Wini Cabs to reshape global taxi business with smartphone and eCall technology

5 Jul 2012

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An Irish start-up is about to transform the taxi industry as we know it with an innovative technology that combines voice calls with GPS and new billing technologies to ensure greater accuracy, safety and efficiency. So far, more than 1,000 taxi drivers have signed up to use the system and more than 400 cars have been provisioned with the technology.

Wini Cabs, the brainchild of Paul O’Loughlin Kennedy and his father more than a decade ago, effectively uses eCall technology mandated by the EU to allow users to simply make a call on their smartphones or via an app and the nearest taxi driver will go directly to their location.

In addition, forthcoming direct-to-bill technology about to be adopted by mobile operators across the world will mean that punters at the end of a long night won’t have to go looking for cash as the fare will be added to their mobile bills or their credit cards.

In terms of safety, the unique identification capabilities of the technology ensure traceability.

O’Loughlin Kennedy told Siliconrepublic.com that the technology has so far been signed up for by some 1,100 drivers. Some 400 have been kitted out with special transceivers that connect to their metres and by the end of September more than 900 drivers will be kitted out with the technology.

The technology is also being tested by the Dubai Taxi Corporation.

A new model for the taxi business

“This is a different model to the traditional dispatch,” he explained. “What we do is derive a fee from the job. In the past, drivers had to sign up to a firm that would charge them €60 to €100 per week, regardless of whether they are working or not.

“What we do is install our technology into their cars, install the right software on their phones.”

O’Loughlin Kennedy said he believes this is a solution that drivers in Irish towns and cities have been waiting for. And it’s a boon for punters, too.

“What this does is it gets over the age-old problem of drivers taking a job and then leaving customers waiting half an hour while they finish an existing job.

wini shield

“This technology works on the basis that it uses GPS to only transfer a call from punts to a driver who is available and nearest to them.”

He explained that the technology currently works on drivers’ iPhone devices and that an Android version of the software is currently being rolled out.

As well as the voice-based phone service, he said an app for smartphones will also be launched shortly.

Harbinger of an eCall revolution

He said the direct-to-bill element of the service is a technology that has been within the power of operators to implement for some time now.

In terms of the billing system, Wini Cabs has worked with Belfast-based Aepona to develop a system that works smoothly with the Universal Services Platform and technologies approved by the GSM Association. He presented on the technology at the recent GSM Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

He explained that the location-feed that is activated via voice calls is currently activated by Vodafone and that O2, Meteor and 3 are expected to switch on the location feed in the near future. Mobile users on the latter services will be able to download an app that identifies their location.

“In terms of the eCall system, we get the location automatically from the Emergency Call Answering patch which passes the location of the phone call.

“Another element will be the safety and security aspect. Users can set up an account that requires a unique PIN for a journey that approves their credit or debit card. Each time someone takes a journey – be it themselves, their spouse or another member of their family – on a particular account the account holder receives a security text saying who is driving, their licence and registration number and the payment goes onto their credit or debit bill,” O’Loughlin Kennedy explained.

City blur image via Shutterstock

Below: An infographic outlining how the Wini Cabs system works

wini infograph

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com