Singapore cabs catch Web fever

A £6m project to build personal area networks into Singapore's taxis will let passengers surf while they ride

By the end of the year, taxi passengers in Singapore will be able to surf the Web, check their email, access mapping and routing information, and even manage their stock portfolios online -- all from the back of a cab.

Locally-based taxi company CityCab Pte Ltd, Hewlett-Packard Co and Ericsson Singapore yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding to implement Project Escalade, a mobile solution that makes use of a personal area network (PAN) within a taxi, allowing passengers and drivers to wirelessly access the Internet.

As the PAN is linked to other public networks like GSM and GPRS, passengers would be able to access the Internet from their own personal digital assistants. Taxi drivers, too, would be able to accept e-payment options and process bookings using the mobile solution.

With a total investment of over S$15m (£6m), the first trial of Project Escalade is expected to involve 500 CityCab taxis by year end. And there are hopes for a global rollout for the solution in a few years time, the statement said.

Under the MOU, HP would be supplying the voice activation solution enabling CityCab to process passenger calls and send booking orders to the handheld PC in the taxis. Ericsson, meanwhile, would be developing the mobile services -- including booking and settling fares -- using technology such as location-based services, Bluetooth, GPRS and 3G networks.

For CityCab, "the open standard platform will open the door to numerous other e-services and potential m-commerce opportunities, transforming our company into a service provider role in this Internet age", said CityCab chief executive Lim Hung Siang.

The announcement was made at CommunicAsia 2001, one of Asia's premier telecommunications and IT events.

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