So you are one of those who enjoy the convenience of calling a taxi cab anytime, anywhere? Then, meet the chaps who are applying very low-cost solutions to help you.
The team of Lerotholi Polytechnic (Fokothi) and National University of Lesotho (NUL) graduates made a GPS-free app so you can request a taxi at an extremely low cost.
They produced a low-cost alternative to verify your cell numbers, and they created a low-cost way to ensure their cab drivers and passengers are safe.
Their system is called Duraperf.
“We strive to make systems that are both durable and perfect,” said the Fokothi trained Emmanuel Tenene, one of the brains behind this system. “When it is durable and perfect, then it becomes Duraperf,” he added.
Others in the team include Mpho Ntulo (Fokothi), Nozipho Tenene (NUL) and Kekeletso Moremoholo (Fokothi).
(Catch the fearsome foursome here: +266 68744324. )
For them, low cost and safety make for a powerful business case.
Let’s say you want to move from A to B in the middle of the night. And let’s suppose you were wise enough to install their app (Duraperf Taxi App) on your cell-phone earlier.
After installing this app, you register with your cell number and your password. There is a reason they use this app. You can contact them even when you just have 10 cents worth of data in your phone account. And they now have your details in their client database.
Let’s again say you just had 10 cents worth of data in your account and you are stranded in the middle of the night. You press the app button and maybe you just used 1 cent worth of the data and 9 cents remain.
But Duraperf got your message. “At this point, we call you immediately to verify it is you, and that indeed you do need the assistance you requested,” Tenene said.
But note a challenge there.
Remember earlier you registered with your number and your password. So what if you put a wrong number? How would they contact you? Their app is no WhatsApp, an app owned by an enormously prosperous Facebook.
So it can’t automatically verify the number you registered against the number on your phone’s sim card. “It would have been expensive to do,” he said.
So this is how they solve the problem.
Let’s suppose you are registered with a wrong number. When you request a cab, they will call you to try to verify the request. When they find the number is wrong, they press an error button which sends error message to your app, “it looks like you registered using a wrong number, please go to profile and correct your phone number so we can quickly assist you.”
Once you have corrected the number, you make another request and they call you and you get your taxi.
But even the most backward cell-phone (‘Masechocha) can identify a phone number, so why not just allow a phone call? We have already shown why the app route is the best route. Besides, the probability of getting an error in recording one’s number is very small.
So why worry?
Now, how do they know where you are when you call them?
“Common sense would have told you that would we had to ensure our app had to send us your GPS coordinates so that our cabs could come to the exact position where you are,” Tenene explained. But they are not the kind that use something because they can use it.
“The question is, is it necessary?”
GPS uses a lot of data on a client’s cell-phone. Is it worth it?
“In Lesotho, we often worry about pick-up location rather the exact location,” “Ke Ha Abia pela LTC! Ke setaleng Ts’enola.”
More often than not, they use taxi drivers that are closest to your area and who most likely know where Ha Abia, near LTC is.
Well they do use GPS however, a low cost version.
All their cars have GPS installed in them. At any moment, they know where their cars are. This is so that when you need a cab, they can call the car that is as close as possible to your location.
There is nothing miraculous about the GPS. They have actually modified normal cell-phones. Cellphones already have GPS system within them. “We just make sure that this GPS is able to communicate with our software so that we can track the location of those phones in each car.”
That is not all.
These dudes are using a very simple technology to ensure drivers and passengers safety.
The same phones they use for GPS come with headsets. They cut each headset speaker and use the remaining buttons (that controls sounds and other things) to act as alarm bells.
If a driver gets attacked or high-jacked, he immediately presses the button on the headset and it communicates with the app they have developed and installed in the phones.
The app sends the message to them and the police are alerted.