ACE scores high
ACE Communications Systems designs and manufactures hardware solutions for the taxi and private hire industry, under the brand name Diplomat
As an innovative company based near Basingstoke in the UK, its dedicated engineers react quickly to market needs and develop products to directly fulfil market requirements. Originally a family business, ACE is a small company with a firm focus on customer service and maintaining its leading position.
Following its formation in 1979, ACE quickly established an innovative approach to using radios and, by understanding its customers needs, it enhanced the functionality of two-way radio systems whilst mobile telephone technology was still new. In 1994, ACE’s world-renowned brand Diplomat was launched and a two-way radio of the same name produced. Software companies began to approach the company seeking a solution for digitally transmitting job details from a taxi booking office to a vehicle, leading to the purpose-built Datax Mobile Terminal (MDT), which has been its flagship product since 1997.
Design engineer and R&D manager, Ivor Davies explains how ACE’s high-tech solutions enhance its customers’ taxi operations: “Combining mobile data over two-way radio with computerised booking and dispatch was a marriage of two existing technologies. Just when PMR (Private Mobile Radio) systems were feeling the competition from mobile phone operators, along came the killer application of mobile data to allow PMR to reinvent itself. Our core product is the Datax MK3, which allows the driver to be sent details digitally and accurately rather than over the two-way radio, which is subject to misunderstandings. The combination of a Datax MDT, a GPS receiver and a conventional PMR radio installed in each vehicle allows stress-free dispatch of the most appropriate jobs to the most appropriate vehicles.”
ACE’s sister company Navigator Software Systems Ltd, which created the world famous Navigator Metro Booking and Dispatch software package used by taxi and private hire companies across the globe, is integral to ACE’s operation. This unique strategic position places ACE as the hardware design and manufacturing arm of a global operation to supply booking and dispatch solutions worldwide, allowing ACE to develop its Lynx Communications Bridge and companion MMI (Man Machine Interface), the Datax MK3. Lynx solves the problem of connecting together the various devices in a modern taxi such as taximeters, in-vehicle navigators, GPS receivers, chip and pin terminals, and cameras which all need to communicate between each other and a central office. Ivor explains: “The primary part of our business concerns hardware and we have an important relationship with our sister company, strengthening ACE’s market position since Navigator Software Systems supplies the software that makes our hardware work. The combination of the Datax and the Lynx gives our customers a solution that was previously impossible.”
The demand for ACE’s high-tech services is increasing as more businesses embrace technology, resulting in a dynamic market: “It’s a market in transition,” asserts Ivor. “The taxi industry is becoming more accepting of technology and welcoming our developments that improve customers’ safety. Our inventions come from an intimate knowledge of our market and that level of knowledge is powerful. Every day is another learning day to discover what the latest technology is and how we can react to individual projects as they come along.”
Manufacturing efficiency is maintained by working with reliable subcontractors who are given the responsibility for the entire production: “We do some small volume manufacturing and prototyping in-house but we don’t have the resources to be a manufacturing base,” explains Ivor. “We rely on the subcontractor getting it right and buying components on our behalf, which is good for a small company because my resources are better used designing products rather than finding the best price for a particular transistor. Rather than manufacturing, the most challenging aspect for us is demonstrating our company’s advantage over the competition because it can be difficult for some of our customers to understand how our technology is superior. Five years ago we were dealing with a marketplace that was still reluctant to use computers but change has been rapid as customers have become more technologically wise and receptive, meaning that gradually that challenge disappears by itself.”
In thinking about the future, Ivor reveals that ACE has plans to diversify into other industries because its technology has a broad range of applications: “Our key strength is our size – keeping small allows us to react quickly to market requirements. We are opening other branches worldwide in the form of sister companies to deal with distribution and we’ve got operations in Africa and North America as well. The hardware and software solutions we have developed find their uses beyond the taxi and private hire industry. Parcel delivery and waste management are other fields that could use our hardware because any application that requires the arrangement of a service, an object to be delivered, a vehicle to be tracked, goods to be transferred or personnel to be moved, will demand the combination of diverse hardware, the communication of information from various sources and an intelligent, cost-effective solution.”
Products: Software and hardware for taxi communications