By accident rather than design, I took a Japan Taxi cab equipped with a first-generation Smart IoT Mobility System the day before the launch of the second-generation one in order to go to the Meguro Fudoson Ryusen-ji Temple.
The first-generation system features a consumer tablet rather than a dedicated in-dash device plus screen. When quizzed about it by my guide, the driver was effusive in his praise – waxing poetic about how it enabled him to navigate Tokyo’s notoriously complicated streets more efficiently and pick up more business through the app.
If the driver was so pleased with the first-generation system, this begged the question as to why Japan Taxi felt the need to develop a second-generation one. Without any prompting from me, Mr. Tomoya Yamamoto, the company’s Lead Engineer, directly addressed this issue at the launch event by explaining the key drawbacks they had encountered in their deployment of consumer tablets, namely:
• Reliability: even though they are solid enough for most normal usage scenarios, consumer tablets are not rugged enough to withstand the more rigorous demands of commercial in-vehicle deployments in which any outage times can be very costly in terms of driver time and lost income.
• Support: with life cycles as short as a year, consumer tablets are difficult to support over the long term. Maintaining a single model over many years is much cheaper and more efficient than having to support multiple models that have already been declared end-of-life by the vendor.
• Customizability: with their one-size-fits-all design, consumer tablets are extremely difficult to customize on both the hardware and software levels to meet specific commercial needs. One problem that that the company experienced, for example, was that drivers were using the tablets for personal use, such as viewing YouTube videos and web browsing – leading to increased bandwidth costs and reduced productivity.
• Security: with their open environment that allows easy access to the Internet and online apps, consumer tablets are not secure enough for sensitive commercial applications. A “locked-down” environment with a dedicated set of apps is much safer and cheaper to develop and maintain.
These were the key factors that led Japan Taxi to take the strategic decision to work with us on the development of its own dedicated in-vehicle system. Rather than having to spend valuable time and resources on mitigating the inevitable compromises involved in deploying a consumer tablet, the company can now focus all its efforts on optimizing its own dedicated system to improve existing services and develop new ones in order to boost its competitiveness in the market place.
By the way, if you ever find yourself with a spare couple of hours in Tokyo I would definitely recommend a visit to the Meguro Fudoson Ryusen-ji Temple. It may not be the most famous temple in the city, but its architecture and atmosphere are absolutely sublime.