Lightning bolts from the cloud
Lightning-bolt moments. For Wolf Ruzicka, chairman of EastBanc Technologies based in Washington, D.C., they are the encapsulation of the power of Cloud data used effectively.
He once saw such a moment when he met with the head of a transit agency, who suddenly understood why a council member kept complaining about bus transportation, even after the transit agency added bus stops in the council person’s district. A Cloud app illuminated what hadn’t been previously revealed: No matter how many bus stops there were, the area wasn’t connected to the rest of the city.
“It allowed him to look in the mirror and realize he forgot to shave today,” said Ruzicka. “That’s the real power of data analytics as provided by Cloud infrastructure.”
A lightning bolt moment once hit Ruzicka too. It all started with a transit agency asking for a mobile app to show bus and train arrival times. But when the app was released, the public continued to complain. “Not because it was a bad app,” said Ruzicka. “But it had bad data. The project pivoted into a Cloud-based Big Data play.”
Instead of just redesigning the existing app with more bells and whistles, EastBanc “instead built one that was Cloud-backed with real-time data and analytics…a Cloud-based Internet-of-Things platform that could take real-time data and mash it with static data like stops and routes, and then add driver data and traffic and weather data … all in the interest of presenting the realworld as accurately as possible.”
EastBanc then “exposed it as an API so others can build on top of it.” The initial result was called TransitIQ, which “became a business intelligence system because of Cloud-based data, that looks at inefficiencies and creates insights on data that flows through the system for other purposes.”
But solving problems for one industry—public transportation—didn’t seem like the only area that could be helped by this kind of Cloud sharing. Renaming the platform TerraIQ, EastBanc next turned to the entire transportation space, including snow plows, taxis and commercial trucking.
“It takes data in, ingests it, refines it, applies algorithms, and exposes it,” said Ruzicka. “Others can then take it and do something different with it…the data is open to the public.”
The idea means developers can solve problems, Ruzicka says, like creating an app to help handicapped people navigate a city’s public transportation options. The Cloud allows people to subscribe to Cloud data provided by businesses like EastBanc, based on monthly fees or pay-as- you-go depending on how much data you use.
“The technology business model allows us to align ourselves with the success of our customers,” said Ruzcka. “It aligns the incentives beautifully and the up-front investment is small. The Cloud allows upstarts to get involved instead of having to spend millions up front. Previously you would not have been able to build a business on top of someone else’s business. Today, a new business can pop up and die or succeed very quickly.”
For Ruzicka, the magic of the Cloud comes from putting “capitalism at the tip of your fingers.” As he sees it, “it’s magic that with just one click, you can run terabytes of data that you didn’t have a second before. We as a small company can appear like a really big company. It allows me to scale within minutes or retract very fluidly. It brings elasticity to business. You can expand and experiment… and you don’t have to invest more than you made.”
But the magic also goes back to those lightning bolts. “What really blows me out of the water is the ability to learn something about yourself, something you didn’t know. People in the business for decades think they know their business. A software development company with no real expertise in that business, but that understands the Cloud and the power of data can show result sets to customers to learn about themselves.”