I recently took a 10-hour road trip to Michigan, where I discovered the amazing capabilities of the Waze App. Now, I’m sure the Waze App is ‘old hat’ to many of you who use it on a regular basis, but having traveled very little during the pandemic, I really hadn’t had much exposure to it.
The Waze App was a Google acquisition in 2013.
A cool 1.2 Billion was all it took to convince FreeMap Israel to surrender ownership of Waze Mobile to Google. Created by a programmer named Ehud Shabtai in 2006, Waze uses community crowd-sourcing to update traffic flows.
The App is free and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and works seemlessly on iPhones and Android phones. And nowadays, many cars have the Waze App built into their dashboard menus.
If you haven’t been exposed to the Waze App, drivers provide interactive updates through the app on things like; construction zones, disabled vehicles on the side of the road, and even pothole locations.
How the Waze App works
Drivers interact with the ‘smushy-cute, tear drop on wheels’ Application by answering a series of questions regarding road hazards, which then marks data points for other drivers. The app works on every road and every turnpike from the smallest of towns to the largest metropolitan cities. It’s accurate, and with constant human interaction it becomes spot-on.
As we traveled North on Highway196 toward Grand Rapids, we we bombarded with questions like;
Car Stopped in 325 Feet….
It was fun and it made us feel like we were contributing to something bigger, not to mention, it helped pass the time. So, while we do the ‘heavy lifting’ of compiling data for the folks over at Waze, while they sip Hazelnut Bianco Latte’s analyzing data, we should get paid something, huh? More on that in a minute….
So, what if the Waze App was an Ethereum DApp, instead of a centralized application?
Huh, what’s an Ethereum DApp anyhow?
An Ethereum DApp is a Decentralized Application running on the Ethereum Blockchain. It’s an autonomous application, created to run a specific set of tasks, in the hopes of improving efficiency, lowering costs, and improving the accuracy of something.
If you want to learn more about Ethereum, here is beginners guide I wrote
Is a DApp, different than a smart contract?
Smart Contracts differ from DApps because they lack the front-end interface that a DApp has. Smart Contracts are self-executing digital versions of contracts with specific guidelines built into the code. Essentially it’s an If/Then Statement deployed by developers to do certain functions.
With Smart Contracts and DApps, there is no centralized figure or owner. Since there is no ownership, the code self executes when a specific parameter is met. If this happens, then that happens.
Think of a vending machine. If a user puts $.75 into the machine and presses a button, then the machine deploys a drink that matches the selection made. This is a simple, rudimentary version of a Smart Contract.
Smart Contracts and DApps include monetary incentives for whomever takes part in securing the blockchain, usually in the form of a coin, or token. In the case of Ethereum, whomever takes part in securing it, gets paid in Ether. The security of the blockchain relies on a series of ‘Nodes’ (Stakers) to verify transactions on the blockchain by solving difficult mathematical computations.
There are 3 different types of Ethereum Nodes:
To learn more in-depth information on Ethereum Nodes, here is a great post on Coindesk.com.
Ethereum Full Nodes
- Stores full blockchain data (although this is periodically pruned so a full node does not store all state data back to genesis)
- Participates in block validation, verifies all blocks and states.
- All states can be derived from a full node (although very old states are reconstructed from requests made to archive nodes).
- Serves the network and provides data on request.
Ethereum Light Nodes
Light Nodes or ‘Light Clients’ are abbreviated Full Nodes, which unlike a true Full Node do not run 24/7. Light Nodes only download and archive block headers from Full Nodes and are more energy efficient than a Full Node.
Light Nodes are interested in the Block Headers because they contain the “Fingerprint” of the block known as the Merkle Tree Root. The Merkle Tree Root is a mathematical data structure made up of hashes of various data blocks that summarize all the transactions in a block.
Light Nodes are like the Cliffs Notes for the Full Node.
For more information on Merkle Tree and its use in an Ethereum Blockchain, here is a great post:
Ethereum Archive Nodes
A full node with the capacity to store the entire blockchain history, even up to the genesis block, which is the first block ever created.
So, good luck hackers! When the Nodes are spread out around the world, and the group of Nodes are required (per the code) to arrive at ‘consensus’ in order to alter the blockchain, it makes hacking it, monumentally difficult.
Getting back to the Waze App.
If the Waze App were an Ethereum DApp instead, it could look something like this:
The application is created and deployed by developers, but the application does not reside on a central server, owned and controlled by
Waze Google. Instead, it’s a DApp, (A Decentralized Application) which resides on the computers of those securing the blockchain (Full Nodes), and these are spread out throughout the world.
In the case of the Waze App, if it were an Ethereum DApp, the user would become the one securing the blockchain.
Each time the application asks for user input, if correct information is provided, the user is sent a minimal amount of the Ether Token. The DApp will verify the information provided is correct, based on a select number of cars who provided data before and after.
How does the Waze App verify the information is correct?
Let’s imagine a car was stuck on the side of I65 North at mile marker 150.
The Waze App ask’s those traveling on I65 North, at or near mile marker 150, if the car is still stuck in that location. If 1000 cars take part in the ‘survey’ and 998 confirm the car is still in that location, The Waze App will calculate this to be a true incident. It will weigh the surveys based on many variables such as:
- Time of Day
- Location of incident
- Users past response efficacy
And determine the likelihood of this being accurate. If this is accurate, and you took part in the ‘survey’ you could receive an electronic payment in the form of a crypto token.
Here’s where it gets cool
Your car, will essentially become a crypto wallet. And payment, once the data you provided is authenticated, would be deposited into your cars wallet. So essentially, you could be paid for driving around the United States, and keeping the Waze App up to date.
Now, I am certainly not a crypto expert, and perhaps someone with greater knowledge of Blockchain Technology and Cryptocurrencies, can shoot holes all through my thesis. It is, however fun to muse about the possibilities of the Crypto and Blockchain Industry.