So far, I’ve managed to speak to two companies who caught my eye. The first was Hailo, the brilliantly-named taxi-booking service, founded by three London cabbies, Russell Hall, Gary Jackson, and Terry Runham.
Hailo is an iOS/Android app that bring together cabbies looking for a fare, with people needing a cab. Download the app, then when you need a cab, fire it up. The app gelocates you, then you hit the ‘Pick Me Up Here’ button to locate your nearest cab, complete with an indication of how many minutes away the cab is. When the taxi arrives to pick you up, you get a notification on your phone to tell you it is outside. You then have five minutes to get in the cab before any waiting time is charged.
As a passenger, you pay exactly the same fare as you would for any other cab. Hailo makes its money by taking a 10 per cent cut from the fare. Drivers are happy with this, the firm told me, as the quality of the service is so good from a user perspective, they expect to make this in tips from satisfied customers. Also, of course, Hailo offers cab drivers another way to get a fare, in addition to driving round the streets, or siting in a taxi rank.
You don’t have to register an account with the service as a user, but if you do, you can register credit card details to pay by credit card in seconds. New features coming soon for the cab drivers include a Chat function to enable them to tell each other about accidents, diversions etc. The company is also looking to take the service to other UK cities and to Dublin in Ireland, as well as the East Coast of America.
The numbers are impressive. 2,800 London cab drivers have registered for the scheme since 1 November. The app has been downloaded 165,000 times, and over 10 per cent of these have converted to accounts. Perhaps the most telling point, however, is that none of the three founders has much time for driving cabs these days.
My second briefing was with Pyreos, which is pitching handset and Tablet makers with its gesture recognition sensor technology, the IP for which is acquired from Siemens in 2007. There are 75 patents around the technology, which allows a user to control a mobile phone or tablet with a wave of the hand. A device maker could attribute different gestures to different functions, such as making a call, firing up the browser etc.
Pyreos’ Karolina Kolodziejczak told me that the firm is in active discussions with lots of potential customers and that interest is high. Certainly, as the youth of today grows up with gesture control on the Wii, Kinect and other devices, there would seem to be massive potential for the technology on mobile.