* Free service has built user base since 2009
* Has 30 mln users vs 7 mln yr ago
By Tarmo Virki
Nov 7 Mobile satellite navigation startup Waze
launched a global advertising platform on Wednesday, targeting
its 30 million users based on their location.
Waze, founded in 2009 in Israel, uses satellite signals from
members' smartphones to generate maps and traffic data, which it
then shares with other users, offering real-time traffic info.
The quality of data improves as more drivers join the
network and use it. The number of users has jumped to 30 million
from just 7 million 12 months ago.
Smartphone users can use Waze's service for free and it aims
to make money from ads of local merchants and big brands by
attracting mobile customers on the road nearby.
Location-based advertising is often seen as a massive
opportunity the mobile industry, but so far worries over privacy
have hampered its growth.
Waze gets around this by displaying its information from
drivers anonymously, with a delay, although members can choose
to identify themselves if they wish.
"Waze is right to start building up location based
advertising, but it shouldn't have inflated expectations. This
is a busy and confusing field, and many advertisers will stick
with the big brand players, such as Google and Facebook," said
analyst Martin Garner from British consultancy CCS Insight.
Waze says it saw a jump in downloads of its app after Apple
Chief Executive Tim Cook, in an unusual move after the launch of
iPhone 5, suggested that customers download rival mapping
services like Waze while Apple improves its own maps.
While other satellite navigation providers help drivers find
the way to sites they do not know - something a typical driver
needs on a holiday or in a new town - Waze aims to save drivers
time on their usual routes by suggesting faster, alternative
Waze sees Google Inc as its most direct rival, but
in the larger navigation market it also competes with TomTom
, Nokia, Garmin and Telenav
Waze has raised a total of $67 million from investors such
as top venture firm Kleiner Perkins and Hong Kong tycoon Li