Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Knock Knock!
Naren: Who is there?
Again knock knock
Naren: Go away if you are not a VC

Initially I thought the idea suited the Indian market and to some extent European market, or places where people haven't given up on trains (yet). Recently I figured it works well for US too. Necessity is the mother of all ideas (not necessarily good ones). Agreed this idea won't bring the roof down, but innovative and simple enough to get me a B+ ;)

Recently I traveled from New York to Baltimore by Amtrak. The train went from New York to Washington D.C stopping at Baltimore en-route for a couple of minutes. What if I had dozed off and went past Baltimore? My mobile which is crammed with zillion features could not address my simple requirement "Alert me once I am in Baltimore". I investigated a bit to see if there was any way my mobile phone could be programmed to do such a thing. Surprise, surprise HP Houston folks already filed a patent Generating an alarm based on location and time . Their approach was also client based and assumed phones had GPS receiver in them. But I could settle for a less granular approach based on cell location. But the real issue is only expensive high end Smart phones supported Location API. Hence, I dropped the client based approach.

I thought it would be nice if some how, some one woke me up. Who would that Good Samaritan be? What if Amtrak provided the service? What is in for them?

  1. Buy good amount of customer loyalty.
  2. Alright, you guessed it - location based Ads. Here is a sample ad "Hello Mr. Bond, Welcome to New York the world's most polluted city infested with rats and Junk food joints. We have a jungle but it is a concrete one. That’s my 2 cents about New York. Hey, you must be tired and hungry. Why don’t you checkout our Boca Burgers just across the street? Buy one and pay for it "

If Amtrak are reluctant to implement it, we can at least ask them to give plug-in or web service interface. We can get local sponsors to pay for service and users could get it for free.

So here is the idea:

  1. My friend is coming to New York for the first time. So I have to pick him once the train reaches Penn station.
  2. I will register by SMS or online that I need a reminder either by SMS, email or Phone call when the train is 15 minutes away from Penn Station.
  3. My friend also registers for a wake up call.

I even checked Indian railways website. They seem to have the infrastructure to support my requirement. They already have an IVR (Interactive Voice Response the technology that powers all the annoying customer care centers) and SMS gateway for sending SMS responses to reservation queries. Also you could call up a toll free number I guess and find real time status on a train's location.

I will discuss the architecture and implementation in coming weeks. Let me know if anybody wants to work with me on this or fund this idea?


ARUNA said...

sorry pal, can't fund it but a brilliant idea

ARUNA said...

sorry pal, can't fund it but a brilliant idea

Naren said...

glad you think it is an excellent idea. Mabbe I will do it without funding then:)