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wave-a-cab: taxi app developed in Flutter

After being taxi drivers for over 20 years, Gwen Reynders and Wendy Steukers, owners of one of the biggest taxi companies in Hasselt, were up for a new challenge. With the arrival of Uber, Belgian taxi companies felt the competition, and Gwen and Wendy saw this as the perfect time to create a platform to unite and support all traditional taxi companies. That way they wanted to give the taxi companies the possibility to compete fairly. And so the transformation from being taxi drivers themselves to the proud owners of wave-a-cab began.

The issue

Driven by the urge to compete fairly with other taxi app initiatives, the owners of Hasseltse Gele Taxi, wanted to create a platform that unites all taxi companies in Flanders. An app where taxi companies can register their drivers for free and that will give them more visibility both in the online and offline street scene.

What we did

Since this was an A to Z project, we started with brainstorming sessions to help Gwen and Wendy transform their idea into a concrete project. We set up a platform, called wave-a-cab, and built two different apps, one for the driver and one for the waver, the user of wave-a-cab. We also built an administration tool where all information about companies, drivers, wavers, rides, and payments could be followed-up. We had the lead in sales, called over 1000 taxi companies, sent them several emails and a little promo package. Last but not least, we also took on the marketing of this project and released the app, with success, into the world.

Figuratively speaking, we were in for a wild ride

“We had an idea for an app and in the beginning, it was just a wild idea.” Wendy Steukers, co-owner of wave-a-cab laughs, “Until we called icapps and spoke to Filip Berten (account manager at icapps). Our wild idea easily rolled into a concrete plan. We started with a Think phase to figure out how we could realize it and make our idea into a real app. And so our story began.” Wendy tells us with the biggest smile on her face, still glowing from the big press release earlier this week.

Because of the growing competition within the taxi business, Gwen and Wendy felt the urge to come up with a plan to support their fellow taxi drivers. Their idea was to unite all taxi companies in one app. A platform that benefits both customers and drivers. By keeping the process as simple as possible, existing and new clients can easily book a cab without having to call a dispatch center. On the other hand, drivers immediately get notified when a customer wants to book them for a ride, and they have fewer “empty kilometers”, as they call it in the taxi world, because they can pick up the next customer almost right where they dropped off the previous one. Sounds like a win-win right? More rides, less effort. That is what wave-a-cab is all about.

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We called icapps and spoke to Filip Berten (account manager at icapps). Our wild idea easily rolled into a concrete plan, and we started with a Think phase to figure out how we could realize it and make our idea into a real app. And so our story began.

Wendy Steukers co-owner at wave-a-cab

A professional and personal service guaranteed

To stay true to their business, Gwen and Wendy only allow professional and licensed taxi drivers to register on their app. They focus on supporting the traditional taxi companies by giving them the chance to use a platform to attract more and different customers, in a wider range. Since only licensed taxi companies can register for the app, professional service is guaranteed at all times. Besides that, taxi drivers can upload a profile picture in their wave-a-cab account, this helps customers to find their driver and gives them a feeling of safety even before they step into the car.

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We chose to only collaborate with licensed drivers and offer a safe and user-friendly platform, where both customer and cab driver benefit from.

Gwen Reynders co-owner at wave-a-cab

Four apps, one technology: Flutter

In this project, Flutter is the big star. Since the app had to be identical on both iOS and Android, the choice for Flutter as the technology  was a no-brainer. We took it even a step further because, for this project, we had to build four apps; two driver apps, and two client apps, both for iOS and Android. By using Flutter, we ensured extra code reusability

“At first sight, wave-a-cab seems like a simple and clear app to build, but don’t be fooled, there are a lot of different factors involved when building this kind of app. Think of integrations like Google Maps, payments, notifications, updates, … and so on. Implementing these integrations went smoothly, although along the ride we had a lot of extra edge cases. But luckily we could easily detect them through testing. Overall, this was an awesome project to work on, and the fact that the release was a success makes us even more proud.Totally ready for my first ride!” Koen Van Looveren, Flutter expert at icapps.  

By using the Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery methodology, our Product Owner, Sjoera Roggeman, had access to the last build at any time. This allowed her to continuously test the app without having to check if all the latest changes were released in the test build.

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wave-a-cab might seem like an easy app to build, but don't be fooled. With a lot of different factors involved, it was quite a challenge but a very interesting and educational one.

Koen Van Loveren Flutter expert at icapps

Taking the driver’s seat from front- to backend

For wave-a-cab, we built both back- and frontend. The fact that everything in the app depends on events, made it crucial that mobile and backend development were aligned at all times. Our developers had to work very closely together on the same features, constant communication about API/model contracts was key throughout the building process.

The back-end of the application is written in Symfony, a well-known PHP framework and supplemented by the administration portal created in Sulu. Both fully customized to the clients` needs. Using a headless set-up empowered us to make the complex data structure manageable using an intuitive admin portal. All taxi companies, drivers, rides, payments, ... can be self-managed and followed up in case of any inconveniences.” says Sander Hofman, PHP developer at icapps.

In a parallel complex, operations concerning business logic are seamlessly executed in the background. While the initial idea was to build an app for Hasseltse Gele taxi, it quickly became a platform for all taxi companies in Flanders. By using Symfony we can easily manage this growth in both scalability and functionalities. At last, all data is properly presented to the mobile applications through a streamlined REST API.

The backend was built with a few minor hiccups along the way, but the overall process went really smoothly.

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A complete, full-blown approach from idea to release

As we already mentioned, we were in it from the start. With a great idea in mind, we guided Gwen and Wendy throughout the whole process. And we couldn’t be happier with the results we have so far. We thought out their branding, tone of voice, styling elements, marketing campaigns, we even took on a partner to take care of the full PR.

“Since we were so connected to the building process at all times, for us, the marketing team, it was a great and unique journey. We were able to really build a brand, prepare all the marketing stuff, and release the wave-a-cab platform with a big bang when the time was right. We have a lot of apps on our record, but I can say, without a doubt, that the wave-a-cab experience was really one to remember.” says Emilia Van de Maele, Marketing coördinator at icapps.

It’s safe to say that the complete wave-a-cab project is a total win across the (dash)board. Talking about a smooth ride ;) We loved working on this project, it turned out to be a real team effort and we couldn’t be more proud of the results.

Now, let’s take that taxi to a lovely terrace to celebrate, am I right?
Oh yes, soon, we will!

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