Esri and Waze join up to push road condition data in cities

Data sharing between commuters and city government seen as growing trend

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A digital mapping company has partnered with a crowdsourcing traffic app maker to help city governments and drivers communicate more efficiently about traffic conditions, including construction delays and accidents.

Esri, a provider of digital mapping software to governments, on Monday announced a partnership with Waze, a commercial provider of a free, crowdsourced traffic and navigation app used by 65 million people globally. By using widely deployed Esri ArcGIS (Geographic Information System) software to connect to a new Waze Connected Citizens Program, cities can share data about the conditions of their roads with drivers, while drivers can anonymously report accidents, potholes and other road condition information.

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The Waze app.

The connection of publicly available, open data with driver crowdsourcing data has benefits such as making it possible to get faster police responses to accidents and other hazards. Cities can also gain insights about traffic patterns to help with economic development and planning for capital investments for their streets, traffic signals and related transportation.

Both Esri and Google-owned Waze hailed their partnership as the first of its kind, but similar partnerships are expected because they offer advantages to cities as well as commuters.

With this approach, "a city can avoid investing in Internet of Things technology to capture the same kind of data that citizens already collect in an app," noted Carl Piva, vice president of strategy programs at TM Forum, an association that helps cities and other groups share ideas about digital innovations.

The kind of partnership Esri and Waze have announced also means that "cities … can meet the citizen where he or she wants, by inserting city data in their favorite commuting app," Piva added. "We are going to see many more application areas like this develop over the years to come."

Andrew Stauffer, product manager for civic technology at Esri, said the partnership with Waze will save cities money. "The impact can be big for a relatively low investment," he said in an interview. Esri has worked with cities, states and nations globally for 40 years and has about 40,000 clients that use Esri database and mapping software, including ArcGIS to manage a wide collection of city assets, ranging from sewers and electricity infrastructure to locations for planting trees, he said.

The city of Johns Creek, Georgia, has already been seeing a benefit from an early deployment of the Waze-Esri partnership, said Nick O'Day, senior GIS manager for the city of 80,000 near Atlanta. Businesses and enterpreneurs can quickly and easily use the data to predict traffic patterns for free, which is seen as a boon to economic development efforts, Stauffer said.

Gartner analyst Bettina Tratz-Ryan called the collaboration between Esri and Waze "very beneficial for cities as it helps them to provide more user-focused services based on the social DNA of an urban community in terms of location and space." Injecting crowdsourced information with geospatial data makes the data "extremely rich" for business users and application developers while also avoiding broad data privacy concerns, she added.

This approach opens up the opportunity to stream content to users about a variety of topics: Options for restaurants, availability of handicap ramps, cleanliness of park benches, locations of playgrounds and greenspaces and even event information, Tratz-Ryan added.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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