How to Choose an ITSO-based Mobile Ticketing Solution for a Lower Total Cost of Ownership

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 9th, 2018.

This is the first in a series of blogs aimed at UK-based transport operators looking to add ITSO-based mobile ticketing to their existing smart ticketing deployment.

A new secure form of mobile ticketing launches in the UK

The UK has a Government mandated interoperable open standard for transport ticketing called ITSO. This works across the UK for train, bus, ferry and underground networks, ensuring there is interoperability across ticketing suppliers and systems. Traditionally, physical smart cards have been at the heart of ITSO-based deployments but more recently the ability to create a virtual smart card on a mobile handset which can securely store digital travel tickets has led to the development of ITSO-based mobile ticketing. A notable example of this form of ticketing is the recent deployment by Rambus for Scotland’s national rail operator, ScotRail. A key feature of this new mobile ticketing technology deployed by Rambus is that it can interoperate with the existing smart ticketing infrastructure and associated back office software which has already been deployed.

Can the solution integrate with existing hardware?

To protect and build on an operators existing investment they should look for a solution that integrates as much as possible with their existing smart deployment. A mobile platform should have as a core requirement that it integrates with the existing validation devices wherever possible and the associated back office software. This significantly reduces any additional operator investment required to deploy the solution and allows for compatibility in the future – as the existing smart card deployment changes, so the mobile platform can change with it. This also allows customer support to be managed more seamlessly from both a customer and operator perspective.

Can it emulate the existing smart card estate?

As with the existing hardware, integration with the existing back office systems is another key requirement. This avoids the operator having to purchase and run an additional system just for the mobile part of their ticketing deployment. It also maintains consistency for their staff and customers as the mobile virtual card issuance mimics seamlessly their physical card issuance, leading to a minimal set of changes to existing systems for a speedy deployment. In this scenario, the customer can maintain a single account with both smart cards and mobiles, reflecting the reality of how customers are likely to migrate from one platform to the other, rather than a ‘big bang’ approach of migrating to new system.


Can it link in with existing configuration assets?

Within the wider ITSO ticketing ecosystem exists an entity known as a shell Operator Identification (commonly known as a shell OID). When a customer presents their smart card and ITSO ticket products for travel at a station gate or bus electronic ticket machine (ETM), the identity of the card holder, the operator who issued the smart card and the identity of the owner who issued the products held on the smart card is captured.  This represents an important function both for a customer and transport provider. It provides data to the shell and product owner of whose cards are being used for travel and which products are being used and when. This data is owned by the issuing shell or product owner and provides valuable insights into their customers travel patterns and how different ticket products are used. From a customer viewpoint, if they have an issue with their smart card or purchased product they can contact the operator for assistance and the operator will be able to identify their card and products via the normal business processes configured through their OID.

To keep configuration costs to a minimum, when adding ITSO-based mobile ticketing to an existing card-based deployment it Is more straightforward to do so utilizing the existing OID. This approach ensures required levels of data are captured and customer support is maintained as before.

Old OID or new OID – and how can this affect reporting?

Retrieving data from smart systems is a key operational requirement of smart transport schemes. It’s something that should never be overlooked when choosing a mobile ticketing technology solution as without effective reporting a transport scheme cannot fully know what’s happening in the live environment. This is a critical feature to ‘get right’.

Reports are generally set-up to identify a particular OID so the operator can easily view the data processed via their own OID.  If a solution requires an additional OID to be set-up to support ITSO-based mobile ticketing then new reporting updates will be required, leading to additional costs to the operator.

Where an ITSO-based mobile ticketing solution utilizes the existing scheme OID it will already emulate the existing smart cards closely and so integration for wider reporting even beyond those gathered via the OID is seamless.

Transitioning from smart card to mobile

How and where customers travel will often dictate how they access tickets and which type of mobile ticketing technology they choose. An open standard based interoperable ticketing solution is capable of working across multiple travel scenarios – meaning the customer only needs one solution no matter where or how they are travelling. Regular commuters can often own multiple physical smart cards for use across differing operators and regions. There are differing mobile ticketing solutions on the market, but if this means a customer must use multiple apps across multiple accounts or are restricted by mobile payment limits then we have missed an opportunity to genuinely provide a seamless mobile experience.

As an example, when purchasing tickets online for use on national rail services there are no railcard discounts applied and all tickets are charged as adult tickets even if under 18’s are travelling. Mobile platforms must therefore consider the environment in their design to allow customers to move from one mode of transport to another in the most seamless way.

Does a mobile solution need to emulate your existing smart card-based deployment?

A mobile platform which emulates a smart card bureau to issue smart tickets will offer a more consistent customer experience and make it simpler for customers to switch between physical smart card and ‘virtual’ smart card mobile ticketing. It enables customers to switch between the two because they can be delivered via a consistent user interface and back office system, they can book in advance when required and benefit from the best available fares all via mobile. For operators who already have a smart card deployment, a mobile platform that will allow for a seamless and easy integration of both types of ticketing within a single app will help reduce overall cost. This offers a new retail revolution as customers will be less reliant on expensive infrastructure to access tickets as they can self-serve via their mobile device. Crucially, no new hardware is required which reduces time and cost of deployment.

A retail revolution requires mass adoption

Smart cards will continue to be used in public transport for many years to come but it’s clear there is a growing expectation by customers to have a secure mobile based alternative. To facilitate mass adoption, a mobile solution must be secure enough to protect both operator revenues and customer data, it must be reliable and work well across the systems and infrastructure already in place. Ultimately, it’s the customer experience that must sit at the heart of a successful mobile ticketing deployment and that will determine which mobile platform will be the winning technology leap for public transport.