I vividly remember when we were deciding to spin-off from Microsoft. Despite the chaos and pressure of walking away from a job I loved to start something ‘new’, I was invigorated by the potential to completely disrupt the transportation industry. Instead of getting traffic information from helicopters, which was the norm at the time, we were going to use GPS signals and Big Data to create global traffic information and help people navigate congestion.
Throughout our 15-year history, INRIX has been at the forefront of the mobility revolution having witnessed some of the industry’s brightest innovations and boldest transformations.
In 2005, buzzwords such as connected cars, over-the-air updates, and Big Data were just ideas. Smart phones and the Internet of things (IoT) didn’t really exist, Twitter hadn’t been introduced, and YouTube and Facebook had just launched.
But it was in that year we pioneered the game-changing approach to leverage GPS to create global traffic data. Despite being mocked, ridiculed and written off by the industry for years, we succeeded in fundamentally changing the way traffic data was collected and dispersed, globally. We accomplished this by processing massive amounts of real-time data in an era when there was no AWS, cloud computing or predictive analytics. To put in perspective, the 800-pound gorilla in the traffic industry was Westwood One who was flying helicopters, and they don’t even exist anymore!
We succeeded because we were able to predict 5-10 years ahead and understand how the market would evolve while simultaneously identifying what our customers would need – usually before they even knew it themselves.
This approach led us to transform our business from ideation to realization – from a niche traffic data supplier to a leading provider of connected car services and transportation analytics with hundreds of customers and services in nearly 150 countries today. We then transformed our business beyond the automotive space to reach the public sector and enterprise industries as well.
Yet all of these years later, INRIX needs to transform again – and use SaaS as our north star to continue to grow and evolve to meet the market for the next decade.
Why the transition?
It’s no secret that the world around us is changing. Technological advances in IoT, AI and automation have created the largest shift in consumer behavior we’ve ever seen – from the way people and goods get from point A to point B, to the way we consume information, and the way people order products and services. Convenience is at the very heart of it, and it’s shaking up every industry.
Let’s take the automotive industry for example. Over the last several years, we’ve seen the convergence of the automobile and the information technology industries. CES became the most important car show of the year. This created a plethora of new entrants in an industry that’s traditionally been dominated by conventional automakers and suppliers for over 100 years. Tesla challenged the status quo of the automotive industry’s historic roots with the introduction of the electric drivetrain and OTA software updates. Then came Google Automotive Services (GAS), an ecosystem that embeds applications such as Google Play Store, Google Maps and Google Assistant directly into dashboards, enabling consumers to access these features directly through their vehicle. Many of the largest automakers (GM, Volvo, Renault) have already announced their move to this platform. Even Apple and Amazon have entered the space with mirroring capabilities. And the list keeps growing.
What exactly does this mean? As vehicles become increasingly sophisticated due to expanding consumer demands, the traditional ecosystem of navigation, mapping and hardware companies is fundamentally threatened. Technology companies like Google, who want to replace the traditional head-unit stack, will take the majority of the automotive in-dash software market, leaving a shrinking business for anyone whose primary business is selling into this market. I have first-hand experience having been the General Manager of Microsoft’s Automotive business when we were trying to do just this.
A good friend of mine who was a very successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist once said, “Innovation is like surfing – if you hit the wave too soon, you get crushed by the wave because you’re in front of it. If you hit the wave too late, you can paddle as hard as you want but you’ll never catch up. But if you hit the wave just right – it’s a sweet ride.” And he’s right. Microsoft was too early and gave up; Google has hit the wave just right.
But it doesn’t stop with the automotive industry. The impact of technology and Big Data is being felt across all sectors, and for good reason. It’s the backbone of every successful organization and without it, roads, cities and businesses would grind to a halt. It holds the keys to massive benefits – from monetization to agile decision making to data-driven marketing.
For INRIX, this means we must transition away from our existing Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) products and double down on our Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, especially within public sector and enterprise markets. There are many benefits to making our services available through SaaS, most of which boil down to helping our customers get powerful insights anywhere, anytime as easily as possible.
The world was changing long before 2020, but the pandemic has impacted nearly every industry across the globe, disrupted global supply chains and forced companies to rethink their traditional ways of doing business entirely. Think about it: closing a deal no longer means meeting face-to-face; designing a new feature no longer requires a conference room and a whiteboard. While there’s no way we could have predicted a global health crisis, we’re fortunate to have already been preparing for the transformation of our company.
In fact, we’ve been laying the SaaS groundwork for several years now. INRIX Road Rules, INRIX Roadway Analytics and INRIX Trip Trends have been providing incredible insights to hundreds of customers worldwide – all of which are now part of our unified SaaS application suite, INRIX IQ. Even more valuable in today’s post-COVID world, INRIX IQ makes it easy for anyone to uncover insights from location-based data. As organizations shift to remote operations, face budget cuts and tackle extreme uncertainty, INRIX IQ provides a safer, smarter, faster and more affordable alternative to traditional methods of data collection, management and analysis.
Proof (and revenue) is in the data
While our automotive products currently account for a third of our business (down from 66% just 5 years ago), our SaaS portfolio of tools have seen a ~30% CAGR over the same period. In fact, our SaaS offerings now account for about a third of our total company revenue and have been dramatically increasing.
The first product launched under our SaaS model – Roadway Analytics – provides near real-time insights into what is happening on roads, benchmarks and measures roadway performance, and maximizes the investment of public funds. In just four years since its inception, hundreds of local, state and federal organizations across the globe have leveraged this platform to monitor, measure and manage their roadways.
In 2018, we launched Road Rules – the first SaaS application that lays the foundation for connected mobility by helping cities digitize, manage and communicate the rules of the roadways, curbs and sidewalks. To date, more than 40 cities and six operators are using Road Rules to ensure safe and efficient mobility.
Realizing the significant impact COVID-19 would have on our roadways, we launched Trip Trends, which provides powerful insights on passenger, heavy freight and local fleet travel trends in the U.S. and Europe.
As a company, we are committed to improving mobility worldwide by connecting people, vehicles, cities and businesses. That is our mission. INRIX IQ plays a critical role in this goal, making insights from trillions of complex data points more accessible and easier to understand.
In the coming weeks and months, we plan to add exciting new features to INRIX IQ and launch new applications that will help our customers do more with our data and make them more productive. The transportation industry is on the cusp of moving from manual and physical data collection methods that have historically been required to make informed decisions to the sorts of no-hardware-required data solutions that INRIX can provide access to.
The launch of INRIX IQ, with its trial and self-serve capabilities, will allow us to serve market segments that we previously didn’t address through our traditional outbound sales model. We are betting that we can streamline customer acquisition and deliver growing value to a broader audience. This strategy doesn’t replace our current business model, but rather augments what we do with our large strategic customers, and broadens the overall addressable market for us at INRIX.
For years, we’ve helped the world’s most innovative automakers, transportation agencies and businesses take advantage of location-based intelligence. Now we’re building on that commitment to make these insights more accessible and easier to comprehend for everyone – from interns to traffic engineers to CEOs.
This is arguably one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, times to be part of the transportation revolution. And 15 years later, I’m excited we’re still in the driver’s seat to help drive this transformation.
I had the opportunity to speak yesterday at a conference in L.A. (ACM SIGSPATIAL) and during the Q&A someone asked a good question: “Won’t the benefit of autonomous vehicles largely benefit those who are rich and can afford them?”
It’s a good question, but the answer is resoundingly “No!” – just the opposite in fact.
The vast majority of those investing in autonomous vehicles are not doing so to sell high-end luxury cars to individuals. Rather, they are investing in autonomous vehicles to deliver “mobility as a service” – fleets of vehicles that can take people from point A to B. Think Uber without the drivers. Uber, Waymo, GM’s Maven, BMW, etc. are all focusing on enabling ride-sharing fleets of vehicles.
This will primarily benefit those at the lower end of the income range.
Today it costs me about $40 to take an Uber from the airport to my house. About 70% of Uber’s cost structure isthe drivers. What happens when these vehicles are autonomous? The cost goes to $12. What happens when the algorithms can easily match me going from the airport to Redmond with the person standing 3 people over who is making the same drive and we’re pooled together (ala UberPool)? The cost goes to $6.
This will lead to the democratization of Transportation.
Today, people who have money buy expensive vehicles and commute to work by themselves. People who have less money take the bus or some other form of mass transit. The former go from point A to point B on a direct route while those that take mass transit often take much longer to get from point A to point B due to an indirect route and multiple stops. With the democratization of transportation, everyone will be able to go from point A to point B inexpensively and conveniently due to the vast number of autonomous cars that will be on the road. Even people who are well off will prefer this to driving since they’ll have time to be productive on their commute (do e-mail, watch movies, text, etc.) rather than being engaged in driving during their commute.
Rather than autonomous vehicles primarily benefiting people on the high-end of the income range, autonomous vehicles will benefit everyone – especially those on the lower end of the income range since it will shorten their commutes and decrease their overall cost of transportation.
Happy to announce our partnership with Renovo today, a highly automated vehicle (HAV) software technology company to bring INRIX vehicle analytics to HAV’s and to integrate INRIX OpenCar with AWare, Renovo’s automated mobility operating system.
I’m super excited about what Chris Heiser (Renovo’s CEO) and his team are doing to build a technology ecosystem for HAV’s. I think this is a critical component necessary to make HAV’s a reality.
Great article about how a Canadian town wanted a mass transit system and hired Uber: “This week, [Innisfil] inaugurated a pilot program for what Uber says is its first full ridesharing-transit partnership, providing subsidized transportation for the town’s 36,000 people. ‘It’s a better value for money than a traditional transit system.'”
I continue to be fascinated why cities are spending billions and billions on literally 19th-century fixed-rail systems when much more flexible and cost effective approaches to mass transit are available.
Great article about INRIX’s new road safety product to make driving safer:
INRIX supplies real-time traffic data to six of the eight top car manufacturers, but now it’s moving from efficiency to safety with the launch of its latest solution.
The Safety Alerts product suite consists of INRIX Dangerous Slowdowns, INRIX Incidents, and INRIX Road Weather. Each of the products collects real-time data from all the newfangled connected cars hitting the roads and, in combination with other sources, utilise the information to help drivers around the world.
“INRIX has long been focused on making driving not only more efficient, but also safer. INRIX Safety Alerts is an innovative next step to proactively use massive amounts of big data to make connected vehicles and smart cities safer for everyone,” said Mark Daymond, chief technology officer at INRIX. “Drivers, fleet operators and city planners now have a real-time solution for visibility into ever-changing road conditions.”
Real-time data collected from one vehicle could be transmitted to others using INRIX’s services to warn them of dangerous conditions along their route. The information can also be used by agencies to improve their road networks and prevent accidents by focusing efforts in areas that have become a higher risk over time.
Iowa’s Department of Transportation (DoT) is the first agency to utilise one of INRIX’s new Safety Alerts product suite to monitor, measure and manage the state’s road network.
WIRED’s Aarian Marshall rightly called them “possible planning frenemies;” government officials, non-profit organizations and private partners combining efforts to move people away from large scale disasters, like Hurricane Matthew. Not typically known for collaboration, she says, these public and private partners came together to develop response plans around community needs. And as government relief efforts began along the East Coast, companies across the country were finding ways to help.
As Hurricane Matthew approached the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coastlines, various public and volunteer organizations prepared for heavy rain, wind and storm surges. All levels of government were involved, including the federal Department of Defense, Health and Human Services, and South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), and many tapped outside organizations for their expertise.
The American Red Cross, for example, readied people around the country to provide shelters, ready-made meals, blankets, supply trucks and medical services. An impressive 75 percent of their vehicle fleet was mobilized serving one million meals, supplying medical devices and treatment, and opening up beds for people leaving their homes. Other relief organizations, like The Salvation Army and The United Way, provided ground support to communities affected by the disaster.
Technology companies also played a vital role in aiding government efforts. Airbnb, for example, activated their Disaster Response Tool, connecting those affected with people who offered rooms, apartments and housing at no cost.
At INRIX, we dedicated our 80-person rapid response team to the efforts, providing drivers in South Carolina up-to-the-minute information on road and ramp closures. As the SCDOT ordered highway lanes around the coast to be converted to “contraflow” traffic, reversing highway lanes away from the storm’s path, INRIX continually updated its real-time traffic service for SCDOT, mobile apps and connected cars to reflect officials’ plans. Our incident publication was within 60 seconds of SCDOT on-the-ground effort. In addition, INRIX actively monitored all the ramps along the I-26 corridor impacted by contraflow, to deter drivers following routing services from entering the freeway against traffic.
“As always, INRIX is an integral monitoring tool for the operations of traffic management. During Hurricane Matthew, the Traffic Management Centers used INRIX when cameras were not available to evaluate traffic and the information was relayed to Emergency Traffic Management for their use in making decisions regarding the evacuation” – SCDOT’s State Traffic Management Center.
Public officials across the country are finding new ways to leverage data and technology to aid evacuation and recovery efforts. Data is not only crucial before and during an event, but is vital after an event subsides – as data scientists, academics, and public officials review the response to determine lessons learned.
Unfortunately, disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes or floods happen around the world, and underscore the importance of “planning frenemies” coming together and better using technology to prepare.
Agency officials can sign up for free access to the inrixtraffic.us website to learn more about how INRIX real-time data can help in times of emergencies.
Fantastic article by Johann Jungwirth, the Chief Digital Officer at VW, on the transformational trends impacting the automobile industry:
Many of us aren’t aware yet how historical the times we live in are. Because not just the automobile is being reinvented through the digital revolution, also the mobility itself is being reinvented: self-driving vehicles without steering wheel and pedals will be driving people and goods through the first cities in just a few years. Overall we are experiencing at the moment the disruption of the automotive industry in three dimensions which are orthogonal to each other:
Digitalization: from human drivers to self-driving vehicles
Sustainability: from combustion engines to electric drive
An OpEd I wrote for the Seattle Times regarding Sound Transit’s proposed $54B expansion in the Seattle area. :
AS Puget Sound taxpayers weigh Sound Transit’s $54 billion proposed expansion — a plan calling for 10 times the investment spent doubling the Panama Canal’s capacity — it’s important to ask whether it will be obsolete before it is done?
The light-rail and rapid-ride bus proposal called ST3 will be on the November general election ballot. As proposed, it would be constructed over the next 25 years and is projected to provide transit an additional 1 percent of daily trips by 2040. Some say “we must do something” to address the growing traffic congestion in the Puget Sound region and that ST3 is our best bet. But several major trends are fundamentally changing the nature of mobility around the world and will likely cause ST3 to be obsolete before the ribbons are cut.
At INRIX, we call these trends ACES, which stands for “autonomous, connected, electric and shared” vehicles. These four megatrends already are having a big impact around the world.
Last week I had the opportunity to give a keynote address at Telematics Update Detroit 2016. Good presentation of what we call the ACES: Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared vehicles and how these mega trends are transforming the automotive industry.
You may not have heard of INRIX, a traffic data company based in Kirkland, Washington. But if your car’s navigation system has real-time traffic data, there’s a good chance you’ve been using its services. For example, the Audi A4 and Telsa Model X we drove earlier this month get real-time traffic data from INRIX. In the BMW i3 and i8, INRIX provides the range finder service that lets you know how far you can go before needing to recharge (and where you can do that).
Today, the company is taking aim at the mighty Waze with a new smartphone app that leverages its vast crowdsourced traffic database.
Do you remember what it was like trying to navigate in days of old? Back when some of us started driving, if you didn’t want to get lost, you needed a map. (Remember them?) In 2000, then-President Clinton opened up the US’ GPS network, and consumer navigation systems started to proliferate, first as standalone devices, then as installed infotainment systems in our cars, and finally on the screens of our smartphones.
The addition of live traffic updates might have been almost as significant. Suddenly, a navigation system wasn’t just useful for finding your way on unfamiliar roads. Even on a regular commute—one you might drive five days a week, year after year—a navigation system could alert you to jams, roadwork, or hazards.
INRIX has been in on this action, offering iOS and Android traffic apps for a while now, but this latest version looks like a big upgrade in functionality. For one thing, it adds turn-by-turn navigation. “So what,” you’re probably thinking, given that the default map apps for both platforms already have this capacity. In this case, however, the navigation is informed by INRIX’s real-time traffic database, which is constantly updated via the 275 million cars and devices (worldwide, not just in the US) that are already using INRIX’s services.
Perhaps the more interesting aspect is the use of machine learning. Rather than having to manually enter favorite or frequently visited places, Traffic will keep tabs on your routine and work out for itself your frequently traveled routes, including the times of day you make those trips. Like Waze, the apps will interface with your calendar and alert you to the best time to get on the road.
And you can also plan trips based on when you need to arrive at a given destination (a feature Waze recently added for iOS, but which is yet to make it to Android). A neat touch here is a little more customization of alerts, so you can choose how much advanced notice you’re given regarding when it’s time to get on the road; the site’s traffic (using its cloud servers) will keep tabs on this and adjust the notification based on the predicted congestion.
It also takes a slightly different philosophical approach to finding you the quickest route. As anyone who uses Waze knows, these apps are always on the lookout to shave time off your route. This often means sending you through sleepy residential streets replete with speed bumps or telling you to make left turns across busy roads. INRIX takes a different approach, according to Joel Karp, INRIX’s director of product management.
“A great example of this; I just moved up from Los Angeles to Seattle (where INRIX is headquartered), and whenever I needed a route, it always took me on the major freeways, which I never drove. Because we have machine learning and we’re learning your preferred route, and because we think humans are creatures of habit who are unlikely to deviate off that route unless there’s a significant time delta—not 10 seconds, not 45 seconds, not two minutes, we think it’s six-plus minutes—we’re monitoring that route to make sure it’s the right one for you to take that day and if not, whether you know what the better route is, as opposed to just serving up any old route,” he told Ars.
We’ve only been playing with Traffic for a day or so at this point, but it feels like a credible alternative to the Google-owned Waze (even if there’s no road candy to collect nor cat avatars to choose from). If you feel like trying it out, it’s available now via Google Play and the App Store.
I'm Bryan Mistele, the founder & CEO of INRIX, a leading provider of traffic information, connected car services and transportation analytics. I’m a Microsoft, HBS and UofM alum. I'm a husband of one lovely wife, father of two great kids, and manager of one very time-consuming company. I'm passionate about boating, politics and Christianity.