Disrupted Cities – how Uber plans to integrate itself into everything

It’s that API thing again. . .

iDisrupted Commentary

Everyone I know in London loves Uber, apart from drivers of black cabs. They love its simplicity, ease of use and the convenience of not having to pay the driver directly. We already know that Uber has big plans to become the transport medium for every major city on the planet. Transporting people, food, parcels and even flu vaccinations.
Uber APINow it has a plan to integrate with lots of other activities. Imagine booking a table at a restaurant using Open table – Uber is integrated into the booking and you can automatically book a ride to and from the restaurant. Imagine if Uber was integrated into your Google calendar – automatically booking rides to and from meetings. Imagine Uber integrated into your company’s expense management systems. The possibilities are exciting.
Here’s an excellent review from Venturebeat: Uber is in the market of helping you get from point A to point B, regardless of whether you’re using its app. That’s the main benefit of its rides-based API that was released in March, and so far, it seems to be meeting the company’s expectations. The company has not only been participating in hackathons, it has also been hosting them, encouraging developers to build what it calls “moving experiences.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmTPmM21YZ8

Simply providing a service that transports people around isn’t enough for a company of Uber’s scale and appetite. It also wants to become a logistics platform, along the lines of Box and Slack. By having an API, Uber can further differentiate itself from its nearest competitor, Lyft, which doesn’t currently have an open feed. This tool will give Uber the ability to reach beyond its own app and provide transportation support to developers.

So what’s next for Uber? VentureBeat spoke with Chris Saad, the company’s head of product for its developer platform, to find out how far along the API is and learn more about the vision behind it.

Just how is the on-demand car service helping fill a so-called “intent to ride” void within third-party apps?

The Uber vision

“It’s about closing the gap from where your users are and where you want them to be,” Saad said in the interview. “It’s about building moving experiences getting you around. This has been a core idea that has been iterated on for the past six months. If you’re a user that needs to be somewhere else, the physical distance from where you are needs to be vacuumed out. Making the user’s life as easy as possible by closing the gap has been a key thing the API has been doing in the last six months.”

Although Saad mentioned that the API has been around for six months, he’s only referring to its public availability. In 2014, Uber began exploring opportunities to make its on-demand car service available through more apps. The company started with 11 launch partners, including TripAdvisor, OpenTable, Starbucks, and United Airlines. These were mostly strategic partnerships, similar to the move the company made with Google Maps. Since Saad came on board in April, his focus has been on making sure that the ride API is suitable for a developer working out of their dorm room, using it at a hackathon, or incorporating it into their startup product.

So far, Uber said it has developers in the “high thousands” building apps powered by its API. We inquired about specific numbers, but Saad declined to comment, beyond saying the total was less than 10,000. “This has been year one and only just the beginning,” he remarked.

Above: Screenshot of apps that are using Uber’s API.

Some of the earliest integrations include Rally, an app that lets you organize events with your friends; Teleport, which lets you summon an Uber and have it sent to your friend’s location; enterprise messaging service Hipchat, which allows people to request an Uber from within a chat room; Slack; and Facebook Messenger.

Once a company has developed an API, the hardest thing to figure out is often how to boost adoption. It can be difficult to integrate with the new API, and difficult to make the public aware that it exists. For the former issue, Uber offers an SDK and has also recently launched a Ride Request button that developers can quickly add into their apps. As for the latter, the company has shifted away from providing credits as an incentive to use its service. Instead, third-party developers are paid in cash for every new user that signs up for an Uber account, something that Saad orchestrated when he joined the company.

In 2016, Uber said it’ll be focusing on adding more improvements to its API, with updates coming early in the year. Saad declined to provide specifics, saying only that it would involve features that go beyond the “intent to ride” theme the company has already established. Additionally, his team will work on improving the app discovery process, while also doing more in growing markets like China and India. More from Venturebeat….

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