Singapore's Comfort Transport, which with 9,500
vehicles is the world's largest taxi operator, is
now introducing a fully automated,
satellite-based booking and dispatching system
known as Comfort CabLink that redefines the
state of the art for the industry. The new
system also illustrates the high level of
sophistication in telecommunications in
The quickest way to comfort
Based on GPS, Mobitex wireless data communications and innovative order terminals for booking taxis, Comfort CabLink provides the quickest way to comfort.
After a tiring afternoon of shopping you punch in your PIN code at a special terminal conveniently located on your way to the North entrance of the mall. The system immediately recognizes you as a regular customer and knows your location. Using the satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS), the dispatching system locates the nearest taxi and sends your booking via Mobitex directly to the vehicle. As you leave the shopping mall, the taxi is waiting for you at the curb.
Sound like a fantasy? In any other city of more than 2.5 million inhabitants, getting a taxi this easily probably would be a fantasy. But in Singapore, which prides itself on leading-edge telecommunications technology, it is now becoming a reality.
Innovative booking system As reported in the last issue of Mobile Data News, Comfort Taxi recently signed an agreement with Singaporean operator ST Mobile Data to use the Mobitex network for its new booking and dispatching system, for which hardware, software and engineering services are being supplied by CEI Technology Ltd. Since then, Comfort Transport has acquired a 10-percent equity share in ST MobileData, whose owners also include ST Technologies and BellSouth Mobile Data, and announced plans to expand the system from the 500 vehicles included in the first phase to a total of 5.000 vehicles by the end of the year.
Perhaps the most innovative aspect of Comfort CabLink relates to bookings. The system assigns special status to regular customers. The customer database stores information about frequent pick-up points, such as the customer's home address, office, etc. Regular customers are also assigned a PIN (personal identification number) code that enables them to order a taxi to be dispatched to their current location completely automatically.
Dial-up and wireless terminals For shopping centers, hotels and other buildings with high demands for taxis, passengers can press a button on the taxi order terminal to call for a cab. If successful, the passenger will be informed through a LED display panel showing instructions and information. A taxi order slip will be generated, which the customer can match to the arriving taxi. A mobile taxi order terminal is available for temporary installations to serve passengers and customers attending conferences and exhibitions.
Customers may also order taxis via an automatic call handling system. Regular customers will be asked to enter their PIN code and select a pick-up point from the pre-stored list.
Computer-assisted dispatching Regardless of whether the call has been received from a dedicated order terminal or automated call handling, the order is now turned over to the computer-assisted dispatching (CAD) module. It is this module that automatically locates vehicles using the satellite-based GPS system. When the closest vehicle has been located, the order is dispatched over the Mobitex network.
The customer's pick-up point is displayed instantly on a Mobitex terminal in the taxi. If the order is accepted, the driver proceeds to the pick-up point. Otherwise, the order is dispatched to the next-nearest taxi.
Traditional communications methods have not been eliminated entirely in CabLink. There are still human call takers who are able to dispatch vehicles over a com radio voice channel. This outmoded method of communications, however, is inefficient. With CabLink, the need for call takers and dispatchers is greatly reduced, while customers are able to get taxis much more quickly.
Improved service CabLink's fully automated, satellite-based booking and dispatching system is an excellent example of how fully exploiting the latest communications technology can bring efficiency and service to a new level. By automating the entire order process, from the time the customer calls from a taxi to the moment of pick-up, comfort Transport is able to significantly increase efficiency.
The most important benefits, however, are improvements in customer service. Customers are not only able to get a taxi more quickly. They are also able to order a taxi from a greater number of locations, including such temporary locations as exhibitions.
For the harried businessman rushing to his next meeting or for the tired shopper who just wants to get home, the new Mobitex-based system will be a welcome relief.