Frustrated with the trains always running late? Don't trust unlicensed minicab companies? The answer may just be a click away for Londoners with Internet access.
Account customers of London-based licensed black cab company Radio Taxis will shortly be able to book taxis online through the company's redesigned Web site.
The new service is to go live next month. It is a Web-enabled version of the company's existing booking system, which improves pick-up times by using a global positioning service (GPS) to pinpoint which of its 2,500 taxis is nearest to the customer's location.
Radio Taxis had already equipped its cabs with in-car technology designed to provide a streamlined booking and dispatch system. When an operator logs a person's details into the central computer, a search is activated to determine which taxi is best suited to the call. The booking details are then securely transmitted via data transfer to the driver's on-board terminal. The company claims that the mobile data unit on board each cab "has a computing power greater than that carried by Apollo 13". Its customers will hope the cabs are more reliable than the US rocket!
The next step was to make booking facilities and account management available through the Internet. E-business provider e-Net Software supplied the rapid application development capabilities to design the business intelligence application linking the new interface with the back-end Oracle database. Final integration will be conducted by Radio Taxis in-house.
E-Net Software also provided the Java programming capabilities for Radio Taxis' forthcoming Wap-based booking facility. This facility will enable people to order a taxi instantaneously using mobile phones, personal digital assistants or other Wap-enabled devices. The Wap interface has already been developed and is to be started shortly during phase two of the project.
"There's been a lot of hype in recent years about front-end functionality. But all too often, the user's experience is disappointing because of a lack of insight and investment into getting different parts of a system to interact effectively with each other," says Steve McAuliffe, managing director of e-Net Software.
"Companies are finally beginning to grasp the importance of robust inter-networking and infrastructure and Radio Taxis are at the forefront of this awakening," McAuliffe adds.