UTS student hits the fast lane with taxi booking app

Zac Altman is congratulated by Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Di

Zac Altman is congratulated by Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy

In summary: 
  • A taxi booking app has given UTS student Zac Altman an early launch into IT entrepreneurship
  • Developed for a competition to design applications for Android smart phones, Taxi Pro has amassed thousands of downloads and several commercial offers

Spurred into programming action by a competition to design applications for Android smart phones, UTS IT student Zac Altman is now turning down offers for his Taxi Pro taxi booking app.

NICTA and Optus launched a new "Unleash Your App" Android application development competition late 2011 with the purpose of unearthing innovative Android applications.

Undergraduate students from universities across Australia were invited to develop an application that would "make our lives easier" focusing on health, education, productivity, social networking, lifestyle, news or entertainment.

Zac was first runner up in the competition with Taxi Pro, which he describes as allowing to users to book taxis, "plain and simple". For his efforts Zac won a cash prize and a Samsung Galaxy S II Android smart phone.

"Users don't need excess features like a taxi whistle or data-heavy maps," he said. "They just want to get a taxi and that's what I care about. You can buy users with advertising but to keep them, you need to provide a great experience. Users keep coming back to Taxi Pro because I provide the best experience.

"The thrill of the competition drove me to get over the final hurdles and get my product into the app store. Now I'm getting lots of five-star reviews and hundreds of downloads, which is an amazing result! Feedback from real users is extremely important and receiving these positive responses shows how my course and the competition pushed me to create an app that people love."

Zac has negotiated with potential investors to get his smart phone application out on the market. He currently has an iPhone version of Taxi Pro available on iTunes which has amassed over 40,000 downloads since its release.

He has said "no" to several offers to purchase the application from notable players in the industry, preferring to continue building Taxi Pro as Australia's favourite taxi booking application.

Dr Peter Leijdekkers taught Zac in his subject Mobile Application Development and encouraged Zac to enter the competition.

"Zac is a very talented and motivated student," Dr Leijdekkers said. "He has an excellent combination of technical and business skills."

"My journey wasn't all smooth sailing," Zac said. "The first of several challenges was moving from an iPhone development mindset to an Android one. Most people think Android and iPhone development are the same, but each has completely different nuances.

"Taking advantage of these differences is what sets your application apart from all the clutter in the app store. I also had to learn a completely new programming language, which was a fun challenge in just a few months.

"Peter's guidance over the semester was crucial to my app's success, both from a technical and user experience standpoint. I definitely look forward to gaining further experience from his classes in the future.

"I had a phenomenal time flying to Canberra for the competition announcement - it's not something a first year uni student gets to experience all too often. I enjoyed meeting all of the representatives from Optus and NICTA, and chatting with Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy was entertaining. They were all very enthusiastic about the mobile space. I look forward to entering the next competition!"