[Editor's Note] Milos Bezanov is a second year student currently studying International Politics at King’s College London.
Name? Address? Postcode? Three things that you can usually rattle off the top of your head without any problem. But what if you want to meet up with a mate, and need to tell him where you are? Knowing the name, address and postcode of the exact location you're in if not at home is something you probably can't recite off the top of your head. You'd perhaps need to ask the people who work there, perhaps write it down and text it to you friend, who inevitably needs to type the address into his GPS (without misspelling) before the fun starts. In short, it's time consuming, it's a hassle and like all time consuming hassles, they never end, going through the same thing every time no matter where you are. But these problems is what makes Waytag so good. Rather than having to remember all this, it saves addresses under a “Waytag”, a king of nickname, so when people need to find you they just look up the Waytag and there it is.
Waytag functions like a domain name, but applied to written addresses and GPS coordinates rather than just IP addresses. As much as I'd like to take the credit for this ingenious solution, the honours go to South African entrepreneurs Warren Wenter and Peter McFall, who launched Waytag in October 2009. It didn't take long for the two to realise it's potential exceeded even their expectations; “ The more we thought about it, the more we realised we were onto something, there isn't a universal addressing system”. By 2010, South African supermarket chain Woolworths adopted the Waytag system for each of their stores. If it continues to catch on, it could improve the production cycle, making it easier for wholesalers/manufacturers to ship to outlet stores, minimising wrong shipments, reducing inefficiency and the costs that come with it. It's this potential that makes Waytag so scary. How something so basic could potentially prove revolutionary.
If you've been paying close attention you'll know a potential problem. If not don't worry! Waytag's success relies on that ever important “if” question. Success depends on user growth, and the only way it can achieve this is if everybody starts using them. Realising this, Venter and the others are pushing to get it exposed; “we've been working to get Waytag as an embedded option on (TomToms)”. This is not all, former Google Africa head Stafford Massie is helping Waytag crack the social network market. Nevertheless, Warren acknowledges that “without working with navigation companies, it will take too long to get Waytag to a standard which people use”. Another issue is money, but an even bigger one is privacy. Venter unintentionally touched on this when explaining the technology's potential; “it can be used as a personal navigation tracking device.. you can add it on to a bike...so your family can follow you on your cycling journey”, definitely not something that screams privacy for this unfortunate user. Nevertheless, Waytag have more than faced up to these challenges, securing their deal with TomTom in 2012, expanding their service to 205 countries.
Like all new businesses, we want to know what makes it unique, and automatically compare it to other services like foursquare or Gowalla. Doing this, however, detracts from what Waytag really is “(with Waytag) We break down the walls of communication...we'd like to see a user checking into a Waytag on foursquare”. It's less about competition and more about development. Waytag don't want to corner the market. Quite the opposite. The concept is made for a progressive market that is dynamic and constantly on the move. It doesn't stop there either, Warren Venter went on to describe his vision of Waytag as the universal means of communicating location, be it on facebook, email, Amazon, eBay. The potential application of the concept is limitless, and this limitlessness is being explored with interesting new developments in the banking sector; “In mobile banking...Waytag is used as …a proximity based location authentication....a layer of security around banking”.
Despite all the challenges that Waytag have, and will continue to experience, the potential of the concept lies in just how fundamental the changes are. As Venter says, they can be used for everything, from home, to work, business, family and friends, on a small or large scale. Despite having been criticised, like similar location based services for invading privacy, banking has shown they can be used to improve privacy. Like all simple concepts, the room for it's manoeuvre is so great that Waytags really are what you make of them.
Most likely the biggest challenge for Waytag is to keep up with all the different ways people will think to use them.