How iCabbi is helping taxi firms tackle big data

Crazy Taxi

Irish startup iCabbi has taken to the cloud to crunch billions of taxi journey data points in a bid to help its customers better understand their strengths and weaknesses.

iCabbi began life in Dublin in 2009, and serves taxi companies by connecting them to drivers via a mobile app and passengers via a white-label mobile app for bookings, a web interface and even traditional phone bookings.

With 70% market share in Ireland, a 20% market share in the UK and expansions into the US and Canada, iCabbi runs its web and mobile app production environments in AWS to scale quickly as it adds more taxi companies with large fleets of vehicles.

As such, when iCabbi decided to begin analysing the billions of data points it collects every day from 60,000 taxis and 100,000 drivers, cloud was the natural step.

Business development executive Ian McDonald tells Cloud Pro: "We were set on cloud from day one. It had to be a cloud database, everything had to be cloud for us - if we'd gone in another direction we'd have been taking a step back."

A manual process

The trouble was, when iCabbi started analysing its vast amounts of data, it was doing it in Microsoft Excel.

"Data analysis was always something we were doing in the background, it just happened to be a little bit painful and tedious to do," admits McDonald. "We were exporting TSVs [tab separated values - text files], manipulating them in Excel, trying to extrapolate some sort of meaningful insights from it.

"It was absolutely there but we found that difficult because number one, it's time-consuming, number two, you're only scratching the surface."

iCabbi realised it lacked the internal resources to analyse its data effectively, and needed to outsource the job.

It looked at a couple of tools that plugged into its AWS environment, including Tableau, but they didn't satisfy iCabbi's requirements.

"The reality was they put too much load [on our environment] - it's designed for one purpose, right?" says McDonald. Another issue was that iCabbi didn't find the depth of analytical capability it was looking for in Tableau, which chiefly focuses on self-service functionality for end users.

"It's not necessarily about what you boil down to the front end; you need to be able to query that data quickly," explains McDonald. "Our production system is designed to make quick decisions to be as efficient as possible. [Tableau's] not necessarily designed to be queried analytically, it's a very different type of set up. The real value for us was in using a data warehouse and being able to query that quickly."

Oracle Analytics Cloud

The startup then turned to Vertice, an IT consulting business with expertise in Oracle products, which recommended it look at Oracle Analytics Cloud.

With iCabbi's wealth of taxi and passenger data, Oracle Analytics Cloud could store that in a data repository and disseminate it through dashboard APIs, also providing iCabbi's customers with self-service analytics.

Armed with analytics, dashboards and data visualisation tools, iCabbi is able to discover insights into how to improve its own business and provide the same service to its taxi company customers.

Gaining business insights

Through Oracle's Analytics Cloud, iCabbi tracks driver data such as what jobs they accept and decline, the most popular and least popular areas for cab rides.

"It means we can make operational changes and strategic decisions about our product, but the very same is true for our customers - they can make decisions about how they service their passengers," McDonald says.

These include insights around how they work with their drivers, which accounts are earning them the most money, what areas they're losing money in, and even potential acquisition targets.

iCabbi collects and delivers these in a suite of popular data points, but Oracle has enabled them to give the taxi companies the ability to query the data themselves, too.

"For us, it's a more rounded tool," McDonald says. "It satisfies our immediate requirements, with lots of room to grow into it. We're very much at the start of the journey both internally and for our customers, which is a great position to be in and the product will allow us to grow into it as we grow as a business."