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Now a singing, dancing fare meter

Anand Parthasarathy

Combining fare calculation with video fare

BANGALORE: On-road video entertainment is not just for luxury cars and long-distance buses. A Bangalore-based developer of embedded solutions has created a novel device, based on a handheld computer, that entertains passengers travelling in an autorickshaw with cinema and video clips and, at the end of the journey, prints out a receipt for the fare. It could be used in taxis too.

iWave Systems has harnessed its own mobile computing and multimedia platform named `Rainbow' and tweaked it to make a fare meter. The 9-cm diagonal colour liquid display is similar to that found in flight entertainment systems - with one difference: this is a `touch screen'. The display that normally shows the distance travelled and the fare, can switch to pre-recorded video clips at the touch of a finger. At the end of the journey, the fare is displayed. It can be thermally printed as a receipt.

Centre of attraction

An autorickshaw fitted with the singing-dancing meter was the centre of attraction during lunch hour at the Intel Developer Forum here this past week, where it had its first public airing.

V. Krishnamurthy, iWave's chief technology officer, said the motherboard at the heart of the system was designed in-house, using the Bulverde Intel PXA 270 media processor. The system, estimated to cost Rs. 15,000, can pay for itself since there is scope to `sponsor' the entertainment with streaming advertisements. It can provide additional revenue for the driver or owner. The flash memory can be pre-loaded with about 90 minutes of audio-video content.

Mr. Krishnamurthy said the system could replace the existing fare meter or complement it, taking the mileage and fare data from the already installed system.

Market surveys have shown that passengers, especially business travellers, want a printed receipt in autos and taxis - as is available in many countries. This feature alone would be a strong incentive, while the entertaining `time pass' would be a bonus. The system includes an optional `card swipe' for credit card payments.

The Indian-owned and desi- ingenuity-fuelled iWave launched its general purpose Rainbow smart mobile platform earlier this year.

It has acquired a number of international customers who have licensed the technology - particularly in Japan, where the company has its only overseas office. In recent weeks it has released a new version of its technology that exploits multiple wireless technologies such as GSM and CDMA mobile phone access as well as GPRS Internet access.

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