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Google's Waze Drives In Tunnels: Where Will Be Next?

Dec. 27, 2016 11:39 AM ETAlphabet Inc. (GOOG), GOOGL30 Comments
Bruce Krulwich profile picture
Bruce Krulwich


  • Google-Owned Waze is using indoor location technology to track car locations in tunnels, where GPS does not operate.
  • Waze is partnering with Bluvision to create special Bluetooth beacon technology that can operate well in tunnels.
  • Beyond enabling navigation to work in tunnels, this will enable Waze (and ultimately Google) to extend the reach of their location apps underground.
  • I speculate that this will expand from tunnels into underground parking, GPS-challenged rural canyons, and more, and spread from navigation to commercial applications.
  • Perhaps most significantly, it will give Google ownership of one of the last legs of location positioning in broad commercial use.

Waze, the free mobile navigation application owned by Google (NASDAQ:NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), recently announced that they are launching a new initiative, Waze Beacons, deploying Bluetooth beacons inside major tunnels to enable their navigation application to monitor the locations of cars moving inside tunnels.

Bluetooth beacons are one of the technologies used for indoor location positioning, the growing field that includes mobile applications and electronic devices that can measure location in a manner similar to GPS, but indoors, where GPS signals are not available. Indoor location solutions are currently being rolled out in retail stores to help customers find products, in malls to help customers find stores and help friends find each other, in airports to help travelers find their gates, and much more.

The Waze Beacons are the first time that indoor location technology is being used commercially to help automobile navigation in GPS-deprived places. The beacons transmit unique identifying data that the Waze app, running on phones in cars, receives and uses to estimate location. The beacons do not receive any data; all the calculation happens on the phones. The beacon signals can also, in principle, be received and utilized by other apps.

With GPS signals unavailable in tunnels, navigation applications and devices in cars cannot update their location as they move through the tunnels. In tunnels that include exits and turns, such as Boston's Central Artery and Chicago's Lower Loop, the GPS systems will be unable to navigate drivers through the turns. Even in tunnels that just go from point A to point B, such as New York's Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the lack of updated location positioning means that apps cannot warn you about turns you need to make immediately after leaving the tunnel. This is the problem that Waze engineer Gil Disatnik set out to solve. The result

This article was written by

Bruce Krulwich profile picture
Founder of Grizzly Analytics. Now Director of Data Analysis at Seeking Alpha.

Analyst’s Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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