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Suntec City, CityCab Pave the Way For M-Commerce

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Posted April 19, 2002 By Seng Li Peng     Feedback

Consumers in Singapore are given an additional choice as to how they want to foot their bills when shopping at Suntec City Mall or traveling in a CityCab taxi.

More companies are looking to leverage mobile technology to enhance the lifestyles of Singaporeans. In January 2002, Jurong Point Shopping Center launched an opt-in permission marketing service using interactive Short Message Service (SMS) to enable shoppers to selectively receive electronic flyers and coupons from participating merchants via their mobile phones.

As one in three Singaporeans own a mobile phone, Suntec City and CityCab decided that more could be done with it and decided to be the pioneers in Singapore to launch a mobile payment system, TelePay and TeleCab, to allow shoppers and commuters to pay for their purchases and fares easily, securely and conveniently, via their personal mobile phones.

"The only way for a company to move forward is to embrace technology because it helps to facilitate business. As a result, we are often exploring how we can use technology to enhance our shoppers' experiences in our mall," said Wong Ah Long, CEO of Suntec City Development.

The same sentiment was echoed by John Lee, COO of City Cab who added: "The future lies very much with wireless technology and most of us cannot ignore the mobile phone as it is an extremely important wireless gadget."


TelePay is designed to be a cost-efficient payment infrastructure for retailers, while providing greater convenience to their customers. It is estimated that retailers can save an estimated 60 percent of total annual terminal infrastructure costs while customers can now have an added convenience of accessing their transaction records online.

The system is easy and cheap to implement. It causes minimal disruption to operations as participating merchants need only register with Systems@Work for a merchant account. Devices supporting multiple payment methods, such as the Hewlett-Packard's (HP) Jornada Pocket PC or the merchant's PC-based Point of Sales (POS) are linked to manage TelePay transactions.

When using TelePay, all that is required of a customer is a personal mobile phone that acts as an authentication and authorization device. TelePay would then link the customer's mobile phone to his or her preferred payment method such as credit card, debit card, direct debit to bank account and subsequently stored value.

The system has been under intensive technical trials for the past three months. And April 18, 2002 marked the start of the first phase.

So far, 15 merchants in Suntec City are participating in the TelePay project. These are Chen Fu Ji Fried Rice, Evergreen Stationery, Fleuridee, Flotec Flowers, Harvey Norman, Piyo Piyo World, PK Computer, Precious Thots, Samsonite, Satay Fusion, Star 5 Technology, Swensen's and Yes! Your Eyewear Specialist.

The TelePay consortium, which comprises Systems@Work, Gemplus Technologies, Mobile e-Services Bazaar of HP, VISA International and Suntec City, will be working with 35 more merchants, bringing the number to 50, during this trial period.

The consortium plans to embark on a whole series of marketing and promotional activities targeted to encourage consumer sign up and usage during the next few months.

Partnership Extends Beyond TelePay

The partnership between Suntec City and Systems@Work does not end here as both parties have further signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to develop a non-queue wireless parking payments service at Suntec City's huge car park.

Suntec City is not only one of Singapore's largest shopping malls with more than 250 shops catering to more than two million visitors each month. It also houses some 15,000 people from more than 700 companies that are operating in its five office towers.

Said Wong: "Our car park can be a nightmare for many because of its size and the number of cars in it. Sometimes, a shopper may not even remember where his car is parked. And if he remembers, he has to walk to the car park vending machine to pay for his ticket."

Called TeleParking, the service allows visitors to Suntec City to pay for their parking fees via their mobile phones and possibly other mobile devices from anywhere within the premise. This service, expected to be launched within the next six months, will help save time and eradicate the hassle of having to look for and queue at Autopay Parking Systems.


For CityCab, a fleet of 300 taxis will provide TeleCab service to about 1,000 registered members. About 500 drivers have already been trained to operate the service. The pilot phase of the project, which also began on April 18, 2002, will last for two months. During this period, CityCab will monitor the progress and undertake the necessary steps needed for a successful eventual roll out to the rest of its fleet of 5,000 taxis.

One of the benefits of the payment method is that it offers a hassle-free way of settling fares between the customer and the taxi driver whilst assuring security of transactions.

Both commuters and drivers will also enjoy various promotional incentives such as monthly lucky draws, priority bookings and waiver of the 10 percent surcharge for the use of credit cards during the pilot.

To use the TeleCab service, customers simply need to do a one-time, free registration via or to link their preferred payment methods to their personal mobile phones and select a PIN.

At the end of a taxi ride, the passenger simply needs to dial the designated TeleCab hotline number with his or her mobile phone. Based on an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, a voice will prompt the commuter to enter the driver's ID shown on an in-cab display sign. It will further prompt the commuter to key in the taxi fare amount and his PIN for authentication and authorization.

This request will be routed to the TeleMoney backend server that will generate a call to the driver's mobile phone to accept the amount. The passenger will hear the confirmation on his or her mobile phone once the process is completed.

Currently, about 10 percent of all payment made to CityCab drivers are in the form of electronic payment via credit card and CityCab's Cabcharge card.

When asked if taxi drivers preferred cash over a cashless system, Lee explained: "There is some reluctance from certain drivers who prefer to have cash on the spot after a customer arrives at his destination. However, we do not want our drivers to be stuck in a situation when Singapore moves towards a cashless society someday."

Prior to TeleCab, the company has already launched an Internet training platform for taxi driver known as COnSULT (CityCab Online - Skills Upgrading Through Lifelong Training). In addition, it has set new benchmarks for the taxi industry, which comprises of taxi companies such as TIBS, Comfort and Yellow-Top, by launching a US$10.9 million satellite-based computerized taxi dispatch system known as CityNet.

Said Lee: "The TeleCab service is part of our initiative to help its drivers to become more aware of the benefits of technology and assist them to grow in tandem with advancement of the society towards the cashless and wireless frontier."

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