A new generation of simple apps can make life easier at any age

When it comes to technology, some people who did not grow up with an iPhone next to their cribs may be intimidated by the constant advancements of iOS updates and confusing applications, commonly known as apps. But the ever-growing world of technology does not need to be a daunting challenge for the baby boomer generation and older folks.

Rather, plenty of easy and accessible apps can assist baby boomers (generally ages 53 to 71) and even their parents in their daily lives, whether planning a vacation, communicating with friends, staying healthy or finding romance. Apps like these take steps to ensure that every age group can take advantage of new generations of tech advancement.

Airbnb: For retirees with more time to travel or working boomers eager to make the most of limited vacation time, Airbnb is a possible alternative to booking reservations at hotels. Essentially, Airbnbs are houses, apartments and rooms that residents around the world rent out to tourists. This app provides an opportunity for travelers to live like locals, and all the planning can be done via iPhones, Apple Watches or Android devices. The app is free for downloading, and accommodations’ prices are listed based on a user’s living preferences.

Voice Reading: Have a hard time reading the font size on your mobile device? This app reads texts, internet sites, emails and files aloud to its user. The app can be programmed for various accents and languages to aid people to better understand what is being read. This also can be a helpful tool when people are driving and do not want to be distracted by looking at their messages. Voice Reading is available for free on Android devices.

i FORGOT MY GLASSES: This app enables users to zoom in, adjust contrast and change text to black or white to increase readability of colored text — especially handy when you’ve forgotten your reading glasses and want to check out a menu, program or book. It can be downloaded for free on Android devices and for 99 cents on iPhones.

Park and Forget: For those who commonly forget where they parked their car, this helpful app notes the color section of their space, the level of the parking structure and other details. It is available for iPhones for 99 cents.

Waze: This Israeli-invented app efficiently navigates by taking the fastest route to a destination. Waze drivers are working live to provide data and receive a real-time estimate of how long a trip will take. The app is free for people with iPhones and Android devices.

Lumosity: Meant to help keep people mentally active and improve memory, Lumosity enables users to interact with puzzles and brain games. This app was created by neuroscientists and is free on the app store. Once it is downloaded, users can create a free membership account for limited access to the games or purchase subscriptions of various lengths for full access to the app.

Human-Activity Tracker: With people now tracking their steps on their mobile devices, an app like Human-Activity Tracker helps users understand their daily action and improve their activity level. Instead of focusing on how many steps a person takes in a day, this app tracks how many minutes a person is active, as it automatically notes walks, runs and bike rides. It is available for free for the iPhone and Apple Watch.

Pillboxie: Instead of worrying about remembering to take medication at prescribed times, Pillboxie reminds its users. This app also enables people to customize the alerts for the color of the pill needed to be taken. The app is 99 cents for iPhones and iPads.

Uber: While the users of this app may be stereotyped as millennials who want to jump from party to party safely, it also can be used for boomers and older people who no longer can drive or don’t want to drive themselves to work, doctor appointments or social engagements. Downloading Uber on iPhones and Androids is free, but accounts must be created to pay for rides.

JSwipe: Similar to the popular dating site JDate, this app filters matches by age, location, denomination and whether users keep kosher. When a match is made, the screen reads “Mazel Tov!” with the image of a chair being lifted in the air. The app is an easy way to connect Jewish men and women of any age.

Amazon: For anyone who wants to avoid shopping errands, Amazon is a great tool. This app enables you to purchase grocery and pantry items, books, clothes, everyday household appliances and more. The Amazon app is free to download but users must create an account to begin making purchases. You can become an Amazon Prime member for $10.99 per month to get your orders delivered in two days with free shipping. 

Waze launching pilot carpooling program in Israel

The popular Israeli navigation app Waze is launching a pilot carpooling program in Israel.

Waze, which Google purchased for $1 billion in 2013, is testing the new application, RideWith, in the greater Tel Aviv area, Reuters reported.

RideWith will use the Waze navigation system to learn the routes drivers take to work and pair them with people looking for a ride to the same areas. The commuter would pay the driver a small fee for gas.

Eventually the pilot program will be broadened to include all of Israel, Haaretz reported.

The program reportedly will be limited to two rides per day and drivers will not be able to earn a living doing it.

It is not known when Google will expand the app outside of Israel.

Struck by Venice lightning: A first person account of a chaotic day at the beach

On Sunday afternoon, I was knee-deep in the ocean, right next to the Venice Fishing Pier, when the deadly lightning bolt hit the water. This rare bit of weather would kill at least one person and injure 13 others, making national news. But I didn’t know it right then.

I had gone to the beach with my college roommate Amanda, who had flown in from Arizona on Thursday for the weekend. On Sunday, a few hours before her flight home, we finally found time to try the beach, as a brief stop on the way to drop her off at LAX. On the way, we picked up another friend, Sam, who lives on a houseboat in the Marina. Finding parking at the Venice Fishing Pier took 20 minutes; after a stop at Starbucks, we had 45 minutes to dip our toes in the sand before heading to the airport.

From the coffee shop, we made our way past packed cafes serving brunch to locals and tourists alike. Before approaching the sand, we slipped off our shoes and walked alongside the Venice Fishing Pier until the chilly water was up to our calves. The sky was overcast, and the ocean water was refreshing. I was relaxed and happy as I soaked in the idyllic combination of crisp air, toes in the sand and the company of my closest girlfriends, one from middle school and one from college. I missed this. I grew up taking weekend trips to Perry’s Beach Café with my dad on Sunday mornings, driving up PCH to The Reel Inn in Malibu to eat fish on paper plates, and celebrating birthdays with picnics in Zuma.

Walking in and out of the surf, we shared a beautiful 30 minutes, and stories of ex-boyfriends, college classes, and our mutual struggles to be vegetarian. We were standing in a triangular formation; I was up to my knees in water facing Sam and Amanda. I had been digging a hole in the sand with my feet, burying my ankles in it as water rhythmically filled and emptied it.

Without warning and without a second to look around, an explosion erupted above my head. My heart skipped about 10 beats. An enormous, white light broke the sky above me. A huge roar echoed across the beach, and my body refused to turn around, for fear of seeing that a bomb had gone off around me. I still had my Starbucks coffee and flip flops in my hands, but those hands had gone numb.

Seconds later, the bright light disappeared and the thunder was replaced with sounds of chaos on the beach. We ran, out of instinct, to shelter, which was out of the water and under the pier. As Sam and Amanda caught their breath, my attention was focused on my left kneecap, which was tingling. As I reached down to touch it, I became very aware of my hands. The joints in my fingers felt tender and my hands were suddenly tingling, as well.

As I glanced around the beach, trying to make sense of the last 10 seconds, I heard Amanda telling Sam that it was lightning. Amanda told me that the bolt had hit the water directly behind me, just 30 or so feet away. I would later learn, via the Weather Channel, that the lightning strike electrified the water for about 50 yards around it. I had been standing knee-deep in what they called the “hot zone.” My left leg was closest to the deep water, so the shock may have entered through that extremity and exited through my hands.

From under the pier, I watched as dozens and dozens of people poured out of the ocean, sprinting, while others ran into the water to attend to surfers and swimmers who had been struck. The line separating the water from the dry sand was swarming with frazzled men and women. Sunbathers sat up straight. Families with picnics and umbrellas farther up the beach were quickly packing up to head home.

I began to regain sensation in my hands, and ignored my tingling knee, as we joined the mass exodus from the beach. We walked past the surf shops and restaurants again, this time overhearing conversations between strangers about the lightning. As we climbed into my car, I brushed the sand from my feet, which sent a small but sharp sensation through my ankle. The sand felt more grainy than usual on my fingertips. Perplexed, I gave up cleaning my feet and started the car.

I felt more scattered and anxious than usual, but I had to drive. I dropped Sam off at her boat, and took Amanda to LAX. Then, while driving away from the airport, I made the uncharacteristic decision to try to get back to South Pasadena without using any smart navigation apps. I could hardly focus on where I was going and desperately didn’t want a voice coming out of my phone micromanaging my driving, so I got on the freeway and drove straight until I felt like changing lanes.

I read “Norwalk” on a freeway sign, and not knowing where that was, took the exit. I was preoccupied with my own thoughts, replaying the surreal scene of families, couples and small children running out of the ocean. In that moment of aimless driving, I wanted to go to a bookstore and skim the shelves. No, I wanted to go shopping for workout pants. Shaking my head, I decided I wanted food. I was starving, my arms were suddenly sore and I wanted to stop driving as soon as possible.

I gave in and turned on Waze for directions to Fresco Community Market, my favorite grocery store. I spent about 45 minutes walking around, forgetting why I was in that aisle, staring at the Greek yogurt choices, walking away and then coming back. I was dazed, but didn’t recognize it. Finally, I bought a loaf of bread, fig jam, and several types of cheeses and drove home. After making myself a grilled sandwich with my new ingredients, the chaotic day melted away as I watched “Chopped,” the Food Network show, and drank orange juice.

A few minutes after finishing my meal, my parents walked in the door and I told them about my wild afternoon. I insisted I was fine, and I really thought I was. Once I finished my sandwich, I stood up.

This is when things took a turn. My mother watched me with a close eye as my legs grew weak and my fingers began to tingle again. Within seconds of standing, I had hardly enough energy to bring my plate into the kitchen and left to lie down in my bedroom.

I lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling. I have a long-standing sensitivity to fluorescent lights in the kitchen. But usually the dizzy feeling brought on by visits to the kitchen goes away within seconds. Not now. My eyes wanted to close, and suddenly my body felt cold. I reached up to itch my neck and froze. I looked down as I ran my finger across my neck. The tingly feeling I had felt in my knee and my fingers earlier that day was spreading. It felt as though there were eight layers of skin between my fingertips and the rest of my body.

The inside of my elbow became achy and my muscles became sore with every second that my arm was elevated to reach my neck. The nerves throughout my body felt both electrified and numb. I lay very still as I called for my parents to come upstairs. When they arrived, my eyes were glassy and my shallow breaths came and went quickly. It felt like an electric wave was moving up and down my left leg, across my torso. I squirmed on my bed to try and shift the sensation but it had no effect.

My parents started asking me specific questions, such as where my shoes are, if I remember the names of my medication, and what I ate today. I stared blankly at them and didn’t speak. A few minutes later, I watched as six or seven paramedics walked through my bedroom. A paramedic asked for my name and age; I answered quickly to focus on following the electric current through my body. They took my blood pressure and asked me other questions, to which I murmured answers.

The paramedics said that I seemed fine, medically speaking. But the fatigue was overwhelming, and a loud beep from a paramedic’s walkie-talkie gave me a sudden and raging headache. I tried to explain how I was feeling but the paramedic interrupted to say that they couldn’t answer specific questions because of liability concerns. The paramedic offered me a ride to a hospital, but I shook my head quickly. If I was in any real danger, I figured I wouldn’t have been able to operate the car as I did after leaving the beach. Within minutes, the paramedics were gone. 

The electric wave moving across my body had slowed down since I began dealing with the paramedics. When I awoke and joined my family later that evening, I felt tired, but the tingly sensation had stopped. I contacted Sam and Amanda, who reported no ill effects.

I feel fine today as I recount this. The rare lightning bolt was a surprise to Angelenos, as were the heavy rainstorms earlier in the day. We’re not used to such things. I hadn’t known, on Sunday morning before my trip to the beach, that lightning follows thunder, or that untimely rainstorms are something to worry about. I know now.

Kelsey Hess is a sophomore at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School and a sustainability journalism fellow at Zocalo Public Square, for which she wrote this.

A growing movement of corporate philanthropy

When the Israeli mobile maps start-up Waze accepted a buyout from Google for more than $1 billion in June, each of the company’s 100 employees walked away with an average of $1.2 million from the sale.

An even bigger check, though, went to Baruch Lipner, a Canadian Israeli who hasn’t worked in high-tech or finance for a decade. The acquisition put $1.5 million on his desk.

A veteran of the venture capital world, Lipner is now the sole employee of Tmura, a nonprofit that pushes Israeli start-ups to donate stock options to charity. If any of the donating nonprofits merge, go public or are bought, Tmura cashes in the options and distributes the money to Israeli youth and educational charities. If the start-up fails, Tmura carries none of the risk.

Even though Tmura owned less than 1 percent of Waze, the record-breaking deal made 2013 a banner year for Tmura, comprising approximately three-quarters of the $2 million it raised.

“Our small fraction of a percent was worth a lot of money very quickly,” Lipner said. “A lot of the entrepreneurs running these companies are good people who are happy to help.”

Waze wasn’t the only Israeli company giving back in 2013.

As the country’s economy has grown in recent years, experts and corporate advisers are seeing a steady uptick in corporate donations and a growing culture of corporate responsibility.

Israeli corporate philanthropy experienced a nearly sevenfold jump between 1998 and 2008 — from 89 million shekels, or about $25 million, to 600 million shekels, or about $172 million — according to Hebrew University’s Center for the Study of Philanthropy. More recent data isn’t available, but observers say the upward trend has continued.

Good Vision, an Israeli corporate social responsibility consultancy that counts El Al Israel Airlines and Bank Leumi among its 25 clients, prepared reports for three companies on corporate giving last year. Now it is writing 10. Of the 320 companies partnering with Tmura, 54 donated options in 2013.

According to the 2013 Maala Index, which measures Israeli corporate giving, the 82 companies that reported giving gave about 1 percent of their profits to charity, a rate similar to the American corporate giving average.

Maala CEO Momo Mahadav says the percentage has risen only slightly since 2008 but that the number of companies reporting data has nearly doubled.

“If we look at the last 10 years, there is a critical mass of Israeli companies that are committed and regard giving to the community as one of the things they should do,” Mahadav said. “The bad news is that that critical mass is about a third of the large companies in Israel. Two-thirds are less committed.”

Good Vision CEO Ivri Verbin says corporate social responsibility goes beyond writing a check. He notes that most Israeli companies urge their employees to make in-kind donations by doing pro-bono work or volunteering with nonprofits — a reflection of what some say is an Israeli reluctance to donate in cash.

Many Israelis feel burdened by high taxes, Verbin says, but they’re happy to lend a hand.

“It’s not enough to give money,” he said. “It’s much more important to be honest, to be responsible. In Israel it’s easy because even the CEOs like their employees to volunteer.”

Good Vision aims to pair its client companies with charities that could benefit from their services. The leading Israeli insulin manufacturer Novo Nordisk, for example, joined with the Israeli Cycling Federation to fund a bicycle program for Israeli youth because cycling helps prevent diabetes.

A similar logic inspired JVP Community, a nonprofit created by Erel Margalit, founder of the venture capital firm Jerusalem Venture Partners. By funding youth programming and educational initiatives in poor Jerusalem neighborhoods, JVP Community hopes to foster social entrepreneurship that will complement the firm’s encouragement of Israeli business.

“We tell the kids about high-tech to make them part of the start-up nation,” said JVP Community CEO Yair Zaafrani. “They don’t have opportunities. They want to be soccer players, which they can’t achieve, or bus drivers or barbers. We want to give them more opportunities, and the connection with JVP opens that world for them.”

Founded in 2002, the nonprofit receives a quarter of its budget from JVP. Employees of JVP volunteer in the youth programs, and the participants are brought to visit the firm’s offices. Other start-ups funded by JVP also have donated to the nonprofit through Tmura.

In recent years, several professionals say, the biggest challenge has been teaching Israeli companies the value of organized giving. But as more and more corporations have increased their charitable work, Lipner expects other companies to follow suit.

“When we first started to pitch the model to give options to charity, it was an educational project,” Lipner said. “Once we started making real money, the story started to change.”

Israel earned $370 million in taxes on Waze sale

Israel earned $370 million in tax revenue on the sale of the navigation app Waze to Google.

Google is set to pay $230 million in taxes on its acquisition of the property rights to the free application for smart phones on top of the more than $143 million in taxes already paid on the purchase.

Waze on July 25 reported a purchase price for Waze of $966 million in cash in its financial report for the second quarter of 2013, Globes reported. The purchase was completed in mid-May.

The Israeli firm’s managers and employees have remained in their Raanana headquarters rather than relocating to Menlo Park, Calif., which reportedly was a requirement of the purchase agreement. Google has said that Waze will remain a separate service and an independent company.

It is not known where Google will register Waze’s intellectual property, though it likely will eschew the United States in favor of a country with a lower tax liability.

Israel’s antitrust panel taking a look at Google-Waze merger

Israel’s antitrust regulatory commission is investigating whether the Google-Waze merger constitutes a monopoly.

The Israel Antitrust Authority opened its investigation on Wednesday, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.

The probe will focus on whether Google’s purchase of Waze, a free downloadable navigation application with more than 50 million subscribers, should have obtained permission from the authority before the merger and whether it could create a monopoly in the Israeli market.

Waze on July 25 reported a purchase price of $966 million in cash in its financial report for the second quarter of 2013, Globes reported. The purchase was completed in mid-May.

The Israeli firm’s managers and employees have remained in their Raanana headquarters rather than relocating to Menlo Park, Calif. Google has said that Waze will remain a separate service and an independent company.

The antitrust authority has asked Google Israel’s general manager and Waze Israel’s CEO for financial and other information, according to Globes.

Also investigating the merger are the Federal Trade Commission in the United States and Britain’s Office of Fair Trading.

Google bought Waze for less than $1 billion

Google paid less than the previously reported $1.1 billion for the Israeli navigation app Waze.

The purchase price came in at $966 million in cash, Waze reported July 25 in its financial report for the second quarter of 2013, the Israeli business daily Globes reported. The purchase was completed six weeks ago.

Waze is a free downloadable navigation app with nearly 50 million subscribers.

Prior talks between Waze and the social networking site Facebook reportedly had broken down over Waze’s insistence that the company’s managers and employees remain in their Israeli headquarters in Raanana rather than relocating to Menlo Park, Calif.

Google-Waze deal investigated by FTC

The Federal Trade Commisssion is examining Google’s $1 billion deal to purchase the Israeli navigation start-up Waze to see if the purchase violated any antitrust laws.

After the deal between Google and Waze was finalized June 11, Google believed it didn’t need to submit the deal for review because Waze’s revenue in the U.S. is less than $70 million. If the FTC determineds there were violations in the deal, Google will most likely have to re-sell Waze at a loss. Apple, Facebook and Microsoft all previously wanted to purchase the Israeli start-up.

Even if no violations are found, Waze could still be determined to be a “firm that plays a disruptive role in the market to the benefit of customers,” which is possible since there is no other social-based mapping service like Waze on the market, the New York Times reported. In that case, Google’s purchase can also be invalidated.

Billion-dollar Waze

UPDATE [7/29/13]: Google bought Waze for $966 million.

Just a couple of years ago, the Israeli entrepreneurs behind the traffic-fighting smartphone app Waze were knocking down the door of every news outlet in Los Angeles. They were seeking publicity to help forge their way into the iPhones and Androids of L.A. drivers by promising some reprieve from “Carmageddon” weekend on the 405 freeway. Waze argued that its brave new method of crowdsourcing map and traffic data — via social media, with input from an active user base — would be the perfect tool to navigate drivers around the monster 405 freeway project and resulting traffic jams. The company needed press, and bad — because if enough people didn’t use the app, it wouldn’t work for anyone.

Well, they don’t need the press anymore. On June 11, Google Inc., the American tech giant at the forefront of online mapping, bought Waze Mobile for between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion, according to various media reports (neither company has disclosed the final sum). Google’s acquisition is one of the largest in the history of the Israeli tech industry and stands as a major vote of confidence for both Waze and Israel’s startup scene at large.

These days, the Waze guys, who once reached out to Los Angeles eager for attention from any reporter, are mum. They are happily cloaked under Google’s strict no-press policy. “We are Google employees” now, says one of the app’s three founders over Facebook chat, “and we cannot speak to the press.”

Even without Google, Waze picked up a fast and loyal following in its first five to six years on the market: The app already boasts almost 50 million users in 190 countries and counting.

But no one will ever love Waze quite as fiercely as Israel.

[Related: What is it with Israelis and high tech?]

The buzz of the billion-dollar sale could be felt last week through the summer heat in Tel Aviv and environs, where Waze has long been regarded a national treasure — the top of the class in a nation of 1,000 startups. “Congratulations, you have reached your destination,” cheered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a reported phone call to Waze’s founders on the night of the sale.

“The Israeli people feel that they have some part in this huge success story,” said Izhar Shay, head of Israel operations at venture capital firm Canaan Partners. “We were the test group. We were the first users of an international breakthrough project, and we were part of the reason why Waze was so successful.”

The local market may only be about 7 million strong — a shortcoming that some say has slowed the overall progress of consumer-oriented invention in Israel — but it’s famously hands-on.

“By nature, people here are happy to try out new technologies, new concepts, new ideas — especially if they’re introduced by Israelis,” said Shay. “When Waze started, everybody knew somebody at Waze. So if people had bugs or issues with something that didn’t work properly, they would pick up the phone and call to yell at somebody at Waze.”

There have been local concerns, over the years, that large foreign companies are harvesting many of the best Israeli business ideas at an unripe age. But industry analysts who spoke with the Jewish Journal argued that the Waze buyout, which reportedly includes an agreement to keep Waze’s headquarters in Israel for at least the next three years, is the best possible scenario for a local company looking to go global.

Gil Ben-Artzy, co-founder of UpWest Labs — a training program in Silicon Valley for Israeli startups — called the sale a natural and smart evolution for Waze, and a “beacon” for other Israeli entrepreneurs.

“I find it hard to accuse somebody who sold their company for over $1 billion of selling too early,” said Jonathan Medved, head of Israeli crowd-funding venture OurCrowd.

Waze “fought like a lion to keep its development in the country,” Medved said. “The fact that these guys showed that you can fight that battle and win, and still sell your company for a good price, means that everybody’s going to try to do it.”

Up until now, Google Maps has been a dirty word in Israel; everyone wants to support the home team, plus Waze appeals to the Israeli nature to jump into the conversation, so the app has become extremely accurate due to all the input. But the two companies’ new all-star collaboration has now set the tech blogs on fire with speculation on the future possibilities of online mapping.

One thing they all can agree on: Waze’s secret weapon in a world clamoring with startups — and undoubtedly one of Google’s top reasons for scooping it up — has always been its devoted army of Wazers, who together helped the app reach the critical “viral” stage by telling all their friends and helping chart new territory within Waze’s virtual map system.

In combining their strengths — manual and social-media mapping, respectively — Google and Waze have hit such a sweet spot in the online map market that Southern California-based interest group Consumer Watchdog has even expressed concern that the duo might become a monopoly.

Facebook and Apple, who were also rumored bidders in the race for Waze, can’t be too happy about the new superpower.

“When you are driving in your car and you’re using Waze … you’re stuck in traffic, and all you have is this small screen in front of you that delivers the most important news to you,” Israeli investor Shay explained. “Now Google has access to our hearts while we are at a very significant part of our day, and we have nowhere to go.”

Israeli techies and investors are also touting the Waze acquisition as a ribbon-cutting of sorts for the new and exciting “consumer-oriented” frontier of Israeli innovation.

In the past, the country has been known more for its security software, semiconductors and other business-to-business (read: boring) technology. 

Waze is the polar opposite — a people’s product to the core. With its cutesy icons and game-like elements — including swords and badges for those drivers who submit warnings about “objects in the road,” police stakeouts, etc. — the app has proven as addicting as any Farmville or Angry Birds, only loads more useful. For the Waze addict, a commute is no longer complete without the soothing voice of Waze’s token she-bot, coaxing her customer through each lurch and turn.

To be sure, the app has had its detractors. Some traffic-safety advocates have worried that Waze’s highly interactive, video-game-like experience can prevent drivers from paying attention to the real-life road in front of them. The company has responded by installing voice-command and motion-sensor functions, as well as a keyboard lock for when the vehicle is moving — although drivers can easily override the latter by telling Waze that they are in the passenger’s seat. Last week, New York Magazine blogger Kevin Roose wrote in a concerned post on the acquisition: “As Google considers adding revenue-generating features like local advertising to Waze’s already-packed interface, it may raise the question: How much information is too much for drivers to handle safely?”

Yet, for Waze’s defenders, the proof is in its adaptability — and with Google’s latest infusion of cash, the app will no doubt keep adapting to meet user demands. 

Consumer-oriented innovation “requires a certain aesthetic understanding, and a certain design excellence” that Israel hasn’t necessarily been known for in the past, said Mick Weinstein, a longtime tech writer based in Jerusalem. “And that’s part of what’s so wonderful about Waze, is the user experience.”

In the wake of Google’s winning bid, Oren Hod, co-founder of video creation marketplace VeedMe, which connects videographers with prospective clients, said startups like his are catching Waze fever.

“I think [the sale] gave hope to some entrepreneurs and Israeli startups that are not super technology-oriented … to make it big in the U.S. market,” said Hod.

Local and international investors, too, are apt to be inspired by Google’s big move, said Shay — and “we should expect to see additional votes of confidence in Israeli startups as a result.”

Medved added that he has “never seen a time when there have been more good-quality Israeli startups that are really attracting worldwide attention — I think it’s a golden age.”

Waze, for one, doesn’t need the press anymore, nor the hasbara. As Google’s gorgeous Tel Aviv campus buzzes with new life and Waze enjoys its hard-earned spot on top of the world in Ra’anana, it begins to sound superfluous — even old-fashioned — to rave about Israel’s “Silicon Wadi” as if it were a niche or an underdog.

Google buys Israel’s Waze to protect mobile maps lead

Google Inc bought Israeli mapping startup Waze on Tuesday for an undisclosed sum, acquiring an online real-time mapping service to safeguard its own lead in one of the most crucial aspects of smartphone usage.

A source close to the matter told Reuters on Monday that the Internet search leader was putting the finishing touches on a deal to take over the company for $1.3 billion. Google said in a Tuesday blog post that it had closed the deal and now planned on using Waze's service to enhance its own Maps product, but did not say how much it paid.

Maps and navigation services have become vital for technology companies as consumers adopt smartphones and other mobile devices. Waze uses satellite signals from members' smartphones to generate maps and traffic data, which it then shares with other users, offering real-time traffic info.

Waze's product development team will remain in Israel and operate separately for now, Google said. Eventually, its service will enhance the U.S. company's Maps app, while the core Waze product itself will benefit from integrating Google-search capabilities.

“Imagine if you could see real-time traffic updates from friends and fellow travelers ahead of you, calling out 'fender bender…totally stuck in left lane! and showing faster routes that others are taking,” Google Geo Vice President Brian McClendon wrote in his blogpost.

Four-year-old Waze, which has 47 million users, has raised $67 million in funding to date from firms including: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Blue Run Ventures and semiconductor company Qualcomm Inc. Facebook Inc was, at one point, an interested buyer, according to media reports.

Reporting by Edwin Chan; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Leslie Gevirtz

Report: Talks between Waze and Facebook break down

Talks between an Israeli technology firm and Facebook reportedly broke down over the Israeli company’s insistence on staying in the country.

The navigation company Waze had been in talks to be acquired by Facebook for $1 billion. But the negotiations reportedly broke down over Waze officials’ stipulation that the company’s managers and employees remain in their Raanana, Israel headquarters instead of relocating to Menlo Park, Calif.

The report of the breakdown in talks was reported Wednesday by the website AllThingsD, citing sources close to the deal.

Neither Waze, a free downloadable navigation app with more than 34 million subscribers, nor Facebook has publicly addressed reports of a breakdown in negotiations.

Waze reportedly is also in talks with Google and Apple.

Chinese billionaire invests $30 million in Israeli startup

An Israeli startup company has received a $30 million investment from China’s richest man.

Billionaire Li Ka Shing has invested in the navigation technology firm Waze, which will put the money into supporting its application’s more than 7 million drivers and launch a traffic-reporting platform in China, the Israeli business daily Gloves reported.

The Waze free mobile application helps drivers find the shortest route to their destination and provides data on traffic conditions provided by its users. The company also has a social network allowing drivers to report directly to each other on road conditions. Its users live in 45 countries.

Other shareholders include Microsoft and Qualcomm.

Video courtesy of WazeGPS1.