Tableau: Tell us about what INRIX does.
Ken: We're really the leaders in the traffic information space. Essentially we sell traffic information—for about 2 million miles of road around the world—to customers so so they know what's happening on the roads and how to work their way around it.
Tableau: That's a whole lot of data!
Ken: We view ourselves as a Big Data company that pulls in crowd-sourced information from 100 million devices and vehicles out there to build traffic information that we sell across a variety of verticals, including public sector, automotive, mobile, fleet, and media.
Tableau: What’s the business problem you wanted Tableau to solve?
Ken: We create a national traffic scorecard. We've been doing it since about 2007 and in the past, it's been a very laborious, three-month process. We’d have to comb through all our records, do a variety of custom analysis, and print out the results in a book that people could come to our website and sign up and to get.
We wanted to create a dynamic process that was much easier to do, much more scalable, and allowed us to basically update this data on a monthly basis and allow people to see a visualization of what the traffic looked like across all these metro areas via the scorecard.
Tableau: So exactly how much data are we talking about?
Ken: We immediately glommed onto Tableau as an opportunity for us to take our visualization of scorecard back in November of 2011. We had built a data store of multiple petabytes—every minute we're storing traffic information across 2 to 3 million segments of road. We’re storing that in SQL. So, it's literally petabytes of data that I compress a little bit before bringing it into Tableau. On the live side of Tableau Public, we're leveraging about 4 million rows of data at any one point in time to crunch and build our charts and graphs and visualizations.
Tableau: How do you and your clients use the traffic scorecard?
Ken: It can be used to answer everything from “Where should I build the next road?” and “How is my road infrastructure performing?” to “Are my fleet drivers speeding?” to “What's the fastest way for me to go from point A to point B?”
Local press and radio and TV stations do interviews with us on the state of traffic. By ranking and tracking 200 cities across North America and Europe for their congestion levels on a monthly basis, we were able to determine which cities are the most congested. Brussels is the most congested city in the world right now. In the US, LA and Honolulu are neck and neck.
But the scorecard is really just the tip of the iceberg of the information that INRIX can provide. We use it as an entry point with governments and departments of transportation to help them understand the vastness of the data, the richness of the data we can provide.
Tableau: How much time has INRIX saved with Tableau?
Ken: Tableau has allowed us to accelerate the process with which we update our scorecard. Rather than completing a three-month process to create a new scorecard every year, I now create a new scorecard every month and it's literally a three-hour process to update it.
Tableau: How has Tableau impacted you personally?
Ken: Tableau has fundamentally allowed me to be a lot more creative in how we create the scorecard and for people to be a lot more dynamic in how they use the scorecard. It’s allowed me to answer questions in a quick and easy way on the fly.
Tableau: How else are people at INRIX using Tableau?
Ken: Tableau is starting to be used across our company and people are finding ways to take not just the nugget of scorecard data that we've created, but take INRIX’s overall traffic archive data and find new ways to visualize the data, drive insights from the data, and new use cases for that data.
Tableau: How has it been partnering with the consultants at Tableau?
Ken: The responsiveness and the flexibility that Tableau had in working with me and understanding the complexity of the project we were undertaking helped us to break the rules and do what hadn't been done before in Tableau Public.
Ours was a big project. And one of the twists that we threw in was the requirement to create our scorecard in five different languages. So Tableau essentially helped us create five different versions of Tableau in different languages, so we could have a scorecard customized in English, French, Spanish, German and Italian.