We believe that the main theme of the next 10 years of fare collection will be a move away from transit issued media like smartcards and magnetic paper stock, and instead make use of credentials or technology that the passenger already has access to, such as mobiles and contactless bank cards – characterised as “Bring your own media”.
By making use of items that are already easily available to the rider, the transit operator can completely cut out a significant amount of infrastructure and business activity around media provision, top-up and servicing, and cut out cash and queues at the same time.
Mobile is fast becoming a ubiquitous technology that transit operators can enable as a personal ticket machine, allowing passengers to select and pay for simple or complex tickets, and you never have to wait in line to use your own mobile. They also have the capability to sell the high value tickets that cannot be purchased with a contactless tap.
The multi-radio equipped modern mobiles provide several methods for ticket reading, including visual on-screen, barcode on-screen, Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE), NFC, Wi-Fi, and even audio. One or more of these can be used concurrently, but it is not really important to get hung up on the specific reading technology.
Unfortunately, the slow and stuttering arrival of NFC has harmed some mTicketing rollouts, as many perfectly good projects have been delayed while perpetually waiting for NFC. Thankfully we are now seeing progress as agencies have stopped waiting and have launched with the available technologies such as visual and barcode for now, and may look at Bluetooth or NFC later. The latest scanners can read barcode tickets reliably in under half a second, so the pressure to move to other technologies has reduced. The passenger just wants to travel without waiting in line – they really don’t care which buzz-word gets them there!
Contactless Bank cards, although they don’t have a user interface for selecting complex tickets, can perform very well in simpler zonal or fixed price ticketing – replacing the functionality provided by traditional legacy smartcard systems but without requiring the cost of any card issuing, top-up or management. Contactless transactions are capped at £20, €20 or $25 in many markets, so cannot be used for higher value journeys just from a simple tap.
One of the helpful technical advances is that it’s now possible to procure combined readers that can cope with paper, mobile, and contactless bank cards on a single validator. This allows an agency to fit equipment once, and be ready for any blend of passenger choices, all of which pave the way for “bring your own media” cost savings.
Ben Whitaker, CEO of Masabi
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