The Gig Economy Drives Global Real-Time Data Movement

Dec. 12, 2019
Emerging “gig economy” workforce platforms require the rapid movement of data across the globe, as databases keep track of a growing universe of devices, workers and locations.

The economy is shifting to real-time operations, as software and logistics combine to transform industries like ride-sharing, food delivery and retail.

This gig economy empowers people from all over the world to earn money by providing lifts, walking dogs, cleaning houses and more. They don’t have to head to the office or abide by strict hours. Instead, they choose when and where they want to work.

How is this system possible? Apps. People can log into platforms, look for time- and location-based work and accept tasks.

Uber is an excellent example. Anyone can become a driver, as long as they have a clean record and a suitable vehicle. Once verified, they can log into the app when they feel like and look for nearby jobs. Other top platforms include Lyft, DoorDash, Deliveroo and Postmates.

These new platforms require the rapid movement of data across the globe, as databases keep track of a growing universe of devices, workers and locations. Behind each of these apps and services is a data center.

Gig Economy Apps Deliver Real-Time Results

Minute-by-minute results are essential for many gig economy apps. Whether a person orders food, hires a mover or books a ride home, they can watch the progress in real-time.

Companies need an accurate picture of demand levels, along with the available workers in a given area. Some brands, like DoorDash, give people an estimated window in which they’ll receive their food.

Ride apps, including Uber and Lyft, use a surge-pricing algorithm, that sets rates moment-by-moment. The fees vary based on the number of people trying to ride at the time. Users can choose to pay a higher price or wait for rates to fall with demand. Neither drivers nor riders can see the fare offered to others, which makes some insist it’s an unfair system.

Fairness aside, the delivery of immediate information based on fluctuating conditions could not happen without data centers. It’s not surprising, then, that Uber seeks to expand its data capacity and geographic footprint. Doing so is crucial to the brand’s move into other markets.

Data Analysis Replaces Traditional Performance Reviews

Traditionally, people receive feedback at work from a superior, comments that come up in an annual performance review. The gig economy is different because it encourages people to leave reviews for employees. In some cases, workers can rate the customers they assist.

This new system requires data centers and analysis tools to process all the relevant information and crunch the numbers. Bias and discrimination can taint the results, but low overall rankings may get a worker or customer kicked off a platform.

Data centers hold the information executives need to enforce decisions about someone’s ability to use a particular platform. For example, a gig worker must maintain quality or productivity levels to stay in good standing. If they fall below the ideal numbers, they might go on probation. If a customer gets flagged for verbal abuse, on the other hand, they may get banned from the app.

Data centers allow companies to set parameters and check the statistics to see which people fall within.

Data Centers Shape the Gig Economy Workflow

It’s no exaggeration to say a gig worker’s ability to earn income — at least from a particular source — halts if an app goes down. Deliveroo, a food delivery service in Ireland, has an algorithm that monitors the tasks a worker completes during a shift. Workers receive assessments that take numerous things into account, such as the amount of time required to travel to a restaurant or person’s house.

At Deliveroo and other companies, workers have less than a minute to accept available tasks. They often don’t know where they’ll need to go until after they agree. Data centers are essential for helping gig economy workers access jobs and streamline specifics.

Similarly, data centers assist people in finding work. According to one study, more than 38% of non-seasonal gig workers use digital marketplaces to find jobs. Data centers are crucial for keeping these sites functional and stable. Gig workers and the people who hire them may soon use big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to find relevant matches, which would make data centers even more necessary.

Data Centers Assure Always-On Service

The gig economy suits the everyday consumer’s desire to get things now, not later. As an example, Postmates is a delivery service for food, drinks and groceries. They operate 24/7, though individual merchants can choose their business hours. Some of their competitors include UberEats and DoorDash.

Beyond allowing people to buy things, the gig economy brings services to their doorsteps. If someone has a regular house cleaner who canceled an appointment last-minute, they can use a website or app to find a suitable replacement.

One of the reasons people support this type of economy whole-heartedly is the love of immediate delivery. They can even check the progress of their orders by logging into the app and watching the map widget. If they have questions or concerns, customers don’t have to waste time picking up the phone. Instead, they can take control of the situation themselves.

The Internet makes all of these things possible. If data centers experience problems regularly, the convenience and accessibility people expect would be compromised.

The Gig Economy — A New Landscape Enabled By Data Centers

Some aspects of the gig economy are uncertain. For example, legislators in several states want to mandate more rights for workers, like sick pay and higher rates for clocking in on holidays. Current media coverage tends to describe gig workers as modern-day slaves.

One thing, however, is known about the gig economy — data centers will continue to power it. Without data centers as foundational components, the apps workers and customers around the world daily would not be accessible or functional.

About the Author

Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a tech journalist and blogger, whose work has appeared on websites such as VentureBeat, MakeUseOf, VICE’s Motherboard, Gear Diary,, The Huffington Post, CloudTweaks, and others. Drawing from her interests in technology and its applications to daily life, Matthews writes about the intersection of technology and productivity.

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