EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Esri’s Terry Bills about the company’s new Waze partnership

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Following the announcement of a new data-sharing partnership between the free, crowdsourced traffic and navigation app Waze’s Connected Citizens Program and Esri, the provider of the widely-used ArcGis mapping software system, Traffic Technology Today gained an exclusive interview with Esri’s transportation industry manager, Terry Bills.

Bills was asked if the new partnership meant that Esri was moving into the traffic information sector:

“We are really a facilitating technology and our customer base is a very large number of governments, who will be able to take advantage of that information. We’ve got an agreement with Waze that will allow our customers to use the Waze data, and our technology and the applications that we use. So it’s really focused on our customer base, and how do we further enable what they need to be able to do,” explained Bills.

“”In anticipation of this, we’ve helped VicRoads incorporate Waze data into their system. So looking at the ability to present that out, in what we call VicRoads’ 511 system, but also the ability to bring that information in, and it becomes one data source among many that VicRoads can mine to better understand their drivers’ mobility patterns.” The Esri platform allows you to bring together many different technologies and data sources, fuse them in real time, and then use that for traffic management, performance monitoring, and a wide range of functions.

“So I think many of our customers are now just beginning to move beyond, ‘yes I can present that on a map in real time’, and look at how they can analyze that information and generate predictive understanding. So if I know these conditions are going to occur, I can be preventative and predictive, and take action ahead of time,” he continued.

“If you’re just looking at a bunch of tabular databases you’re not going to get the rich understanding. The ability, not only to bring that information together and fuse it, but also to then use really powerful analytic tools to understand it and mine it. And I think that is a challenge for many of the public agencies. Some of them have already embarked on this journey and are doing good work along these lines. Again we’re trying to combine the technology and tools that will allow them to effectively mine that information.”

Bills noted, “Ultimately, it creates a framework to more effectively engage with the community. I take very seriously that transportation agencies need to do a better job in effectively communicating with the public. To much of the public, transportation agencies can be a ‘black box’. They don’t really know what they do, apart from spend a lot of money. There is a certain amount of distrust.

“These agencies need to do a much better job of developing systems of engagement with the community in ways that break down these ‘black box’ barriers and create more effective dialogue. These agencies have very smart people that are doing a lot of great analysis, and I don’t think the public understands that. Agencies don’t always communicate effectively, and I think that’s where maps help people to visualize why decisions are made.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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