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A closer look at INRIX, the world's largest traffic intelligence network

ITProPortal interviewed Danny Woollard, Vice President of EMEA Business Development at INRIX, the world's largest traffic intelligence network, following the recent acquisition of Waze by Google. Danny is responsible for leading the INRIX EMEA business in building awareness of INRIX within consumers and business minds within the region.

What does INRIX do?

Officially, we are the world's largest traffic intelligence network but we see ourselves as an analytics and big data company. INRIX gathers traffic information from around 100 million connected vehicles travelling the roads in 32 countries around the world. Rather than depending on just one source for our data, like some other traffic intelligence providers, INRIX combines multiple data feeds to provide the most robust travel advice to drivers available.

INRIX collects data streams from local transport authorities, sensors on road networks, fleet vehicles such as delivery vans, long haul trucks and taxis, not to mention consumer users of the INRIX Traffic App. Having a rich feed of data is just one part of the puzzle, it's at the analysis stage that the real magic happens! INRIX crunches this data and translates it into easy to understand travel advice – which drivers can access through radio reports, real-time sat-nav systems in car and through INRIX's app. In fact over 200 customers and industry partners worldwide use INRIX's travel recommendations - including the BBC, Ford, MapQuest, Microsoft, NAVIGON AG, TeleNav, I-95 Corridor Coalition, Tele Atlas, deCarta, TCS, , ANWB and ADAC.

Who should know about what INRIX does? Why?

That's a really good question. For me, it is any driver who is tired of wasting their time, money and peace of mind on the road. The chances are you've already been influenced by INRIX's smart travel information today without realising it. A lot of broadcast traffic reports are recorded from our offices, and INRIX Traffic is used by six of the top eight connected vehicle manufacturers, including BMW, Ford, Toyota and Audi, as well as in sat-nav devices such as the latest range from Garmin, the Nuvi. This top of the range information is available for all road users through the radio and business as well as and anyone looking to avoid the cost of congestion in the form of the INRIX Traffic free app, which comes on iOS, Android and Windows Phone platforms.

INRIX insights also appeal to businesses such as fleet networks, which need to plan journeys and develop flexible payment methods for their customers. Using real-time traffic information, as well as standard navigation and mapping software, fleet management companies can determine the most cost-effective time of day to make a journey. The predictive traffic information from INRIX allows business fleets to plan using time-of-day dependent speeds for better accuracy, resulting in both fuel and time savings. INRIX information can help businesses and consumers alike plan their journeys in the most cost and time-efficient way.

How is it different from Waze?

Waze reports from a limited number of users on a limited set of roads and you only benefit if another Waze user has driven down a road before you. Accidents, weather, major sporting events and other factors all make services that rely on reports from a limited number of users not very useful because traffic is constantly changing. INRIX is different in the sense that we're analysing data from over a hundred sources, including a crowd-sourced network of 100 million vehicles and devices ranging from commercial fleets, passenger cars and users of our INRIX Traffic app; road sensor data from all the major motorways in the UK and Europe; community generated and emergency responder accident reports; and traffic and incident feeds from government bodies like the Highways Agency in the UK and other local authorities across Europe. We also undertake sophisticated analysis to predict forthcoming traffic issues from sporting events like a Premier League game in the UK to public holidays and weekend getaways.

Our approach allows us to continuously cover more roads in real-time than any other traffic technology, which in turn allows us to provide our users with insights Waze and others simply can't match.

What does it cost?

The INRIX Traffic app is designed to enable drivers to make smarter driving solutions, and comes in a free version, as well as the premium edition, which costs £17.49. Using the same technology that operates in connected cars manufactured by companies such as Ford, the premium app allows users to unlock features such as traffic predictions on an unlimited number of routes, ensuring the best routes to get the user from A to B.

How do you make money from this?

INRIX collects data from over 100 million drivers in 32 countries. Top automakers with built-in navigation systems and multiple iOS map apps rely on INRIX's data in its products. Beyond developer and car manufacturer partnerships, INRIX licenses data to governments to support road traffic management and planning, TV and radio stations for on-air traffic reports, commercial fleets who utilise the data to manage their delivery times, sat nav systems who input INRIX's traffic service as an add on feature, and traffic websites. As well as the many corporate deals, INRIX has its own consumer facing navigation app with a premium option retailing at £17, which is targeted to consumers who simply want to know how best and how long it will take to get from A to B.

You recently said that three-quarters of Brits have broken the speeding limit – are the traffic systems in the UK failing us?

There are four things in life that we can be certain of – death, taxes, weather and traffic. Drivers want to get from A to B as quickly as possible, and unfortunately traffic is an inevitable evil that is pretty much always going to top any drivers frustration list. However, ultimately, the decision to speed or not is a personal one, while INRIX isn't really in a position to comment on UK road laws or an individual's need for speed, we do know that you don't have to speed to get to your destination on time. Real time traffic tools allow you to react to news on incidents and congestion so that you're less likely to get caught out and put your foot down to make your meeting. On the other side of the equation, government bodies can use predictive analytics to better plan their transport networks, from the timing of traffic lights through to knowing where to place public service announcements.

Where do you collect the data from?

INRIX's traffic intelligence platform collects and analyses real-time data from approximately three million miles of road across 32 countries. Our traffic service has two main components:

First is traffic flow data, which we gather with the world's largest crowd-sourced traffic network of millions of connected devices and vehicles, including consumer vehicles and commercial fleet vehicles, as well as road sensors and a hundred other sources. If you were to stand at any location on the road network, a vehicle providing INRIX with data would pass by you every two minutes.But crowd sourcing is only one part of what we do, and this is what sets us apart from our competitors. We also collect data from our community – informing us where there are incidents, accidents and construction – as well as data that we source from accident, incident and event databases.

This real-time traffic information is updated by INRIX every minute, and compiled into a historical database that's updated every 90 days. We then use our patented traffic intelligence technologies (46 patents issued) to provide the best real-time and predictive traffic information available to users of our INRIX Traffic app, as well as our commercial customers and partners.

What are the three main USPs of the service?

We offer the best-in-class technology to offer our consumers and businesses a solution to avoiding traffic that can slow them down. I'd say the top three USPs are:

1. Data reliability: An INRIX app users can quick and simply identify their route and see whether they need to change the way they approach the trip. The app will utilise the millions of data points to analyse whether traffic will delay the user and recommend a different route. The suggested route may be further in distance, but the app ensures that it gets you from a to b quicker than sitting in traffic.

2. Reach: INRIX technology is available in 32 countries around the world, so wherever you are at home or in a hire car you can avoid gridlock. Furthermore, because INRIX doesn't rely on app information alone, we can cover traffic on more roads than any other provider – so the routes we recommend won't just be the main thoroughfares.

3. Partnerships: It's perhaps less known, but we provide all of the broadcast bulletins to BBC and ITV as well as the majority of the commercial radio stations throughout the UK. We have teams of data analysts based in Altringham and London that connect with the stations as their roving "traffic reporters" when they aren't knee deep in traffic analysis!

How techs savvy do you need to be to use the app? Could my dad do it?

Obviously, I haven't met your dad but I know he could, and I'd love him to try! We've created the app with consumers in mind, we do the hard work crunching traffic data then provide users with simple and easy to follow route advice. We're always keen to hear feedback on the app though and over the next couple of months your dad should watch out for some new (and pretty exciting) updates!

You white label the BBC traffic data, tell me more about that?

That's right, our great teams in Altringham, Birmingham and London provide all of the traffic reports for BBC, ITV and the majority of commercial radio stations throughout the UK. Every month we provide 34 days worth of radio, which equates to around 2,123 travel radio reports; 6,136 for Traffic Scotland, 26,048 for BBC and 31, 577 for commercial radio. The next time you hear a radio traffic update, you can bet it's one of our team at their desk dialing into the station!

Desire worked at ITProPortal right at the beginning and was instrumental in turning it into the leading publication we all know and love today. He then moved on to be the Editor of TechRadarPro - a position he still holds - and has recently been reunited with ITProPortal since Future Publishing's acquisition of Net Communities.