Don’t wait ! The future of Mobile Ticket Inspection is now

To say that the covid pandemic has had an impact on Public Transportation Systems would be a massive understatement. While these systems have had to deal with dramatically reduced ridership levels, there have also been significant changes with the preferences and usage patterns of the customers when they did arrive. One of the most obvious changes was the rapid adoption of ‘contactless payment’ as a method of fare payment. Rather than buying tickets or passes, transit customers simply ‘tapped’ their credit cards when they rode subways and buses.
Perhaps forced by necessity, this rapid acceptance of a new technology by the public is encouraging and might even be the gateway to further innovations, such as full ‘Open Payment’ solutions. These ‘open-loop’ solutions would enable the users to tap on and off the transit system with their credit cards, and have the best fare eventually calculated and charged to their account. In cases where riders will travel often within a given timeframe, the applicable discounts and fare limits can be applied before a consolidated bill would be sent to the customer each month. This then leads into what is known as ‘account-based ticketing’, where any number of methods of identification (credit card, ID, monthly pass, cellphone, etc) can be used to identify a customer, with all charges and discounts calculated on their monthly account. As transit systems offer these different approaches, the adoption rate will continue to increase but probably never to 100%. The tickets and passes of today are likely to exist for the foreseeable future.
This transition of technology presents a unique and difficult challenge, especially in the area of ticket validation and control of fare evasion. Not only do you need to be able to check the legacy tickets and transit cards for validity, but you will now need to be able to determine if it was a rider’s credit card or other identification that was used to recently gain entry. Devices and information systems that deal with bank card information can require special EMV and PCI certifications to ensure data privacy, further adding to the complexity. For transit agencies that utilize ticket agents to validate rider’s fare payments, you have now need to package a lot of technology into a mobile handheld device to cover all these use cases. In these situations, a typical ruggedized smartphone is not going to handle it. Specialized RFID reading technology will be required to cover the range of media, from tickets to transit cards to credit cards; all while ensuring that the operator can read it quickly without fumbling the ticket across the surface of their device. Transit passes and credit cards are often contained in wallets or holders to protect them, making them difficult to read. Paper barcode tickets need the speed and accuracy of a dedicated 2D imager rather than the ‘clunkiness’ of a consumer camera.
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Each on their own, these different approaches and technologies present their own unique challenges. But it is how the technology is combined in a handheld device that can really make the difference. We have all experienced waiting in long lines for an inexperienced ticket checker with a poorly performing scanner to validate our entry, especially if a ticket has a problem. Anything short of a quick, painless transaction leaves both the user and the customer wanting more. Today’s modern handheld ticket checking devices not only support multiple formats including EMV credit cards, but their user can switch between them seamlessly and quickly. And that is what makes the difference.

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