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Addison Lee readies open API for global car bookings

Addison Lee has laid the foundations for global expansion by offering an open API and cloud-based service

Minicab company Addison Lee is widening its partner programme to cab operators outside of London and overseas by offering an open application programming interface (API) as part of its Addison Lee Affiliate initiative, set to launch in July 2015.

While the firm has previously offered a platform called Shamrock to some minicab operators, the open API release is aimed at making it easier for partners – including airline and hotel aggregators, global distribution systems, airlines, rail companies, travel agents, corporations and startups – to connect to Addison Lee’s data and services. This will allow those partners to develop their own applications and websites that offer Addison Lee ground transportation to their customers.

According to Addison Lee chief technology officer Peter Ingram, the company hopes by offering an open API, which provides integration with back-end systems, business logic and the user interface, partner organisations will be able to use Addison Lee’s digital platform to provide a taxi booking service to travellers. If successful, he said, it could extend to corporates, hotel and flight bookings, train companies, airlines, airport transfers, and meet-and-greet services.

"We have business and consumer clients who travel," said Ingram. "The challenge is for them is to receive the same level of customer service."

API drives business development

The open API builds on a recent global contract with a corporate, where Addison Lee was selected as the minicab provider. While it does not operate cars in New York, Ingram said it was possible to offer the client the same level of service across London and New York. This has now been expanded to a service available to business partners.

"In New York we can serve the same booking service as in London," said Ingram. "We can now do this in other cities and we don’t need wheels on the ground."

Moreover, partners do not need to run Addison Lee’s Shamrock platform, which enabled Addison Lee to offer affiliates the same software as it used itelf to manage their car bookings. 

The open API, managed through MuleSoft‘s Anypoint platform is more scalable. It enables Addison Lee to connect its mobile application users with a handpicked network of international fleet operators. This will ensure that customers experience the same high levels of service associated with the company in the UK at a global level. 

"We want to provide the technology as a worldwide standard. Minicab operators won’t need Shamrock," Ingram said.

Read more about API management

The application is being rolled out in New York and Paris, and the company plans to expand this to another 20 major cities.

According to Ingram, Addison Lee is currently partnering with six large organisations to provide the open API as part of their services. From a business perspective, the API is far removed from providing a tailored cab service to Londoners. "We take a small transaction fee. If you get volume it’s a very attractive proposition," he said.

From a partner perspective, the open API means they have to spend less time on software development, added Ingram. As an example, he said: "If the partner can’t send a text message, we’ll do it on their behalf."

In a recent Computer Weekly interview, Ingram said that in the past everything was bespoke, but now software development has effectively become another business process that keeps Addison Lee running.

He added that the company has provided integration with SAP and other customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and it is now looking at offering a Salesforce.com application for Salesforce users.

A survey by Oxford Economics recently showed that 43% of executives believe that becoming a software-driven enterprise is a critical driver of competitive advantage today, rising to 78% in three years. The open API is the next step in Addison Lee's digitisation journey. 

While Shamrock was one of the ways it used software to expand the business in the past, the open API appears to be the firm's answer to the threat of competitor Uber.

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