Beryl: Transforming congested cities with cleaner, greener transport

When Beryl co-founder, Emily Brooke, started selling her innovative Blaze bike lights to cycle hire schemes in London, New York, and Montreal in 2012, she had little idea her company would transform into a data-driven micromobility firm called Beryl. Ten years later, more than 300,000 people now travel sustainably using Beryl bike, e-bike, e-cargobike and e-scooter hire schemes across the UK.

  • 11 months ago Posted in

The Beryl team prides itself on the positive changes it can create for individuals, communities, and the environment. Encouraging people to switch to sustainable transport helps reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions while improving people’s mental and physical health. Using Beryl vehicles for short trips can also be cheaper and faster than other forms of transport, removing the costs associated with fuel, storage, maintenance, tax, MOT and insurance. 

Service reliability is a key feature when trying to encourage people to switch to a more sustainable form of transport. For Beryl this is in the form of a powerful, glitch-free customer-facing app, as well as fully functioning bikes and e-scooters in the right places, and at the right times, to meet customer demand. A tech stack built from scratch on Google Cloud has helped to ensure an optimal customer experience.

 

Sacha Manson-Smith, Chief Technology Officer, Beryl, attributes the company’s success to its home-grown IT ecosystem, which gives Beryl the freedom to innovate and adapt its offering to each of the cities it serves. 

 

Building from the ground up

 

“As soon as we decided to focus on micromobility, we planned the capabilities we would need, such as the systems and architecture of our technology stack. And our blueprint has remained largely unchanged, we continue to build products and services on a solid, reliable Google Cloud foundation,” says Manson-Smith.

 

The automatic scalability of Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) enabled Beryl to enjoy rapid horizontal growth, effortlessly adding more bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters to an increasing number of schemes across the UK. Micromobility is a highly time-sensitive business, with customer activity spiking at peak periods of the day, as well as during warm spring and summer days.

 

GKE enables Beryl to seamlessly expand and contract its microservices according to customer demand, with compute and storage power on tap when required. During quiet periods, servers can be switched off, reducing expenditure, energy use, and environmental impact. 

Ensuring reliable bike and e-scooter hire

 

GKE also keeps systems downtime to an absolute minimum, thanks to the way it can instantly spin up replica microservices in the event of a systems issue. “The upshot is that GKE is a super-stable cloud platform,” says Manson-Smith. “If you’re going to include bike hire as part of your daily commute, the system needs to be reliable. Our annual systems availability is running at 99.97%, with only a few hours of downtime during the past year. Instead of fixing IT we can focus on adding real business value, building new features for customers, improving operational efficiency, and helping to scale the business.”

 

Customer-centricity, driven by powerful data insight, is another key ingredient to Beryl’s growth. Docking stations, vehicles, users, logistics teams and maintenance crews all generate valuable data, which if managed and analysed correctly, hold the key to continuous service improvement. Beryl manages its data using BigQuery, a serverless data warehouse which enables scalable analysis of petabytes of data. BigQuery also has machine learning (ML) built in. 

 

Manson-Smith offers a prime example of how BigQuery can elevate real-world customer experience: “For instance, BigQuery can help you identify customer onboarding issues. Prospects may be dropping out at the credit card entry point, so you may decide to prioritise Google Pay instead.”

 

Getting the best information from data

 

When the Beryl team wants to take a deeper data dive, they use Looker, a data analytics tool that enables companies to visualise, explore, and share data. The system can generate a regular report revealing customer demand hot spots, as well as areas where there is a low service uptake. Extra resources can then be allocated in the hot spots, while the company may decide to ramp up marketing, promotions and engagement in areas of low adoption.

“We didn’t appreciate how interested stakeholders would be interrogating our data,” says Manson-Smith. “There was a real thirst for knowledge. We had to pause using SQL queries internally and get everyone using Looker instead.”

 

Manson-Smith’s team also uses Cloud IoT Core to connect the firm’s IoT devices and a suite of Google cybersecurity solutions, including Google Cloud Armor, Security Command Center and Cloud IDS (Intrusion Detection System). It also uses a wide range of developer tools including Artifact Registry for maintaining images of code and Pub/Sub for internal messaging.

Building better communities

So, what’s next for Beryl? Manson-Smith reveals the company plans lots more horizontal growth in the months ahead. That means more strategic partnerships with communities, more bikes and e-scooters, and more sustainable, customer-centric services. 

 

During 2023 the firm plans to increase adoption among customers who don’t have smartphone access. Manson-Smith’s team is developing a service enabling customers to unlock vehicles by sending an SMS text message. And thanks to Google Cloud Carbon Footprint, the Beryl team can calculate and manage the CO2 emissions associated with this innovation and others as its cloud usage grows, which is vital for a company with sustainability at its heart.

 


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