Anyone in the UK can now track the position of a car on a map, in real-time (in areas where tracking maps are now completed).
That's the headline that accompanies the latest release of the Waze driver application, available completely free of charge for most smartphones.
Waze has been around for some time, but an announcement made yesterday reveals a host of new features that will be certain to attract a lot more attention.
We believe Waze may well now offer opportunities to businesses with some of these features.
By default Waze asks new users to sign in and connect with a Facebook account, but you don't need to. The app also lets you create a Waze-only account by joining (free) with a username, password and nickname. From there you can still use the app but you won't be able to use the real-time driver tracking feature.
We've often said it is an app of potential benefit to anyone who travels on UK roads regularly, such as sales people, but the power Waze now offers could see it much more widely adopted.
We've summarised the main features of the Waze app below, but before you look at them we recommend watching the official Waze 'walk-through' video. It gives you a good overview of the beginnings of the software and the sheer volume of facilities it brings to drivers.
Waze introduction video
So what does it do?
Impressive isn't it? That's just the start of it though, because the early video production you've just watched doesn't tell you of many of the information features and new releases that Waze now offers.
It'll now give you the following:
Real-time driver tracking
We're well aware that the feature most people will want to read about is the ability to follow drivers in real-time in their car. Unlike many features on social media channels nowadays, this is one that does exactly what it says on the tin and comes without catches.
Basically, you fire up the Waze app when you get in your car. By doing this Waze starts logging all kinds of information. The roads you're on, whether you've encountered traffic, the details and pricing of fuel stations in your vicinity, the mileage you've covered and so on.
You can choose to share your position on Waze. With your friends, colleagues, family or anyone you have a connection with on the application. By doing so they receive a link to a live map.
The map is updated, revealing your exact position by GPS. Free. No set up fees, no subscriptions and nothing but the fear that your every move can now be seen!
The latter is of course somewhat misleading, because the point is that YOU decide who to share your information with. What's more, you can go undercover if you wish to and your position won't be seen by anyone.
Connecting with other social media channels
As we mentioned earlier, the default connection for Waze is via a Facebook account and you must use this if you want to benefit from the real-time driver tracking feature.
If you use Twitter, it'll integrate with that too. It'll even tweet your progress if you want it to.
If you're a Foursquare user, it'll connect and share your locations with the Foursquare mapping app and your friends on the platform.
Sending invitations with directions
If you're hosting a dinner party (to use Waze's example) you can send an invitation out on Waze and in doing so your friends will get turn by turn directions as they drive to you; and you'll be able to see how far off they are.
The app even gives you an Estimated Time of Arrival for your guests.
Motorists travelling in a group of cars
If you're out with a group of friends in cars, you'll be able to see where all the cars in your group are if you get split up in traffic.
So, what if you're an employer? The potential is vast.
You now have a no-cost way of tracking staff on the road, should you wish to.
You could find out where your Sales Representatives are, where delivery drivers are and, well, the possibilities are endless.
Some of the largest haulage and transportation companies in the world use complex and sophisticated real-time mapping systems to monitor their vehicles - now even a two-man operation can do it.
Taxi companies can monitor the precise location of every vehicle in their fleet.
Are there any disadvantages? Yes. Mapping in the UK is an ongoing process and Waze need some assistance - but it's a very easy process. As you drive the routes you're on are recorded. Waze synchronises your driving log every now and again and updates the road information - and you can edit it too.
You can inform them of roads that aren't mapped and even incorrect house numbers or place names.
Waze has set up a Waze UK section on it's website with a full guide to how to help them - and you can apply to become an Area Manager for the app, giving you the ability to help them further and moderate changes.
Supported mobile platforms
Waze is now available for the following smartphone devices:
Take a look!
We'd encourage you to take a look at Waze. It's an incredibly well written application that offers something of significant power in an easy to access way.
It goes without saying that companies/employers needs to be aware of potential legal implications with the use of tracking software and that any such use of this should be discussed with HR departments, employees and other relevant departments and bodies.