"After over a century of stagnation, we are seeing the seismic impacts of mobile, cloud and low-cost hardware..."
Rail ticketing has changed very little since the introduction of the first passenger services on steam locomotives in 1825. It was, and in many places remains, based on exchanging money for a piece of paper or card which allows the bearer to travel. This approach has been beset with problems through the years - not least the universal issues of limited sales capacity, particularly at peak times, resulting in the widely recognised problem of missed trains and frustrated passengers. Despite its flaws, this approach has remained the dominant way to run fare collection for almost two centuries, with little in the way of change, and in many places remains how ticketing works today. However, the past 5 years have seen nothing short of a revolution, with the industry increasingly embracing innovative solutions which utilise technology to provide huge benefits to passengers and transport operators and authorities alike. Today we welcome a guest feature from James Gooch of mobile ticketing pioneers Masabi to guide us through the changes and opportunities currently underway in how we pay for our journeys...
Two key technologies that have facilitated this shift are the cloud and its impact in providing cheap, resilient and scalable software, and the global adoption and ever growing functionality of the Smartphone - which can replace both ticket machine and ticket.
Like the phone, contactless bank cards can also fulfil the role of ticket - this is part of a concept we call Bring Your own Ticket (BYOT) and this represents a fundamental shift from your ticket being something you have to physically purchase and carry, to using something that you already have with you.
After a couple of centuries of stagnation, the new pace of innovation shows no sign of slowing, with a wide range of further developments on the horizon set to impact the way in which fares are collected and tickets provided. Below are some of the recent major technological advances that are transforming the world of transport ticketing:
Mobile Ticketing – Instead of waiting in line at a vending machine or ticket office you are able to buy your ticket anytime, anywhere, while transport providers get valuable data insight, improved ticketing capacity and a reduction in ticket issuance and cash handling costs.
Today, smartphones are pretty much ubiquitous, and they are changing the way people interact with and pay for a range of services. Transport is very much at the forefront of this, with taxi services and real-time travel information being two well known examples. In the ticketing world, the UK lead the way in terms of initial deployments, and mobile tickets are now widespread across its extensive rail network. Beyond this there are highly successful deployments across Europe and the US, where in some cases over 50% of tickets sold are now processed via mobile channels. Successful mobile ticketing deployments have been based on visual and barcode tickets due to the fact these technologies work across all smartphones, and were the first example of BYOT having a real impact on the ticketing market.
Account Based Ticketing – Fast approaching on the horizon, account-based ticketing (or ABT for short) removes the need for passengers to buy a ticket in advance of travel. They simply tap in, or in and out, on each journey and are then billed for their travel afterwards, at the best possible price, removing the need to spend any time before travelling buying a ticket or researching the best price. Already operational in cities like London; the introduction of cloud-based software means that ABT will soon be available to transport operators and authorities of all shapes and sizes. For Masabi, this builds upon our existing mobile ticketing software infrastructure and validation/gateline hardware already being used to provide a significant leap forward for passengers.
Gates: Renewing NOT replacing – When implementing new technologies to a gated system, the gates themselves would often be completely replaced to introduce new ticketing services and technologies. These replacement projects are extremely expensive and time consuming, effectively locking in vendors and locking out innovation. However, the gates designed over the last 10-15 years are built to last and new hardware additions are now available that ‘bolt on’ to or integrate into existing gateline hardware, renewing the gates and extending their accessibility and longevity. These devices are going live in major global cities this year allowing barcode tickets to access metro services, as well as provisioning to provide support for EMV, NFC and Bluetooth. The rate of change in digital technologies is much faster than the need to replace hardware, making modular retrofit upgrades the obvious choice for those running gatelines today.
SDKs - For the uninitiated a Software Development Kit (or SDK) is a piece of code that allows a set of functionalities to be embedded into an application. In the case of mobile ticketing, this means that any provider of existing transport information, mapping or payment applications can use an SDK to integrate mobile ticketing into their offerings. This has a number of benefits, including allowing operators to instantly provide mobile ticketing to a large user-base who are already using their services though a simple app upgrade. In an industry first, passengers in the French cities of Orleans and Montargis are already able to buy mobile tickets and travel using a journey planning application which has been integrated with a mobile ticketing SDK, giving them a great journey experience using an app they already used to get around their cities.
It’s clear to see that we are currently in a golden age of transport innovation, and nowhere is this more evident that in ticketing. After over a century of stagnation, we are seeing the seismic impacts of mobile, cloud and low-cost hardware benefitting rail operators and passengers alike.
This feature first appeared in our New frontiers in transport ticketing industry guide so for more stories on fare collection, download today for free.
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