geofenced areas. It will be excellent for local services and smaller brands (plus media companies). Too few for large national brands with hundreds or thousands of locations.
2) Google Activity: It abstracts the context of walking, running, cycling, making it easier for developers to use motion context.
GPS-enabled smartphones have made location the cornerstone of the mobile experience. Location powers popular smartphone apps such as Foursquare, shopkick, and Yelp; overall, navigation and mapping apps are the third-most-used category of smartphone apps, ranking higher than gaming, news, and shopping. Yet, as important as location is, its dependence on satellite-based positioning systems prevents it from playing a significant role indoors -- where we spend up to 90% of our lives.
As I discuss in my new report, Next In Tech: Indoor Positioning, indoor positioning technologies are rapidly changing this situation by enabling users, venue owners, and app developers to determine a person's (or object's) position inside buildings. The impact of this change will be profound:
Make the physical world searchable down to the object level. By geotagging objects (through manual tagging or low cost tracking beacons), indoor positioning will make it possible to search for products and objects in the physical world as easily as we can on the Internet.
Provide a new platform for in-store shopper engagement and experiences. Indoor positioning will not only help shoppers with tasks such as locating products on shelves, calling for assistance, and accessing in-store services but will also enable retailers to engage shoppers in real time as they shop.
Digitize the call for help. Requesting help in venues will soon go digital, as indoor positioning will enable the help to come to you rather than you going to the help.