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CMU Portugal Startup Geolink Partners with Portugal Telecom for New Taxi App

CMU Portugal Startup Geolink Partners with Portugal Telecom for New Taxi App

The Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program startup Geolink, recently launched an innovative application that enables passengers to book a taxi using a smartphone, in partnership with Portugal Telecom (PT). Michel Ferreira, faculty member at Faculdade de Ciências of the Universidade do Porto (FCUP) and co-founder of this startup, which focuses on the management of geospatial information, believes that the technology “can make taxi rides much more efficient, cheaper and comfortable, leading to a substantial increase in the usage of these vehicles.” The service is available to Android and iOS Portuguese users for free.

This new app provides greater convenience, control and speed in calling a taxi. Michel Ferreira highlights the “overall taxi efficiency, starting with the absence of initial investment, increased revenue from additional taxi requests coming through the fast-growing market of passengers owning smartphones and tablets, or the reduced costs enabled by informed navigation and a taxi stand recommendation system”.

When submitted, the taxi booking will be forwarded via mobile application to cab drivers, who can see the location of the passenger from the self-reported GPS position. Once the request is accepted, the passenger will be notified and will be able to monitor the car’s progress along its route on a map, as well as see the estimated time of arrival.

The system uses new networking paradigms such as vehicular ad hoc networking, and eliminates the noise of a radio-based taxi dispatching system. “A smartphone-equipped taxi driver, who quietly receives a service request, using the self-reported GPS location emitted by the smartphone, is automatically navigated by a turn by turn application to pick up the passenger,” explained Michel Ferreira.

The service is also customizable, enabling users to define the taxi characteristics that they wish (the number of seats, the payment method, or the default radio station they want to listen to uring the trip, among others).

Just like the passengers, companies can also have the service for free, with no need to invest in equipment, according to PT. The Portuguese company has developed the application in partnership with Geolink.

GeoLink was involved in the CMU Portugal Program through a participation in the DRIVE‐IN (Distributed Routing and Infotainment through Vehicular Inter‐Networking) research project, which equipped 500 taxi cabs in the city of Porto with a vehicle-to-vehicle network, and had a particular influence on this app. “The CMU Portugal Program, and the DRIVE-IN project, of which I was Principal Investigator, and in which Geolink was involved, have been important enablers for technological innovations in this context,” stated Michel Ferreira.

Taxi link

The PT-Geolink partnership will evolve and is expected to result in new services and features coming out over the coming months. PT is a major player in connectivity and georeferencing through mobile networking, and therefore, for Michel Ferreira, the partnership is a “very important step for a start-up company such as Geolink”, enabling a “shared vision in understanding and designing new business models that take advantage of this new mobile paradigm.” Furthermore, the role of PT as a testbed for novel technologies and business models could represent a very important advantage for future access to large markets where PT is present.

The internationalization of the app is now the key goal. “We think that the innovation-oriented culture of both PT and Geolink will definitely further disrupt personal mobility paradigms, exploring the current excess capacity of taxi fleets,” said the FCUP researcher.

October 2013