A bit ago I was cruising the Hacker News site and there was a posting about one of the YCombinator alumni companies called FlightCaster. The company and the technology behind it really sparked my interest so I decided to read more. FlightCaster is a company which tries to predict in advance flight delays that may occur on a given flight. By giving you advanced warning of an impending delay, you can reschedule your flight before the masses crowd the counter when the airline officially announces the delay. They do this by scanning the available FAA data, weather reports, and using statistical analysis. The technology they use to accomplish this (Clojure and Ruby on Rails) and their approach is extremely interesting.
You can read 2 great articles about the company and their technology here:
Clojure and Rails – the Secret Sauce Behind FlightCaster
Building FlightCaster’s Frontends for the Web and Smartphones
Their application is available as an iPhone or Blackberry app. Since I was to be traveling to Denver shortly after originally reading about this company, I decided to make my first app purchase for the iPhone (9 months of iPhone ownership and I still had only used free apps) for a whopping $4.99 (the price is now down to $1.99).
The app itself was simple and visually very appealing. As I went to enter my flights, I discovered that you can’t enter your flights until around 24 hours prior to takeoff. This is probably a limitation on the airline data available to FlightCaster so this was not much of a bother. On my flights out to Denver the weather was great and there was no prediction of delay. Sure enough none of my flight had issues.
Unfortunately on the way back home the application wasn’t able to find either of my 2 flights. They were small regional flights, but it was still a bit disappointing to not be able to use the app on the trip back home. That aside, I would still recommend this app to any traveler.
I’m definitely not a road-warrior so this was the only time so far I have tried out the application. Since my flights had no problems I can’t really say whether the app works as they say, but given the comments and reviews it sounds like it does (it did predict my experience on the way out correctly). If you travel much you really should check out this app. Especially with the lower $1.99 price, this should be a no-brainer for frequent travelers. And if you are a technology person, you should really read about how the company approaches and solves the problems of predicting the unpredictable. It is very interesting stuff.