An Uber driver can be summoned from Manhattan or Mumbai. But the smart phone app does more than move people around. It also generates a treasure trove of information.
That’s what inspired two teams of Florida International University (FIU) graduate students in the Information Systems program to use the ride sharing app’s data as raw material for their winning entries in the first ATOM Business Analytics Challenge. ATOM, which stands for Analytics, Technology Consulting and Operations Management, is FIU’s first faculty technology consulting service, and the challenge provided an opportunity for students to sharpen their analytic skills in a real-world context.
Team members shared their projects at the FIU booth at eMerge Americas, the showcase for technology and innovation at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
Rippy Koul, a member of the Panther Miners, one of the winning teams, said the experience of attending eMerge and presenting her team’s work to visitors at FIU’s booth was highly rewarding.
“I could see how interested people were in knowing more about analytics and ATOM, and I enjoyed answering their queries,” she said. “In addition, Dean Aldrich introduced us to industry leaders and founders of tech firms, and we had the opportunity to meet President Rosenberg. I’m grateful to FIU for providing me with such a great opportunity.”
For the challenge, students used readily accessible data to create an interactive visual dashboard that addressed customer sentiment about shared economy businesses.
“We are showing that we can provide business insight, even with publicly available information,” said Associate Professor Karlene Cousins, who leads ATOM and directs the Master of Science in Management Information Systems program. Because data from a typical client’s project is confidential, the challenge is one way to demonstrate student skills to the business community.
The contest was a collaboration with the AIS club (Association for Information Systems) and open only to AIS members.
“Having an established student organization has been instrumental in allowing us to capitalize on this type of opportunity to engage our students, in venues that allow them to showcase their analytics skills and competencies dealing with real business issues,” said Gladys Simpson, faculty director of the FIU club chapter and instructor in the Department of Information Systems and Business Analytics.
Two paths into Uber data created.
The winning team of Anurudh Palivela and Vamsi Naga used data from a statistical aggregating site to see whether Uber’s model fit the theory that says establishing a brand and offering lower prices are determining factors in keeping customers.
“We researched the data and proved that Uber is providing a better service at a cheaper price,” said Palivela. This was regardless of the ups and downs of customer ratings.
It was a great experience, he said, to figure out what meaningfully sifted data can illuminate. “I gained a great insight into how data can become knowledge.”
The second project, by Naveen Tootica, Eduardo Almache, Koul and Priyankshu Mukharjee, looked at Uber customer sentiment derived from Twitter, Facebook and online forums. They used statistical analysis to show how Uber’s corrective response to a rapid increase in negative comments – for example, after complaints about surge pricing — are later correlated with an uptick in positive customer comment.
“We found that most people are neutral about Uber, but how people are talking is affecting Uber,” Koul said.
Later this month the winners will have a chance to discuss their work during a lunch with Andrew Smith, director of Finance and Analytics at Royal Caribbean.
AIS Faculty Director Simpson noted that participating in eMerge presented an invaluable opportunity for members. “It was great for our students to take an active role at FIU’s booth, and to interact with so many people in this industry.”