CRN Australia – Payment on the go

Traditionally seen as a sector low in technology usage, taxi drivers have been revolutionised in the way they can work with the launch of a Windows Mobile application, called Cabbiexpress, from mobile ecommerce aggregator Mobbiexpress International.

A ‘mobile micro payment facilitation’ technology aimed at making real-time payment, settlement and banking transactions simple for taxi drivers and any mobile sales force that needs to manage business on the go, 130 taxis are now said to be using the Cabbiexpress version of the technology within their business.

The Mobbiexpress application allows the mobile merchant or tradesperson to process customer credit cards on the spot and receive payments directly into their bank account. By downloading the Mobbiexpress application, the merchant instantly turns their PDA into a mobile point-of-sale cash register complete with SMS, email and descriptive receipt printouts, supporting all major credit cards. It aims to provide a wide variety of electronic micro payment solutions to suit the practical needs of business operations including travelling tradesmen (“tradies”), mobile merchants (“mobbies”) and taxi drivers (“cabbies”).

Mobile technology

Based on mobile Internet using Secured Socket Layer (SSL) (similar to the technology used by major banks in Internet banking today) Mobbiexpress International is a mobile EFTPOS Transaction Aggregator which makes real-time payment, settlement and banking transactions simple, and which is also complemented by services such as job finder, jobs bulletin, bookings and mobile communications functions.

The software platform currently employed by Mobbiexpress is Microsoft version 1.07, which was launched in 2005. An upgraded version becomes available approximately every quarter, said Jace Lai, business development and operations, Mobbiexpress. “The upgrade process has primarily involved absorption of extra functionalities, continuous system availability and tightening of securities which have been field tested and proven by Cabbiexpress in the taxi and limousine industry.”

The underlying operating system is a combination of the latest Microsoft tools including SQL and Microsoft Office, said Lai, with the company choosing the Microsoft platform due to the tools being available ‘off the shelf’. The tools also encompassed the effective market standard, with ease of adoption by the end-user.

“The technology provides a wide variety of mobile micro payment solutions to suit the practical needs of a range of business operations – “anywhere, any time, any size” to businesses such as plumbers, electricians, salespersons, courier services, MLM companies and the like,” said Lai. “And adopting the technology for any mobile business literally takes just a few minutes installation.”

Before running Mobbiexpress, a user registers with the technology with his own eCommerce merchant accounts. User product list as well as company logo are provided at this point for further customisation preferences.

A merchant/user log-in with pin number is then generated and the merchant is then ready to accept credit card payments.

Key security challenges

According to Lai, for a business sector which has security and ease of mobile use at its heart, it is critical that taxi drivers and other mobile businesses maintain convenience as an integral part of their operations.

Seeing that some taxi drivers were using a PDA phone and Bluetooth printer to complete transactions instead of EFTPOS, Lai started developing the solution a few years ago after winning $20,000 in a Microsoft competition.

“Similar to many other devices, security is always a main concern to the system,” he said. “Thus to minimise fraud, our central server is armed with velocity checking, hot-list, super hot-list, usage behaviour pattern analysis, device identification, log-in password, version checking, version upgrade, access parameters, application switches and verification matrix.”

Lai said: “Although SSL forms our current backbone security infrastructure, new enhancements are underway to incorporate advanced security measures into our system. Our security is based on the systems working in sync with devices, network infrastructure and human administrative interfaces to address the poly-dimensional issue of today’s EFTPOS security.”

He said that with the advancement of the technology and related technology, Mobbiexpress (a certified Microsoft partner) is continually working to enhance its multi-dimensional security features.

“The operating system is claimed to be more secure than EFTPOS as it has proven bank-level security and stability (SSL), which means that fraud or unusual transactions are detected more easily.”

Real benefits to usersAlready being used by many taxi drivers and having been endorsed by government, Lai claims that this business group is especially keen to implement online authorisation in order to safeguard its income. “A $100 fare can be crucial to a taxi driver on a daily basis, and as such the chances of someone paying this with their credit card can be high. Therefore security worries are paramount.”

He said taxi drivers are looking for convenience in the way they process their mobile docket entry (MDE) on each job. “Previously there was no way for a driver to verify whether each transaction was truly a valid one. With Cabbiexpress, a driver can see straight away.”

The technology also offers added functionality, such as pick-up times and SMS and email bookings.

Additionally, said Lai, taxi drivers are able to pay and process their regular taxi rental fees online with the MDE. “Going electronic in this way really reduces a user’s paperwork. There’s no more waiting for payments, or waiting to pay fees. Users are completely enabled to concentrate on their business development and therefore get more done in one day.”

Another key benefit of the technology, he adds, is the way that it can personalise a user’s business offering. This is done in several ways and includes those many instances when passengers leave things in their taxi. “The fact that they receive a docket with their job number and details on it means that they are able to locate those items much easier. Also the driver has the option to personalise their receipts with their own photo/logo or other specific business detail. This has the benefit of providing an enhanced image to his/her customers and increasing the likelihood of further business.

“‘Carding’ as it is known in the business, is the good practice of providing business cards in order to prevent the poaching of customers, and our technology helps to encourage this,” said Lai.

Convenient account processing comes in handy for those regular customers who are in a rush to get to their destination. “Many regular customers book cabs to the airport, then have to rush off, saying to the driver ‘charge that to my account’.

“A beauty of Cabbiexpress is that the driver is then able to process that, with the system sending an SMS text message to the customer’s mobile and/or email to their email account, instantly advising them of the transaction.

“We have had a lot of feedback from taxi drivers whose regular customers have said this is a very well-received function.”

Reaping the value

A further benefit, he said, is the ‘Job Offload Bulletin’ which is another value-added service of Mobbiexpress technology and is set to be available shortly. “In the old days, cabbies simply asked their friends to do those ‘overflow’ jobs that they were unable to fit into their day. However this could be erratic. With the new electronic way of doing things, they are able to offer jobs to their friends electronically. It is simple, easy to use and keeps both customers and other cabbies happy!”

Stephen Denyer is an owner/operator taxi driver, with more than 30 years in the business. Working an average 70-hour week, he has been using Cabbiexpress since its inception in 2004 and claims to have been consistently happy with the technology.

“The fact that there were no costly set-up costs involved and that I receive three percent of the fare value from using the system was very attractive to me,” said Denyer.

“Using just a mobile, card reader and Bluetooth printer have been very simple to use, especially with the added features that are provided.”

He said that having his own large private client base means that he has so far not been interested in personalising his receipts and business cards. “I can see that this is very useful for many taxi drivers though – especially those just starting out in the business.

“The system is also great for tracking owners of lost items, or them tracking me. “Lost silver mobile phones have been a very common occurrence in my taxi!”

Denyer believes the level of security offered by Cabbiexpress has exceeded expectations.

“To be honest, I think the standard of credit card authorisation is fantastic. Obviously I have done many transactions over the last few years and I have never once had any charge-backs or problems. I once did have a card rejected by the system, which I then decided not to carry through to a manual transaction, as I simply trusted the system.”

Overall, Denyer believes the software used in Cabbiexpress is “user-friendly and logical to use,” with the training that’s offered covering all aspects of its use.