The free wifi service, named CabWifi, will launch shortly having just been given approval by Transport for London. In return for free Internet browsing, users will have to watch a 15 second ad for every 15 minutes of access.
According to Eyetease Limited founder and CEO, Richard Corbett, the system uses both 3G and 4G technology.
“The hardware is unique,” he said. “We have developed a piece of technology that overcomes the issues with movement and man-made chasms.” He said there was proprietary technology involved in the system, which he plans to start offering next year, but would not be drawn on what it does.
“The bigger goal is to build a mesh-network where one device can talk to another. When we get to a certain critical mass we can start to have a network across the city.”
There are 24,000 cabs in London, he said. He was hopeful to be able to capture at least 10% of them with his device within six months. “We already have 500 cabs signed up with no marketing.”
He said the device, which is manufactured in Latvia, takes only two minutes to install in a standard black cab. There is no cost to the driver. Indeed the driver can make use of Wi-Fi himself so reducing his cellphone charges.
Mr. Corbett said the business model was a simple ad-supported one. Given the cost of taxis in London, he said, it was an attractive audience for advertisers. “We can send new ad content on an hourly basis so it can be very time and location specific. We know where each cab is, you can imagine the campaigns. We also know the device that is being used. We can target quite precisely.
“We are in conversations with agencies that represent West End shows.”
Unlike most start-ups, Mr. Corbett is in the hardware business, a sector that most entrepreneurs avoid. “People over-focus on the scalability of software and miss the massive opportunities in hardware-based businesses.”
Inevitably as well as providing advertising to taxi passengers, the company harvests a lot of useful data from its users. He said there were plans to roll the service out in other cities, but saw London as the hardest city to crack.
Eyetease media, based in Google GOOG +0.18% Campus, was set up three years ago. Its main product was a wireless-connected display mounted to the roof of taxis. It has launched in the U.S.. The company is boot-strapped, Mr. Corbett having turned down angel funds.