It's Friday and odds are high that many of you are planning a night out for drinks or dinner this weekend...and if you are, I bet Uber is in the mix. I admit that I didn't see the reason behind Uber hype for the longest time. So, let me get this straight, it is a cross between a friend picking me up and a taxi cab? Why were people so excited by it?
Having taken a few of them while on the road, I still am not as excited as some, but I do at least see the benefits. Allowing for a cash-less experience is great, as is being able to get a ride in areas that are not well-serviced by taxis. Plus, in many cities and depending on demand, Uber rides are often significantly cheaper than the same ride in a taxi.
This got me to thinking....is Uber the ultimate IOT service out there?
Ok, hear me out...
Unlike some companies, Uber doesn't "own" all aspects of the solution. They don't own the vehicles or the smartphones that their app runs on and they don't provide any network services for the communication to happen. What they have instead is one of the best business models out there and perhaps the most room to expand in the IOT space among all companies.
Uber has found a way to make a very good level of profit out of the taxi space without the upfront costs (licenses, vehicles, gas, etc) like taxis have. They also don't have to do a ton of advertising to promote their service to visitors from out of town. As a visitor for personal or business travel, I just need to open my app when I get to a new city. Uber is also able to adjust their fares according to demand thanks to surge pricing, which charges a multiplier on every fare during busy times like New Year's Eve.
Even better, though, they have built a platform that allows for almost unlimited expansion in each city. From food delivery (UberEats) to car-pooling (UberPool) to limos (UberBlack), they have started to expand their offerings quite nicely. What is to stop them from getting into the short-term/rush courier business, delivering medical samples and even armored trucks?
As I have written before, one of the ways that companies who offer "free" services actually make money is to sell your data as a whole. The biggest example of this would be Facebook, but I am actually talking about companies that track your steps/runs. These companies sell macro-data to municipalities, as an example, to better plan paths/sidewalk expansions.
Now, who would have better data about traffic patterns in a city than Uber? They are all over the city, at all times of the day and cleverly use GPS-based tracking at all times. They would know very well when/where certain bottlenecks happen, how traffic patterns change over time and where to increase pick-up/drop-off areas.
I am not sure that I want to have a real-life version of Total Recall where my cab driver is a robot, but it is inevitable in my lifetime that I will take a driver-less cab/Uber. Uber already has a lot of the key elements in place to make this move. Think about it...they have connectivity in each car, they have many planned routes to load (and the drive can be planned in advance through the application) and they have so much data to put into the system to account for possible issues.
When I ask someone to list who is the best IOT company, a few may come to mind. It may be a modem/hardware provider like Sierra Wireless or Digi, it may be an application company like ones who do Fleet management or it may be a Fortune 500 company providing back-end systems like Apple or Google. However, it is easy to make the case that Uber is actually much more of an IOT company than any of them.