Friday 21st January 2022

Get on-board for smart city ticketing today

True mobile ticketing is at the heart of future public transportation, says Antony Savvas. A key aim of the smart city agenda lies in the use of data and technology to create efficiencies, improve sustainability and improve the quality of life for those living and working in such cities.

Helping citizens efficiently move around smart cities ticks many of the boxes for sustainability and quality of life. But creating a “frictionless” journey experience (more on this later) and using IoT data insights to optimise the provision of services is what’s needed.

The future of smart travel may one day be about driverless buses and using IoT beacons in metro stations to remove ticket barriers, but cities can already realise the benefits of smart ticketing today. The first foundational step to an IoT-powered smart city is through the connected device already in everyone’s possession – the smartphone.

The technology behind mobile ticketing

Smart trainsAcross many major cities the smart card has already replaced the paper ticket. However, with the growing dependence on smartphones for everyday tasks, growing numbers of consumers want to use their phone in place of physical transport and payment cards as part of an enhanced travel experience.

According to mobile IoT solutions provider Rambus, Host Card Emulation (HCE) technology represents an important step towards this enhanced travel experience. HCE is a software architecture that enables a virtual smart card to be securely stored on a mobile phone. This means passengers no longer need to carry a physical paper ticket or have a separate smart card.

HCE is already a proven technology for mobile payments (Google’s Android with integrated HCE has already made it so, for instance) and is now set to be an enabling technology for truly smart mobile ticketing.

Benefits for customers and transport operators

Russell McCullagh, VP and managing director of Rambus Ticketing

Russell McCullagh

Russell McCullagh, VP and managing director of Rambus Ticketing, says HCE ticketing is the “favoured next step” for operators. This is because it works with existing smart infrastructure, meaning costs for implementation are greatly reduced compared with other forms of ticketing. And for customers, such a system means no queuing to pay for or collect tickets at vending machines or station windows.

New business and operational opportunities are also created, enabling personalised updated travel alerts based on a passenger’s travel history and offering targeted deals from third-party partners. Travelling on a cold day? Your favourite coffee shop could send you a voucher for a warming hot chocolate before you board, or there could be the option to pre-order a drink for when you board your train.

What the future looks like

Looking beyond HCE, the development and adoption of technologies such as beacons, biometrics and connected devices will influence the development of the integrated transport ecosystem. In the future, McCullagh says, access to the transport network should become “frictionless”. Account Based Ticketing (ABT) will be central to making this happen, securely linking a passenger’s account to a token or unique identifier – such as a smartphone – which is automatically charged for your journey.

Through geo-location beacons, the need to tap any smart device while travelling will be removed. Instead, passengers will automatically be identified upon embarking or exiting any mode of transport as they move freely across the city.

Wearables are set to play a major part. A recent report from Juniper Research says contactless ticketing through wearables will be key in the transport sector and in the events sector.

Juniper Research says using wearables for making ticket purchases is currently “understandably minimal” given the low penetration of capable devices, as well as the lack of supported contactless infrastructure at venues and stadiums.

But with contactless vendors – such as Apple and Samsung – increasingly partnering with transit operators and events ticketing providers, Juniper Research forecasts that contactless tickets purchased via smart wearables will exceed US$1 billion in value by 2022.

It should also be noted that Juniper Research forecasts that mobile and wearable ticket purchases will exceed 14 billion transactions in 2018 – accounting for 54% of total digital ticket sales across the transport and events sectors, and exceeding PC-based ticket sales.

So, it is certainly all aboard towards true smart cities with the help of HCE and ABT.


The author is freelance IT writer Antony Savvas

Antony SavvasAntony Savvas has been a business journalist for almost 30 years, covering various industries and has written for many of the leading international technology magazines and websites, on telecoms and computing convergence, the rise of mobile and wireless networks and the evolution around business digital transformation. He is also an editorial consultant for major technology companies.