When we met Gil Disatnik at the Waze headquarters in Tel Aviv, it only took us a few seconds to identify the character. Highly involved in his work, joking and physically on the border between Steve Wozniak and Harry Potter’s Hagrid, this engineer fits perfectly with what some would call a “service geek”. Yet behind this undeniably friendly individual is a brilliant inventor, who may have found a solution to a problem we all know: the loss of the GPS signal under the tunnels. We explain to you how “Waze Beacons” could change the way we drive.
Waze Beacons: Bluetooth to the rescue of GPS
“When I started this project, everyone said to me” Gil, calm down, these are just tunnels
the engineer is having fun, very proud of his career. It must be said that at the beginning, not many people at Waze had understood the potential of its “Waze Beacons”. Noting that many accidents happened in the tunnels following the panic of some motorists who did not know where to go, he decided to find a solution. Waze then gives him one day of free time per week to develop his plan of attack. Later, what was only a “hobby” will become his full-time job.
A Waze Beacon, what is it? Globally, these are small Bluetooth trackers to be placed along a tunnel every 40 meters, which corresponds to 25 trackers per kilometer. When a Waze user enters a tunnel equipped, his smartphone automatically detects the presence of sensors and temporarily abandons the GPS signal. On the map, the location of your car is as if you were on a traditional road and you can drive more serenely.
An open source project
It is September 21, 2016 that Gil installed his first beacons in a tunnel. It has since been found in some fifteen cities, including Paris, under the La Défense tunnel. The company estimates that 3 million users benefit from the system each month … without necessarily knowing it. Nothing tells them that the localization technology has changed. The first results are very encouraging for Waze, which sees a reduction in accidents in tunnels as well as a better ability to alert rescue workers in an accident in equipped places.
“We managed to de-stress people”
The craziest thing in this story is that Waze assures us that he does not profit from his beacons. Each machine costs $ 28.5 to manufacture and it is at this price that the company sells them to municipalities or owners tunnels that are interested. Batteries can quickly change the battery beacons, which already have a very long life. Without further details, Waze explains that when a sensor tells its owner to have fallen into the red, he still has six months of autonomy. The Waze Beacons have also been thought to collect no information and only serve as location indicators. It’s impossible for advertisers to use it.
Today, Waze and Google Maps both use Waze Beacons. Sensors designed by Gil Disatnik on an open-source model, any browsing service that wants it can connect its application to trackers. The engineer has also announced that a third major application would soon use the system, but refuses to say the name of his partner. We secretly hope that this is Apple Maps, which could allow a very large majority of the fleet of motorists to benefit from this system. Today, anyone on iOS or Android with Waze or Google Maps and Bluetooth enabled can benefit. When we got back from Tel Aviv, we went under the Waze Defense tunnel and saw how well this technology worked. It’s so effective that you forget the technological feat.