Taxi Tablets With Mobile Apps to Launch in New York City

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Verifone TaxiTV
Verifone TaxiTV Credit: Verifone
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The overhaul of New York City's taxi TV system is pushing ahead in the new year, with operators piloting technology that will give passengers control over the content they view.

For the past nine years, taxi passengers in New York City have been seated behind a terminal that churned out repetitive videos, advertisements and messages that have been the subject of numerous complaints to the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission. Passengers complained about the noise, the content and that the "off" or "mute" buttons often didn't work.

The city responded last year by approving a pilot program to evolve the taxi TV experience, and providers are moving ahead with terminals that allow passengers a range of choices. Three companies currently have licenses to develop taxi entertainment systems in New York City, with Verifone and Creative Mobile Technologies each holding about 50% of the market share of the city's 13,587 taxis. Today, Flywheel, which received a license in August of this year, launched a passenger survey to seek ideas on "Fly TV," its taxi entertainment system that will roll out in the new year.

"Instead of us being the messiah of what should be there, what we're doing is opening this up to opinions," said Oneal Bhambani, Flywheel's chief operating officer. "We are democratizing the whole thing."

Mr. Bhambani said "Fly TV" would be delivered on a tablet that could let passengers access a range of apps, including audio and video streaming services such as Netflix or Spotify. Flywheel is accepting comments until the end of the year before releasing the system by spring 2017.

Other licensed providers, including Verifone and Creative Mobile Technologies, also have plans to enhance taxi entertainment services. Verifone plans to pilot an Android-based tablet.

"It's about productivity, entertainment and other things," said Chris Polos, VP of taxi media at Verifone. "There's so much you'll be able to do."

Creative Mobile Technologies does not plan to change the existing taxi TV infrastructure. Instead, the company plans to update the terminal, offering passengers mobile interactivity and opportunities to choose which videos they would like to watch, said Tom Haymond, the company's executive vice president of creative mobile media.

Providers hope that giving passengers control over the taxi entertainment system will open up new opportunities for advertisers to target customers based on their preferences.

"The fact that you'll be able to reach a tremendous number of New Yorkers per day is a tremendous benefit for advertisers," said Mr. Polos. "It isn't just going to be about video -- there will apps and personalization."