Google Navigation Comes To Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar And Other Countries

Google and Apple have a history of launching their new services only in the United States first, and then slowly expanding it to other regions of the world. Sadly, some of the most brilliant services from these companies like the free turn-by-turn map navigation from Google and iTunes Match from Apple are not available in most of the third world countries.

Google, thankfully, has showed some love to third world countries, and recently enabled free turn-by-turn navigation and live traffic information in India. Today, Google has shown some of its navigation love to Android users in Lebanon, Egypt, Qatar, Algeria, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The bad news? The free service will only be available to Android devices running Android 4.0 ICS or higher.

Hopefully, Google will expand its free navigation services to more countries in the world, and will also work on bringing Play Books, Play Music and Play Movies to some third world countries.

With Waze Enjoy Social Navigation, Discounted Gas Prices, Voice Control And Lots More

Have you ever got stuck in traffic and hoped you could simply check in to a social map where someone has suggested an alternate route? Even better, if you had an early information about the roadblock, you could have avoided the route? Waze, an Android and iOS based startup, can help you get all the necessary traffic information and help you reach your destination without much frustration.


The Android and iOS based startup backed by Kleiner Perkins is aimed towards crowdsourcing traffic information. The app can be used to notify(and get notified as well) traffic information like roadblocks, police traps, jams, accidents etc. The app lets you take advantage of the data fetched by other fellow drivers(also using Waze) in your locality to outsmart traffic. Powered with voice control(initiated by a simple hand gesture) the app can be a great way to stay connected to the traffic updates and report necessary changes that you might encounter during your daily road trip.

The app has recently launched a new feature that will enable users to refuel gas at a lower price. So apart from finding (and reporting) traffic information one can now locate a gas station that’s offering lower prices. GasBuddy, already a market leader in this segment is already doing a great job. Users will have to wait for some time to find out the accuracy of Waze’s information and how it is planning to take up the challenge of competing with Gasbuddy. Waze has partnered with vendors that will offer discounts to Waze users at nearly 2000 stations currently in US. The service will gradually be rolled out globally so that the community can also report a gas station in their daily commute.

Along with other behemoths in the mapping scenario, Waze is also confirmed to be a part of Apple’s new turn-by-turn mapping services that is being implemented in the latest iOS6. This will definitely take the numbers up for the Waze users thereby producing more information for the service. However it is still unsure to how far Apple is planning to integrate the service in its maps, we will have to wait for that too.

Other notable features that has been dispensed includes search by category(for locating restaurants, ATMs, coffee shops etc), waypoints(to add a stop in your proposed route, helpful for car poolers) and text-to-speech.

To be candid, with what Waze professes to be offer, will eventually grow into a complete tool for car navigation. Now to be true, crowdsourcing, in terms of usability, offers both sides of a coin. Information generated by users help keep thing updated and grows at a steady pace as well. On the other hand, the accuracy of the information is questionable. Nonetheless, Waze has grown into a massive database, thanks to the (17million plus) community and doing great so far (else the Apple deal might not have happened). If things goes this way, Waze has all the mettle to change the face of turn-by-turn navigation by so-called social (storytelling) reporting of traffic.

Google Updates Maps for Android to v6, Launches Indoor Mapping Project

Now that Google has managed to map most of the places across the world in a fair amount of detail, it has set its eyes upon conquering the next frontier – indoor navigation. Yes, I am not kidding. Google wants to map notable indoor locations like airports and retail stores to provide floor by floor navigation to users. With that goal in mind, it has released a new version of Maps for Android that is fine tuned for indoor navigation.

Google Maps is launching indoor navigation with floor plans for a few dozen airports and retail locations in the US and Japan. The list of supported locations in the States include Mall of America, IKEA, The Home Depot, select Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. “We’re thrilled Google Maps continues to provide you with new and helpful perspectives—whether you’re rushing through the airport or finding your way around a mall”, wrote Brian McClendon, VP of Engineering, Google Earth and Map.

Besides introducing indoor maps, Google Maps 6 also features a couple of other improvements. The Places user interface has been revamped, and it now helpfully lists your frequent searches on the home screen, besides featuring direct Latitude check-in integration. The Maps user interface has also been tweaked slightly to accommodate floor selector for indoor mapping, and convenient switching between common features.

The updated Google Maps is available for download in the Market.


SpotMe: A Mobile Device Exclusively for Event Engagement

Last month, at the IBM Software Universe 2011 in Mumbai, India, all delegates were given a unique device called SpotMe. SpotMe is a specialized mobile device to get all event attendees activated and engaged in event activities and the networking around it. Of course, at the end of the event, everybody was required to return the device.



The device helps in engaging attendees through active participation and includes ways to gather audience response. The attendee features and location functionality make for supercharged networking experience using the device. The device also facilitates logistics and information dissemination by providing maps, navigation, agenda and venue information, and other event details.


At the event, I met Damien Plumettaz, the Event Engineer from SpotMe. I asked Damien if such functionality can be achieved using mobile apps on different platforms rather than lugging another device during a conference. He said that’s something they have on their idea board as well but wasn’t sure if they would venture in that direction. Damien also shared an interesting trivia about the SpotMe device. The device has microphone because during the design phase they wanted to include calling functionality so that you could call other event attendees through the device!

Here’s a quick hands on of SpotMe that I recorded at the event:

INRIX to power Google Maps for Real-Time Traffic Information

Google has selected INRIX’s real-time traffic information to help power its navigation and mapping applications. The service integration will be initially available in 8 countries across Europe with plans to roll out into additional markets by the end of the year. INRIX’s real-time traffic information for major motorways will be integrated with Google products and services online and on mobile phones.

INRIX operates the largest crowd-sourced traffic network in the world. In an independent test of traffic information in the world, the University of Maryland has found INRIX real-time traffic information to be accurate with 5 mph of actual traffic speeds over 90 percent of the time.

It is powered by information from 30 million GPS and cellular-based devices as well as from their network of tens of thousands of traffic reporters. These reporters typically provide information about accidents, speed traps, and other events. Apart from the crowd-sourced data, INRIX analyzes traffic and traffic-related data from hundreds of public and private sources including traditional road sensor data and unique local traffic-impacting events. Along with all the traffic information gathering, INRIX uses its analysis techniques and knowledge of the traffic business to analyze road closures, accidents, construction, events, and speed data together.

INRIX already has more than 200 customers and partners including Ford, Nissan, Vodafone, and more, who’ve selected INRIX traffic information and connected driving services to power their solutions in automobiles, online, and on mobile devices. INRIX also provides independent app for all major mobile platforms, including Windows Phone 7 which I wrote about recently.

Interestingly, INRIX Traffic Services leverage statistical analysis techniques which were originally developed by Microsoft Research. With this latest INRIX-Google deal, the baffling statement Microsoft Research powers Google Maps – isn’t too off the mark! :)

Google Navigation Offline Mode Might Be Coming Soon

Google has announced the most substantial piece of news related to its mapping service for handheld devices after 3D maps. This is a translated piece of what appears on Allaboutphones and it reads,

According to an informed source from the Dutch telecom industry will soon be a Google offline version of Google Maps Navigation available. This makes it possible to also free to move abroad.


This is simply great and opens doors to a whole new world. This will blow away all concerns for Google Navigation requiring a fast and consistent Internet connection and will also put Google maps on the same chart as other mapping services with pre-loaded faster loading maps. Google Navigation has been available on mobile devices on many countries for over a year now and it is indeed a very competitive mapping and navigation service.

The Caching of Maps is Different This Time

Maps were being cached by devices earlier as well. However, those were strictly local maps of areas you were navigating. This time, Google seems to be talking of making whole city maps available to us for a rich and slick navigation. The map would be stored on your device locally and will be loaded up from there.  GPS navigation devices are in for a bad time, now that every cellphone with this navigation powered by Google Maps is killing their business fast.

When Will You Consider India for These Services?

Seriously Google, why opt India out of everything? India has a considerable number of people who use mobile web-services and would like to have navigation on their devices.

Google has done a great job with Google Maps and it was fun working with the Google Maps API for my final year engineering project. A video demo of the same is available on YouTube.