-On"> The concept itself is not exactly new. Interactive displays with advertising have been deployed in other cities. Where Interactive Taxi pushes the envelope is in the technology used to power the system. These are not self-contained units that operate off of DVDs mounted in the cab. They are true computers, powered by Windows XP Embedded, that receive and send information via an always-on connection over Verizon Wireless EvDO 3G (third-generation) network. The information appears on display units mounted behind the drivers seat in the cab. It is updated regularly on servers in Interactive Taxis offices in the various cities and is downloaded to the units in the cabs. This allows the company to efficiently update information and advertising from a central location without having to change out disks or reprogram individual cab units."From the end users perspective, its increasingly important that the system is always on," Johnston said. He added that the software allows Interactive to "present passengers with information, let them make a decision and then capture this fact even if its disconnected from the system." By synchronizing information in the cab with information on Interactive Taxis servers as the cabs move in and out of signal range, the software enables the always-on connection. That is important in big cities, where signals are often blocked by tall buildings. Jim Piccione, vice president of operations at Interactive Taxi, took me for a spin. It wasnt your typical New York taxi ride. Instead of amusing myself by counting the number of dog walkers on the streets or male pedestrians wearing yellow ties, I was entertained by an interactive display mounted in the center back of the front seat. There in front of me were the rules of the cab, including more information about fares than I ever thought possible, a video commercial about the 2005 Lincoln Aviator, and a variety of buttons on the touch screen allowing me to call up text news, sports and financial information, as well as local listings of restaurant and night-life options. Click here for a column about always-on applications. "How many times have you been in a cab and not known the address of the restaurant where youre supposed to meet someone?" Gottlieb asked. "You dont have to pull out your cell phone, call 411, and then call the restaurant and get the address so you can pass it along to the cab driver. Its all right here." I touched the touch screen, and everything I wanted to know about restaurants in the Financial District appeared before me. Even better, the unit is tied into a GPS-based tracking system. I could follow the route we were taking. The GPS system is something the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission insisted upon. It will allow the commission to centrally monitor the whereabouts of the cabs, maintain a tracking log, and easily locate lost items when a rider reports she left something behind. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.
The system uses synchronization software from PeerDirect to enable the always-on connection. Having the functionality of an ever-present signal is becoming increasingly important in mobile applications, said Britt Johnston, chief technology officer at PeerDirect.