About Dash Labs, Inc.
Dash is a connected car platform available in the US, Canada, and Europe that enables drivers to connect their vehicles to their smartphones, unlocking enhanced performance, cost savings, and social driving. The Dash hardware plugs into the user’s car or truck and uses Bluetooth technology to measure vehicle performance. By gathering metrics using cellular data and hundreds of sensors in each vehicle, Dash analyzes the data instantaneously so that drivers can get the best performance out of their cars, maximizing fuel efficiency, providing real-time diagnostic information, and connecting users with deals on gas, repairs, and maintenance. Dash works on all car models that were produced after 1996, and runs on iPhone and Android devices. Users can install the hardware themselves, and can connect multiple cars. The Dash app was launched in 2014 and now has over 150,000 users. The company is based in New York.
To create an app that offers real-time information for road safety, Brian Langel, the cofounder of Dash, knew from the outset that the company would need a platform that offered the flexibility to scale and the power and speed to process events almost instantaneously. “We knew that for Dash to be successful, we needed to be able to quickly develop and iterate while keeping startup costs low,” says Langel. “We didn’t want to spend our time setting up instances to do certain things; we needed more flexibility than that. And we knew we would have a lot of data that would change rapidly. For us, it was always going to be the cloud.”
Why Amazon Web Services
The founders went looking for a cloud provider that would enable them to quickly and cost-effectively develop an application that would delight customers. “While we were researching our options, we noticed that Amazon Web Services (AWS) kept adding all these features that we could really use,” Langel says. “In terms of saving costs and enabling flexibility, there really was no competition.”
The company decided to build its application on AWS. “In our opinion, no one else was offering fully hosted solutions with the kind of flexibility on the server application side that AWS offers,” Langel says. “We can run whatever we want to on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), and have confidence that we will be able to provide reliable service to our customers.”
Now the company runs its application entirely on AWS, storing and analyzing billions of events on Amazon DynamoDB and using Amazon Kinesis for real-time processing of events. Amazon ElastiCache for Memcached is used for in-memory caching, and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is used to store images.
Dash saves its customers money by providing information about their car’s performance and safety and letting them know where they can save money on gas or services, given their current location. This can only happen with real-time data. This requires Dash to collect the current diagnostics and location data from the vehicles and immediately match it to GIS, marketing and contextual data, then refresh it 4 times per minute.
This kind of driver awareness and enrichment demands real-time streaming data, so Dash uses Amazon Kinesis to collect vehicle and location data every 1-4 seconds from each car, ingesting a total of over 1 TB of data per day from thousands of individual vehicles. Dash monitors around 30 unique data points in the vehicles to trigger offers and alerts, chart trends, and measure performance. The data that is continuously put into Amazon Kinesis is processed and organized as shards that are partitioned by key variables (partition keys), which are then streamed to multiple AWS services for analysis, visualization, enrichment and storage.
Dash runs its application server code on Amazon EC2, as well as hosting its marketing site and its staging environment. Elastic Load Balancing helps balance the traffic to its website, Amazon Route 53 handles the company’s Domain Name Service and Amazon CloudWatch is used to monitor the health of Dash’s system.
Using AWS has helped Dash get up and running quickly. “Using AWS let us get our app out to customers quickly, without having to spend the time or resources to set up a data center,” he says. “And AWS does a great job of innovating—constantly putting out new features, adding services, and reducing prices. Because of that, we’ve been able to quickly innovate ourselves and rapidly iterate our own product. Doing this on traditional hardware-based data centers would have been simply impossible with the capital we have on hand.”
By using Amazon Kinesis, a fully managed service, Dash reduced the complexities of implementing and scaling a real-time data infrastructure, as well as shortening development time by allowing the company’s programmers to focus on building the application. “A developer can spend less time setting up the system and more time on our app’s core competencies,” Langel says. “So we’re spending time improving the things that directly affect our users, which is worth its weight in gold.”
Langel also cited the AWS community as a benefit. With organizations from start-ups to governments and enterprises using AWS, there is no shortage of community knowledge about how to tackle business challenges. “AWS customers share the best practices they’ve discovered, as well as libraries they’ve written to interact with AWS services—so you’re not reinventing the wheel. The AWS community is a very valuable resource for Dash.”
“The company’s experience with AWS has been a positive one” Langel says, adding, “As a startup, using AWS has allowed us to scale nicely and use resources without spending a lot of capital.”