The Global Innovation Series is supported by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles — it delivers smart mobility services. Visit bmw-i.com or follow @BMWi on Twitter.
If modern technology is a universal language, the world is getting schooled in innovation, especially in the public transportation sector.
The global transportation industry has become a testing ground for new payment systems, as cutting-edge technologies have been introduced to taxis, buses and trains worldwide to streamline your jaunts around town. From reserving and paying for a cab with an app to purchasing train tickets via an iPod, various countries are experimenting with new ways to reach out to travelers and make payment and transport a whole lot easier.
Israel is already making an impact on the mobile payment industry with an app called Get Taxi, which coordinates cab pickups and payments. Without making a phone call, Get Taxi — which is available for Android, BlackBerryand iPhone devices — allows consumers to get a taxi at the click of a button in less than 30 seconds, as though it were an OpenTable reservation.
Once ordered, users can watch and track the reserved taxi on a smartphone’s map as it comes to pick them up — Get Taxi estimates the time of arrival and displays motion in real time. Much like airline travel, passengers can collect miles for free rides or prizes, and payment can be streamlined by saving your credit card information in the app.
The app has been hailed by Time Out Tel Aviv as app of the year, and the host of popular show Big Brother, Israel Assi Azar, tweeted on Friday that after several failed attempts to hail a taxi, he ordered one through the app that showed up just minutes later.
“We’ve had hundreds of thousands of downloads since the app launched, and the news of the service has gone viral,” says Nimrod May, vice president of offline marketing and strategic partnerships for Get Taxi. “Since you get the driver’s contact information ahead of time, parents feel safe sending their kids in Get Taxi cabs, and passengers also feel less frustrated when waiting for it to arrive since they can see where exactly the taxi is headed from.”
Get Taxi’s innovative concept also benefits the driver, bypassing the need for a dispatcher and welcoming cash, credit cards and business accounts for payment. Drivers are also assigned pick-ups close to their last drop location, so they don’t have to waste time or gas getting to their next location. A five-inch device — which is free for drivers and resembles a GPS system — can be installed in taxis to keep track of the latest reservation requests.
“A main component of the success is that the app is simple, it allows users to get full control over something they didn’t have control over before, and that the experience is optimized and seamless,” May says. “We couldn’t be happier with the results so far.”
Founded in 2010, Get Taxi seeks to reinvent the taxi market in Europe, which is valued at about $22 billion, according to the company. In addition to having a presence in Israel, the app is also available in London. Get Taxi plans to roll out the app in Moscow in March and then has its sights set on Paris, Spain, South Africa and eventually the U.S.
To spread more global awareness, Get Taxi is launching a Guinness Book of World Records initiative called “It’s on the Meter,” which will follow a taxi as it travels three continents, 39 countries, 10 time zones and more than 31,000 miles. Right now, the taxi is in San Francisco and will be headed to New York before it takes a ferry to Europe, Russia and then Sydney, Australia.
“We have already tremendously and positively disrupted an industry that wasn’t being tapped with cutting-edge technology,” May tells Mashable. “We think in the next five years that businesses will either have to keep up with the innovation or cease to exist.”
VeriFone Payment Terminals
In addition to being an early adopter to the GetTaxi app, London is no stranger to being at the forefront of other emerging technologies. In fact, taxi drivers in London were incentivized last year with nearly $5,000 to trade in their old models for newer vehicles that are more eco-friendly and boast state-of-the-art technology, such as back-seat TV sets and mobile payment machines powered by San Jose-based VeriFone that let you swipe or tap credit cards.
VeriFone is one of the most innovative mobile payment providers currently testing the waters with new technologies worldwide. Beyond its experimentation in London, the company recently deployed validator technology on bus systems in Turkey, allowing travelers to tap a pre-paid contractless card, issued by the country’s transportation authority to make jumping on board buses easier and more efficient. VeriFone is also using GPS-tracking on buses, so people waiting at a bus stop know in real-time how soon a bus will arrive.
“The buses in Turkey are equipped with GPS tracking and are constantly reporting their location to Verifone’s system in the cloud,” says VeriFone’s senior vice president of marketing, Paul Rasori. “VeriFone then sends messaging to signage at various bus stops to inform travelers that their ride is only four minutes or so away.”
High-Tech Subway Payment
Taxis and buses aren’t the only modes of transportation getting a taste of new tech. Austrian railway WESTbahn recently rolled out new payment technology onboard its trains with the help of the Apple products and mobile technology provided by VeriFone.
“There is a general trend in mobility with companies taking advantage of consumer mobile devices, such as iPhones, iPads and iPods,” Rasori says. “Customer service representatives on WESTbahn trains carry iPods that fit into a cradle to enable easy payments. It takes the customer service windows away, and it also allows people with near field communication-enabled (NFC) mobile phones to tap their devices to make a payment.”
Wireless carrier China Telecom Beijing Limited Company is also testing a new way to pay for its bus and subway systems with its “e-Surfing Traffic Card” program. The service incorporates a radio frequency user identifier module (UIM) card that integrates with China Telecom’s 3G mobile network and Beijing’s transport cards. To pay for a ride, users just need to swipe their mobile phones at designated spots. It can also be used to pay for products at participating merchants.
“Mobile payments technology has made advancements in the past few years across the globe, and it’s only expected to grow,” Rasori says. “What’s happening overseas will eventually come to the U.S. and in some cases, it’s already started.”
Rasori notes that just five years ago, New York City taxi cabs were cash only. Now with the incorporation of credit card systems attached to TV systems, 60% of fares are now electronic, and there could be more innovation on the way.
“In the future, you will even be able to buy lottery tickets from the back seat of a taxi,” Rasori says. “The capability exists and so does consumer interest, so it’s only a matter of time before we see more innovative technology in the public transportation industry.”
Series Supported by BMW i
The Global Innovation Series is supported by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles; it delivers smart mobility services within and beyond the car. Visit bmw-i.com or follow @BMWi on Twitter.
Are you an innovative entrepreneur? Submit your pitch to BMW i Ventures, a mobility and tech venture capital company.
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