Shining the Data Center Spotlight on Uber

March 8, 2017

The disruption and innovation so synonymous with Uber wouldn't be possible without the big data processing capacity available in its data centers. It's how Uber can maintain its competitive edge on the one hand and help address everyday challenges for commuters and traffic planners with the vast amount of data gathered in every ride in every city.

Here are three ways Uber data addresses everyday challenges for drivers and riders, as well as the larger traffic hurdles faced by municipal and state governments.

Rush Hour’s Silver Lining

Uber created an analytical tool, Movement, with ride data and it may help improve city commuter infrastructure. The data has been anonymized to protect Uber's passengers. Movement is free and will be available to anyone interested in tracking car travel between two points in a city at any time of day. It's currently only available for Manila, Melbourne and Washington, D.C., but Uber is working with urban planners and transportation professionals to expand to dozens of other cities in coming months. Movement means Uber and its transportation partners will be able to leverage big data to make more informed decisions for city infrastructure.

Better Mapping Data Means Smoother Travel

You will find GPS and mapping technology at the core of Uber's success. The company continually works at improving its mapping abilities for the benefit of its drivers. Manik Gupta, Senior Director of Product, Marketplace and Maps at Uber describes a new effort to sharpen Uber’s mapping technology in Singapore by focusing on the information that matters to Uber drivers, such as traffic patterns and sensible pick-up and drop-off locations for riders.

As Gupta explains, "We need to be able to provide a seamless experience in parts of the world where there aren't detailed maps - or street signs." To this end, Uber has installed mapping devices on some of the drivers' cars in Singapore, utilizing resources it already has on the road. These devices capture important imagery along routes that are not as well-documented, and Uber assures passengers with privacy concerns that imagery immediately around drop-off and pick-up locations will not be retained.

This technology, already used in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, the UK, South Africa and Australia, describes the best possible routes for riders. The Singapore initiative will be the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. Uber will continue to expand these efforts, gathering countless mapping data points to offer truly seamless travel experiences for riders world-wide.

Personalization Meets Carpool

Of Uber's approximately one million rides per day, and the big data they create, a good portion are riders using UberPool, a feature that enables users in large cities to split their Uber ride with other passengers traveling in the same vicinity. Sometimes these rides can get a little uncomfortable, and Uber is aware of the problem and looking for ways to address it.

According to CNN Money, a patent application by Uber suggests the company is planning to use social media data to match UberPool riders who have similar interests or backgrounds in an effort to make rides more enjoyable. By making UberPool more appealing and reducing the "awkward factor" of riding with a stranger (it's a car, after all, not a subway or city bus), Uber hopes to see a substantial reduction in city traffic over time. If the rider match is consistently compatible, it could serve as a networking catalyst, another example of leveraging data to make everyday interactions run smoothly.

Data Centers, Home to Big Data

These strategic initiatives from Uber rely on data accessibility. Companies today have rich data that can be mined for meaningful insights. And that's why powerful and resilient data centers for big data are crucial to success. Uber's value extends beyond its ability to solve everyday problems for its users. Its data also highlights beneficial trends that can be applied to other industries The ability to effectively house and protect that data is crucial.

As companies like Uber grow and implement data-driven initiatives, they will have to make decisions that will impact the heart of their IT infrastructure, like how to use data centers to greatest effect.

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