Wednesday 31 December 2008

Bar Coded Train Tickets on Mobile

The Association ot Train Operating Companies has announced that all its franchisees will be able to take orders from train travellers straight from their phone and receive their tickets literally seconds before trains depart.

The system uses Masabi's tried and tested mobile ticketing solutions which relies on a barcode image that is scanned by the appropriate device(s) - as used by City AM newspaper and for V-fest events.

There's no need to sign-up and fast repeat purchases can simply be done using the card's CVV.

In addition, you won't be charged extra for using the sytem which uses US Government certified security encryption and when things go wrong, the new barcodes contain enough ticket information to allow alternative systems to validate tickets.

Ben Wittaker of Masabi said that "Once you send your text message to purchase your ticket, you will receive a response with a barcode reference, which can be scanned by inspectors."

Commentators hope that the service is more reliable than the UK train network and more secure than Transport For London's own Oyster system which has suffered a number of security scares in the past few months.

National Express, Heathrow Express and Chiltern Railways have already adopted the Rail Settlement Plan. This will lay the foundations of the rail ticketing body in charge of drafting the UK-wide standard which will oversee the use of tickets printed outside train stations.

Following successful trails with various train companies Masabi has worked with the Rail Settlement plan - the body that cross charges networks for ticketing to create an open standard for train tickets carrying bar codes to be accepted across rail franchises - enabling tickets to be printed out at home, or even displayed on mobile-phone screens, and used on journeys between network operators.

Selling tickets is an expensive part of running a rail franchise, and nearly 90 per cent of tickets are still sold at stations using ticket machines or at traditional windows.

Trials run by Masabi, who specialise in rendering bar-code information on phone screens, have apparently demonstrated that customers will happily buy tickets using their mobile phone - either while travelling to, or on arrival at, the railway station. Masabi's Java application stores the customer's credit card details locally, so the user just keys in the three-digit code from the back of their card along with origin and destination, and the ticket is bought and delivered over SMS or data connection where available.

But the standard also allows for bar codes to be rendered on other devices, or printed out after being bought on-line. Ticket inspectors will need to be equipped with bar-code readers, of course, but many are already sporting the technology and the standard has been devised in such a way that the last eight digits can be manually entered and checked on-line if necessary. Where a bar-code reader is used it shouldn't be necessary to perform an on-line verification as the 2D bar code contains authenticated details of the journey paid for.

The service does open up the opportunity to have one's phone poised, ready to buy a ticket should an inspector turn up, but you'll have to ensure you're are in the middle of a long carriage for that plan - as being dependent on timely SMS delivery to avoid a fine is not a good position to be in.

See Masabi's website for details.

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