A new system, about to make its debut in Tokyo, will alert passengers when they accidentally leave their belongings in the back of a cab.
As the importance of the smartphone in modern life continues to grow, so does the stress, worry and literal panic that ensues when the key to our digital existence is misplaced or lost or just simply disappears. Restaurants, public toilets and of course the space between the cushions on the sofa are all popular locations for losing a handset but, if the most recent figures from Japan's Tokyo Taxi Centre are anything to go by, so is the back of a taxi. In 2012 alone, 53,346 items --from phones to tablets and laptops and beyond -- were reported being left behind by Tokyo taxi users.
If you happen to have an iPhone, iPad or Mac and have been sufficiently perspicacious to activate the 'find my phone' app, then when a device disappears, its location can be tracked online. But in order to cater for everyone else, one Japanese taxi firm, Kokusai Motors, is developing a lost property detection system that will alert passengers when they forget to take their belongings with them when exiting a cab. Built in partnership with IDEA CROSS INC, the system uses four strategically mounted cameras that capture a before and after image of the taxi's interior and overlays the two images to decide if an object -- whether it's a set of keys, a phone, a bag, or anything else for that matter -- has been left behind. It does this by overlaying the information captured in the first image, taken as the passenger hails the cab, with that in the second picture, taken as the passenger is about to alight. If a difference between the images is found, the system sounds an alarm.
The system is about to undergo real-life testing in the Japanese capital later this month and, if successful, could become a fixture in Tokyo cabs before the end of this year. And, for those potential passengers concerned about being photographed every time they get into a taxi, Kokusai Motors stresses that the system has no facial recognition capabilities.