Tag Archives: Waze

Views from the US this week – Snowden, Waze and Alcatraz

What better way of preparing for a trip to the US than riding 100km around London from midnight?
What better way of preparing for a trip to the US than riding 100km around London from midnight?

This last week has been a lot of fun, and a lot of hard work. It started on Saturday night with Nightrider London – cycling from Alexandra Palace in London via all the famous sites in London to Crystal Palace and back again. It was 100km of surprising hills and wonderful sites, and to make it slightly harder, I cycled from home to the start, and the start was at midnight. The aim of the ride was not only the exercise, but also to support the fantastic Kids Inspire charity which help children from challenging backgrounds (it’s not too late to donate).

As soon as I got back from the cycle ride I was off to Endava’s New York office. I travel to New York every six weeks or so to work with the team there. The office is three years old and already has a great client list spread across the United States, and there’s still a lot more opportunity in the market place.

This visit was slightly different because we had a sales presentation in San Francisco. I’ve been to San Francisco once before, also for a sales presentation (back in the IMG days). The last visit was first thing in the morning, so we flew into SF in the evening, had dinner with the client, presentation in the morning and flew straight back out.

This time, the visit was just as short – I was only in San Francisco for 20 hours, but the presentation was in the afternoon so I went for a run around the city centre and the docks in the morning where we saw Alcatraz and some seals. The sun was shining, it wasn’t too hot, and the sales presentation went really well. All in all the city really appealed.

Unfortunately I could only stay on the west coast for a short period of time because I needed to get back for some prior meetings on Friday and we’re going on a family holiday for a special weekend (both my birthday – a big one, and a friend’s birthday).

Data privacy in the news

During my time in the US, the media was full of coverage about Edward Snowden, the latest so called whistle-blower who has told the press that the US government stores all the intra- and inter-American phone records.

The media has been balanced, mainly because the public opinion in the US is equally balanced. According to a poll of Americans, 56% found it acceptable that the government has this information. I agree. My opinion is that it’s similar to all the surveillance cameras we have in London – I don’t really care about them because I’m personally not doing anything wrong. And if, Heaven forbid, we get a nasty Right Wing government who might take advantage of all these phone records and cameras, well I expect I’ll have bigger issues to deal with than my phone record analysis.

Two of my favourite pieces of analysis about the Snowden incident were in the San Francisco Chronicle. First was Peter Scheer who wrote in an opinion column:

“The logic of warfare and intelligence has flipped. Warfare has shifted from the scaling of military operations to the selective targeting of individual enemies (think of “body counts” during the Vietnam War). Intelligence gathering has shifted from the targeting of known threats to wholesale data mining for the purpose of finding terrorists.”

And on a slightly lighter side (but there was a serious undertone to the article), Caleb Garling wrote an article with some advice on guidelines to avoid leaving a digital footprint.

“Do all your social networking in person at a local bar or restaurant – provided you pay cash for your drinks, there aren’t security cameras and no one takes your pictures and posts it to Facebook”.

Just imagine that last point – real world social networking!

Dotcom bubble

For my friends and colleagues in the UK who think we’re in another dotcom bubble, you’d have loved the front page of the newspaper. The headline was “Building on tech’s success, Job growth spurs record breaking need for apartments, condos”

The current need for housing the boom in the technology sector in Silicon Valley has exceeded the first Dotcom bubble. Astounding.

And to add fuel to the fire (or perhaps ‘adding washing up liquid to the bubble’), Google has officially bought Waze, which I’ve commented on previously. Google has bought it mainly so that no one else can buy it. Those competitors included Facebook and Apple. Spending $1.03bn on a defensive investment like this, for a company with no notable historical revenue (let alone profit) is a pretty big sign of the market.

This week’s news: BT, Sir Alex, Waze and Shazam

BT SportIt’s been a really busy week at work, so here are my favourite links and stories of the week.

BT is offering free Premiership games on BT Sport channels to existing broadband customers. The Premiership rights cost BT £246m per season (and this excludes the production and marketing costs), so it’s a brave move by BT to bundle them for ‘free’.

This article from Harvard was my favourite article regarding Sir Alex Ferguson retiring.

A huge congratulations to my friends at Waze, which I’ve mentioned on this blog before. Facebook (and maybe Apple) appear to be in talks to buy Waze, one of the first crowd-sourced mapping applications, for a mere $1bn.

And while we’re talking about $1 billion, Shazam’s new Chief Executive has announced he wants Shazam to float for a billion. Last year Shazam had revenues of £21.8m and has never made a profit.

Bubble? What bubble?

Holiday report


Last Tuesday, which now seems an age ago, we came back from our family holiday to Israel. Since then I’ve been to Germany and New York and back, and am looking forward to staying in the UK for a while.

I have a belief of not doing work while on holiday. Otherwise it’s not a holiday. I find it takes about 4-5 days to completely forget about work, so for a fortnight’s holiday, I can come back after ten days of a real break from work, and think much more creatively than when I went away. I find the break from work really helps the mind ‘cool down’. When I have worked during a holiday, the return to work has never been quite the same.

I still take a family laptop away, mainly as a backup for the day’s photos. I take a lot of photos on holiday – usually between 2 and 3,000, and once we’re back I usually whittle this down to around ten percent.

I find that backing up photos to the laptop doesn’t quite give me the peace of mind, that the photos are really safe, so I’ve been using a folder on Dropbox to back them up. I’m using Dropbox more and more, mainly because it integrates so well with Windows – so I can work on the photos in Picasa directly from Dropbox.

Israel is a very technologically advanced country. There is a true start-up culture there, and almost all the large, familiar, IT brands have offices in the country. I’ve discussed Waze on this blog before, and it’s still by far the most popular mapping technology in Israel.


Waze provides turn by turn directions on a journey and reports traffic conditions as soon as other Waze users report them. Waze can then reroute based on what the rest of the community is doing. So if a Waze user reports a car is blocking a lane on a motorway, Waze will start routing other users around the area. Also, if most users prefer a different route to what other mapping tools provide, Waze will use this community data for its users.

With Apple no longer shipping iPhones with Google Maps, there are several other Israeli start-ups creating map apps with new features. I got to see one of them, which made Google Maps and TomTom look ancient. The app isn’t due for release until October, and I was asked not to include it in this blog, so I’ll report on it when it is released.

Another good app that I saw was services.me. It’s a personal CRM tool that records your conversations with call centres, and collects the data to remind you to follow up the conversation. When you first download the app it’s pretty blank. The first time you need to call a utility company, you type in the name of the company and the app downloads the relevant plugin. You then dial the company via the app (at normal call rates), and the app records your conversation. Once you’re finished, the app uploads your voice recording to its service, and asks you if you need to follow up again, or was the matter resolved. Over time, you’ll download more and more plugins for your energy company, phone company, garage, etc. Users who have installed services.me say that they don’t know how they lived without it, the sign of a really useful app!


The London Metro, the free newspaper, ran a story a few months ago about how Londoners look like zombies when they walk along the pavements looking at their mobile phone. Since that article I’ve stopped using my phone on the pavement, and watched people bumping into lampposts, each other, and shop doors. And as a cyclist, I’ve seen too many people walk across the road without looking up. They are all zombies.

In Israel it’s exactly the same. Only I noticed it wherever we went. Even in remote areas people were walking along, typing, playing or whatever else they were doing on their phone. And I noticed more children in a zombie state than I’ve noticed in the UK.


In the UK we have pretty good free Wifi coverage. I know, because my kids are always hunting for free Wifi on their iPod touches. In Israel, free Wifi is in available pretty much everywhere. I don’t use data when roaming abroad because it’s so expensive, but I was able to use data on my iPhone pretty much everywhere. I usually had a harder time charging my iPhone than getting free Wifi! Free Wifi is even available on the beach – yes, I “checked in” on FourSquare!


Although Israel is a very technology literate country, and for people in hi-tech (as it’s called) the cost of living (salaries and rent/mortgage) is roughly the same as London, iPads are seen as a top end luxury. I still think the iPad is overpriced (the UK and globally) and I’m amazed at its sales success. Many of my friends in the UK have an iPad, and I’ve been to conferences recently where I was the only person not with an iPad. Talking to friends in Israel in hi-tech, they all say they’ll buy one tablet device or another in the future, but only a couple of people I knew there actually owned on.


Crowd-sourcing on holiday


While I was in Israel on holiday, I used FourSquare a reasonable amount (basically, whenever I could get free Wifi access, because data roaming charges are prohibitively expensive). A number of friends over there had heard of FourSquare, but I didn’t come across anyone who actually used it.

Despite none of my friends having heard of it, almost everywhere we visited was already listed. This made me think that perhaps FourSquare has a similar crawler to search engines, which is constantly looking for business names and addresses, and placing them within the FourSquare database.

A site that is much bigger than FourSquare in Israel is Waze (pronounced ‘Ways’). Waze is 99% a free mobile app (iPhone, Android and Blackberry), which runs all the time, and as you drive along, it plots the roads you travel on. It also takes note of your speed.

You can then add police speedcheck areas, cameras, accidents and so on. This enables other Waze users to use their app to plan a route, and then see the virtually-live traffic on that route, as well as police speed traps, etc.

Waze is a really clever use of crowd-sourcing technology, put to use for a real purpose. Quite how they will make money I’m not so sure.

I downloaded Waze when I was back from holiday, and the app warned me that it had only just launched in the UK, so most roads and details still weren’t collected yet. 

Maybe so, however most of the side roads near my home were already in the system, so it’s probably exploding at a quicker pace than even Waze realise.