March 19, 2003
Location-aware mobile services: Zingo Taxis

I took a black cab home last night and it had cards advertising a new location-aware service for mobile phone users: Zingo Taxis. Basically you call this number, and through the Micracles of Modern Technology (tm) you're connected to the nearest "Zingo"-aware cabbie, with whom you can arrange immediate pickup. If he doesn't show up within a few minutes, you can call back and you're given the option of either talking to the same cabbie you just spoke to or calling a new one:

Zingo locates the position of both taxi and passenger by bringing together mobile phone operators' location-based services technology (LBS); global positioning systems (GPS) already used in thousands of licensed London taxis; and the company's interactive response system (IVR) over a Mobile Virtual Private Network (MVPN).

With the information gathered in this way the caller can be connected to the nearest taxi driver with the minimum delay.

Very cool. According to this article (via Google) it's actually brand new service being soft launched these days.

London is really impressingly far ahead on this. Not only do they have Zingo; TimeOut magazine also has a Location-aware SMS service that returns restaurant information for places near you.

I've registered for both and have already used the Timeout service a few times, and will use Zingo soon, I'm sure!

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Sorry, I don't get it. The difference is that normally I'm connected to a taxi central who then give the info to cab drivers? Ok, cool, you can hook up the closest cab. What if he's busy? Are there any rules for what will happen? I'm not trying to be negative just to be negative (ok, maybe a bit ;) but I don't see the coolness of this one.

Posted by: Agnar Ødegård on March 20, 2003 02:25 AM

Both Zingo and Timeout's SMS service are novel and incredibly cool because they are the next generation of mobile servivces:
- dynamically not only identifying where the requestor is, but also in Zingo's case
- dynamically identifying where the service provider is.

These concepts will revolutionize access to physical services and information: imagine calling 0800something to get instructions how to walk or drive to the nearest cinema/supermarket/postoffice/hospital? Tracking where you are through the GSM network and hooking you up with a mapping application similar to the one GPS navigators in cars use; this is entirely possible (wow I'm writing a business plan for a startup here!)

Oh btw for Zingo: you're of course connected to the nearest AVAILABLE driver...

Posted by: Anders Jacobsen on March 20, 2003 11:12 AM

In fact, Oslo Taxi has used a system like Zingo for quite some time. What's more: the Norwegian mobile company Netcom has had the "Find" service for about two years now. Send "Find spise to 1989 in Oslo, Bergen or Stavanger, and you'll receive a recommendation for a restaurant near you, along with a phone number to call.

Your startup business plan is brilliant, Anders. It is so brilliant that it has been the subject of research for years now. I know some of the people who've worked with interactive maps, GPS and information delivery for TeleNor, for instance. Believe me, the big mobile companies and telcos are ready for action when enough people have smartphones with integrated GPS. There might still be room for startups, tho'. ;-)

Posted by: Eirik on March 20, 2003 02:07 PM


The future's so bright, I've got to wear shades ;-)

Posted by: Anders Jacobsen on March 20, 2003 02:42 PM

First, I'm the most optimistic person you ever met.
Second, I can't see this happen :D I mean, who will use this service? (that is, using your mobile to find restaurants, hospitals or whatever). I can see the use of finding a hospital if you're away from your hometown and you're in trouble but supermarkets? Restaurants? Think about who's using mobiles...why are SMS so popular? It's because of all the teenagers. Are they "aber plötslich" going to dine at restaurants? I don't see that happening. I think these businesses are not seeing the absent connection between what this services offer and who are using mobile phones. (Yes you have the odd mom&pop around but still). Am I being overly pesimistic now?

Posted by: Agnar Ødegård on March 21, 2003 06:44 PM

I know you're a techno-optimist too, Agnar, don't worry :-)

I think the realistic middle ground is somewhere between our two viewpoints. Mine's marked by often finding myself in new places, and then the TimeOut restaurant guide seems like a brilliant idea to me (I like Japanese food; I'm in a new part of London --> Help is an SMS away...) :-)

The suggestions I make aren't the only possibilities though; locating your kids, friends, grandparents, the next bus you're waiting for -- location awareness opens up for a whole load of interesting possibilities...

Posted by: Anders Jacobsen on March 24, 2003 12:08 PM

Can't see me using the restaurant type service too often, but Zingo sounds great. When I worked in London, I often had to get a cab home late at night, and wandering the streets of London trying to find a black cab can be tricky. Being able to stay indoors, somewhere safe, and call from there is very useful.

Posted by: Jane on May 22, 2003 03:08 PM
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TrackBack URL for this entry: Cute Cab Trick (March 20, 2003 04:19 PM)
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