Contact-free public transport (Part 3)

person holding smartphone

This is the third of three blogs about technologies to support contact-free use of public transport.

The radio again – I hear that the Transport Minister for England had just reported that there have been fewer than 400 fines for people failed to wear face covering on public transport. More than 115,000 travellers have been stopped and reminded that face coverings are mandatory, and 9,500 people prevented from travelling.

Contact-free public transport (Part 2)

photo of a bus

This is the second of three blogs about technologies to support contact-free use of public transport.

Public transport operators have been making great efforts to make public transport safe during the pandemic. TfL recently launched a new app that makes it easier for passengers to plan their travel and avoid routes where they might come close to large numbers of people. There are claims that the rate of uptake of contactless by passengers has increased significantly since the pandemic and the demand for contact-free transactions on public transport. Visa recently offered a graph relating to global public transport contactless transactions. However, it is not clear what the actual contactless usage is since they are hidden behind month-on-month percentage increases which look enormous when the previous months had fallen off the proverbial cliff.

Contact-free public transport (Part 1)

buildings city clock downtown

This is the first of three blogs about technologies to support contact-free use of public transport.

I heard on the radio that, despite ministers encouraging people in England back to work in their offices, most are staying at home. Commuter trains are about one-third full and buses are about 40% full. During the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for public transport fell off a cliff as governments told their people to stay at home.  A major part of encouraging travellers to use public transport is the provision of systems that allow social distancing of passengers from staff, ideally eliminating the need to exchange physical tickets, cash and paper receipts.

Travel Broke and Broken

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has been ruthlessly exposing fragile business models and weak balance sheets across a whole range of industries but perhaps never more so than in the travel business. In fairness, no one could have anticipated a global, government dictated total shutdown and no business models could ever be flexible enough to support such an improbable scenario. Still, it’s become clear that many travel industry companies are effectively broke and that the payments model they rely on is broken. Going forward we need a better and more sustainable approach to payments in the industry.

Most travel industry payments rely on payments cards so it’s worth starting by recapping on how most card payment models work. When a cardholder makes a payment to a merchant – either in store or, increasingly, on-line, this is routed to the merchant’s card acquirer. The acquirer has a direct relationship with the merchant in the same way that a card issuer has a direct relationship with cardholders and the acquirer will route the payment request to the relevant issuer – usually by sending the request to a payment scheme who uses the card number to identify the correct issuer. If the issuer approves the transaction then the response is routed back through the same path and the purchase completed. This is no different from any other card payment, although there are hidden complexities where the merchant is an online travel agent sourcing flights, hotels, etc from multiple underlying vendors. However, that’s a detail.

Leveraging the payment networks for immunity passports

COVID-19

As if lockdown were not bad enough, many of us are now faced with spending the next year with children unable to spend their Gap Year travelling the more exotic parts of the world. The traditional jobs within the entertainment and leisure sectors that could keep them busy, and paid for their travel, are no longer available. The opportunity to spend time with elderly relatives depends on the results of their last COVID-19 test.

I recognize that we are a lucky family to have such ‘problems’. However, they are representative of the issues we all face as we work hard to bring our families, companies and organizations out of lockdown. When can we open up our facilities to our employees, customers and visitors? What protection should we offer those employees that must or choose to work away from home? What is the impact of the CEO travelling abroad to meet new employees or customers, sign that large deal or deliver the keynote at that trade fair in Las Vegas?

Lockdown for transit

COVID-19 lockdown for transit

A couple of weeks ago I was delighted to host one of our weekly COVID-19 webinars. We discussed the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on public transport and how our technologies are likely to be used to help.

We had two panellists from Consult Hyperion (Neil McEvoy, CEO, and Simon Laker, Principal Consultant from our US office) and the guest panellist was Steve Cassidy from Fuse Mobility, a Scottish start-up providing Mobility as a Service (MaaS) software solutions.

The discussion was divided into three parts as follows:

  1. In the ‘Before Times’, MaaS was the direction of travel motivated by congestion and global warming. Will this continue to be the case?
  2. During the COVID-19 Lockdown, how can technology help facilitate safer essential travel?
  3. What will the ‘New Normal’ look like for mobility?

The Before Times

MaaS solutions – ones that integrate different existing transport providers to provide a near seamless door-to-door experience for consumers – were assumed to be the long term ‘direction of travel’ in order to address the mobility, congestion and pollution issues. Our MaaS Payments white paper in July 2019 showed that integration is key:

  • Modes
  • Ticketing
  • Payments
  • Journey planning
  • Hyperpersonalised packages

Lockdown

Many public transport operators are providing ‘enhanced Sunday services’. As most passengers stay at or work from home, we are seeing a decline in ridership of 75-95% across the globe. Changing patterns of user mobility when working from home means there are many fewer advance purchases in an uncertain future with tightly managed budgets. This is pushing us towards the future we already thought was coming where PAYG dominates and season tickets are irrelevant. Operator web sites are having to make special provision for customers claiming refunds on their season tickets which they can no longer use.

Meanwhile, we are seeing reports of levels of traffic being back at 1955 levels and the improvement of air quality leading to an estimated 1,752 avoided pollution deaths in the UK.

New Normal

For me, the most interesting technical development for coming out of Lockdown is the ‘Privacy-preserving contact tracing apps’ being proposed by various government and organisations across the globe. We have seen an unprecedented co-operation between Apple and Google in agreeing to modify their mobile device operating systems to accommodate such apps. The technology proposed is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) which uses radio waves over distances up to 10m. The technology is the same as has been tried without much success for running Be-In Be-Out (BIBO) transit payment schemes. These tend to suffer from not being able to detect accurately enough whether a potential passenger is on or off a bus, or just standing nearby. And they also suffer from being no more convenient to use than established technologies such as contactless cards and 2-D barcodes.

BLE will allow two contact tracing apps to detect each other and share anonymised information about being in contact that can be used later to alert potentially infected parties when someone declares themselves as having tested positive.

The UK government has rejected the proposals from Apple, Google and several others to instead prefer a centralised approach because they believe the alternative would lead to a delay in the reporting of symptoms, amongst other consequences. Only time will tell whether the UK population can be convinced to use the NHS app which launched a trial in the Isle of Wight on 4 May. Steve Pannifer recently blogged about this. And we discussed it on week 6 of our Webinars, the recording of which will be available on our website soon.

What will the future hold for public transport when lock down lifts? On the webinar we considered what plans China had in place at that time. The Shenzhen bus company paper about combatting COVID-19 covers the following points:

  • The virus will not be eradicated soon; extra precautions are needed against the spread of the virus.
  • Passenger will be screened using temperature checks.
  • Big data used will be used for planning the most important routes needed for getting passengers to work; mobility provided will be modified according to demand.
  • Passenger health data will be collected from apps. Presumably, like other contact tracing apps mentioned above.
  • Continued enforcement of a maximum of 50% passenger loading.
  • Voluntary passenger name and contacts registration in case needed later.

There is an opportunity for MaaS Providers post lockdown since the public are likely to be either using their private cars to avoid contact with others or else using on demand services.

The transit COVID-19 webinar recording is available to watch. Many thanks to our panellists for sharing their time and insights.

We continue to host weekly webinars every Thursday at 4pm BST. Let us know if you would like to register to attend.

The “isRecovered?” attribute

So far the tech giants seem to be the coronavirus winners, with a massive surge in digital communications and online orders. The impact on lift sharing companies is less clear.

The guidance from both Uber and Lyft says that if they are notified (by a public health authority) that a driver has COVID-19 they may temporarily suspend the driver’s account. It is not exactly clear how this would work.

That got us wondering whether digital identity systems, that we spend so much time talking about, could help. It seems to me there are two potential identity questions here:

1.       Is the driver who Uber or Lyft thinks it is?

2.       Does the driver have coronavirus?

The first question should be important to Uber and Lyft at any time. Ok, for the moment they want to be sure that they know who is driving to give them a better chance of knowing if the driver has the disease. But there are all sorts of other reasons why they might want to be sure that the driver is who they think it is – can the person legally drive for one.

The second question is harder. Just because the driver doesn’t have the virus today, doesn’t mean he or she won’t have it tomorrow. Maybe, perhaps the ability to share an isRecovered? attribute that says “I’ve recovered from the illness” would be useful when we start to see the light at the end of this tunnel we are entering. And the ability to share that anonymously might be helpful too – providing assurance to both driver and passenger.

All this to one side, the guidance from both Uber and Lyft outlines financial measures they are putting in place to provide security to drivers that self-isolate. That is a great example of responsibility providing the incentive and support required to allow their drivers to do the right thing.

Transport Ticketing Global 2020

We were at TTGlobal (28-29 Jan 2020) this year for the fifth year running. It was a much bigger event in Kensington Olympia, London, with around 30% more attendees. This blog is a summary of how the two days went for us.

Day 1

The Plenary session had a surprise guest in the form of the Future of Transport Minister, George Freeman. He spoke eloquently about subjects very close to our hearts:

  • Seamless end-to-end ticketing
  • Integrated PAYG
  • Sustainability: he explained that the emissions of the transport sector are expected to double by 2050 unless something radical is done.

I have written before about a shift in government thinking about mobility that seems to be taking place. Let’s hope this signals more of the same and is followed with positive, decisive action.

Our CEO, Neil McEvoy, moderated the plenary panel on ‘the role of ticketing and urban transport policies in delivering MaaS,’ with panellists from:

  • Visa
  • Mastercard
  • Government of the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Dallas Areas Rapid Transit, USA
  • Uber

Picture1

It was felt that to meet public policy objectives on congestion, air quality and CO2 emissions, facilitating multi-modal, door-to-door, everyday journeys would be key. Facilitating journeys outside of a traveller’s home city or region is welcome but won’t meet wider goals alone.

Highlight of the rest of Day 1 included:

  • An update on the Future of Oyster from Transport for London. There are still no plans to turn it off, though the uptake of bank cards by the travelling public continues to rise steadily.
  • The Masabi presentation about Fare Payments as Service which was the subject of a recent podcast I made with Ben Whitaker.
  • Contactless bank card ticketing has come of age. There were lots of presentations about cEMV roll outs. Visa announced that they have solutions to the classic problems with bank cards (they don’t work for the unbanked or family groups). Contact them if you want to learn more.

Day 2

I moderated a panel about the future of ticketing technologies with panellists from:

  • Deutsche Bahn, Germany
  • GVB, Netherlands
  • The Human Chain, UK
  • Department for Transport, UK

Picture2

We made a whistle-stop tour of up and coming technologies relevant to the different actors in the Mobility ecosystem, ranging from big data and augmented reality for Data Providers to Open Banking and distributed ledger technology for Maas Providers.

Other highlights for me from Day 2 included:

  • The UK’s Rail Delivery Group’s presentation on developing insight from barcode data, linking tickets sold with tickets scanned to inform revenue protection.
  • An update from Transport for the North on their Integrated and Smart Travel activities.
  • A presentation by MOTC about the difficulties faced by Qatar which currently is massively dependent on the private car and their plans to address the congestion problems they face.

Exhibition

I spent most of my time in the exhibition hall talking with contacts and vendors. I wish there had been time to attend more of the presentations.

I took the opportunity to record another podcast while at the event. This time with Eric Reese, CEO of ByteMark over from New York.

Awards

Once again, I was delighted to be one of the panel of judges for the awards presented at the Gala Dinner and Awards held at the Science Museum and hosted by comedian Phil Wang. It was decided by the judges to introduce a Highly Commended tier this year within each award category. This is in recognition that the standard or submissions was generally high. So, while Moscow won the Best Smart Ticketing Programme 2020, both of the following were Highly Commended:

  • Flowbird Transport Intelligence & Lothian Buses for their smooth role out of contactless payments card acceptance in Edinburgh in time for the Edinburgh Festival dramatic rise in population and bus usage;
  • Rail Delivery Group & Cubic Transportation Systems for the delivery of barcode ticketing under budget and achieving collaboration between 19 Train Operating Companies.

Overall, the event was a great success and great fun to be part of. Here’s to next year.

At Consult Hyperion we have experience globally with transport and mobile ticketing and deploying the latest technologies. If you would like to learn more, give us a call.

Consult Hyperion’s Live 5 for 2020

At Consult Hyperion we take a certain amount of enjoyment looking back over some of our most interesting projects around the world over the previous year or so, wrapping up thoughts on what we’re hearing in the market and spending some time thinking about the future. Each year we consolidate the themes and bring together our Live Five.

2020 is upon us and so it’s time for some more future gazing! Now, as in previous years, how can you pay any attention to our prognostications without first reviewing our previous attempts? In 2017 we highlighted regtech and PSD2, 2018 was open banking and conversational commerce, and for 2019 it was secure customer authentication and digital wallets — so we’re a pretty good weathervane for the secure transactions’ world! Now, let’s turn to what we see for this coming year.

Hello 2020

Our Live Five has once again been put together with particular regard to the views of our clients. They are telling us that over the next 12 months retailers, banks, regulators and their suppliers will focus on privacy as a proposition, customer intimacy driven by hyper-personalisation and personalized payment options, underpinned by a focus on cyber-resilience. In the background, they want to do what they can to reduce their impact on the global environment. For our transit clients, there will be a particular focus on bringing these threads together to reduce congestion through flexible fare collection.

So here we go…

1. This year will see privacy as a consumer proposition. This is an easy prediction to make, because serious players are going to push it. We already see this happening with “Sign in with Apple” and more services in this mould are sure to follow. Until quite recently privacy was a hygiene factor that belonged in the “back office”. But with increasing industry and consumer concerns about privacy, regulatory drivers such as GDPR and the potential for a backlash against services that are seen to abuse personal data, privacy will be an integral part of new services. As part of this we expect to see organisations that collect large amounts of personal data looking at ways to monetise this trend by shifting to attribute exchange and anonymised data analytics. Banks are an obvious candidate for this type of innovation, but not the only one – one of our biggest privacy projects is for a mass transit operator, concerned by the amount of additional personal information they are able to collect on travellers as they migrate towards the acceptance of contactless payment cards at the faregate.

2. Underpinning all of this is the urgent need to address cyber-resilience. Not a week goes by without news of some breach or failure by a major organisation putting consumer data and transactions at risk. With the advent of data protection regulations such as GDPR, these issues are major threats to the stability and profitability of companies in all sectors. The first step to addressing this is to identify the threats and vulnerabilities in existing systems before deciding how and where to invest in countermeasures.

Our Structured Risk Analysis (SRA) process is designed to help our customers through this process to ensure that they are prepared for the potential issues that could undermine their businesses.

3. Privacy and Open Data, if correctly implemented and trusted by the consumer, will facilitate the hyper-personalisation of services, which in turn will drive customer intimacy. Many of us are familiar with Google telling us how long it will take us to get home, or to the gym, as we leave the office. Fewer of us will have experienced the pleasure of being pushed new financing options by the first round of Open Banking Fintechs, aimed at helping entrepreneurs to better manage their start-up’s finances.

We have already demonstrated to our clients that it is possible to use new technology in interesting ways to deliver hyper-personalisation in a privacy-enhancing way. Many of these depend on the standardization of Premium Open Banking API’s, i.e. API’s that extend the data shared by banks beyond that required by the regulators, into areas that can generate additional revenue for the bank. We expect to see the emergence of new lending and insurance services, linked to your current financial circumstances, at the point of service, similar to those provided by Klarna.

4. One particular area where personalisation will have immediate impact is giving consumers personalised payment options with new technologies being deployed, such as EMV’s Secure Remote Commerce (SRC) and W3C’s payment request API. Today, most payment solutions are based around payment cards but increasingly we will see direct to account (D2A) payment options such as the PSD2 payment APIs. Cards themselves will increasingly disappear to be replaced by tokenized equivalents which can be deployed with enhanced security to a wide range of form factors – watches, smartphones, IoT devices, etc. The availability of D2A and tokenized solutions will vastly expand the range of payment options available to consumers who will be able to choose the option most suitable for them in specific circumstances. Increasingly we expect to see the awkwardness and friction of the end of purchase payment disappear, as consumers select the payment methods that offer them the maximum convenience for the maximum reward. Real-time, cross-border settlement will power the ability to make many of our commerce transactions completely transparent. Many merchants are confused by the plethora of new payment services and are uncertain about which will bring them more customers and therefore which they should support. Traditionally they have turned to the processors for such advice, but mergers in this field are not necessarily leading to clear direction.

We know how to strategise, design and implement the new payment options to deliver value to all of the stakeholders and our track record in helping global clients to deliver population-scale solutions is a testament to our expertise and experience in this field.

5. In the transit sector, we can see how all of the issues come together. New pay-as-you-go systems based upon cards continue to rollout around the world. The leading edge of Automated Fare Collection (AFC) is however advancing. How a traveller chooses to identify himself, and how he chooses to pay are, in principle, different decisions and we expect to see more flexibility. Reducing congestion and improving air quality are of concern globally; best addressed by providing door-to-door journeys without reliance on private internal combustion engines. This will only prove popular when ultra-convenient. That means that payment for a whole journey (or collection or journeys) involving, say, bike/ride share, tram and train, must be frictionless and support the young, old and in-between alike.

Moving people on to public transport by making it simple and convenient to pay is how we will help people to take practical steps towards sustainability.

So, there we go. Privacy-enhanced resilient infrastructure will deliver hyper-personalisation and give customers more safe payment choices. AFC will use this infrastructure to both deliver value and help the environment to the great benefit of all of us. It’s an exciting year ahead in our field!



Biometric Travel

It’s been a while since I first read that British Airways (BA) was going to introduce facial biometrics for boarding international flights at Heathrow. I don’t recall going through biometric gates for flights, and I fly a lot, so it must still be in limited deployment. Hurry up BA – this is a great example of biometrics as a convenience technology.

If you been in a BA boarding queue recently, you’ll know how convenient it is to board using the QR code on your phone and how inconvenient it is to fumble around getting your passport out to show at the gate and how annoying it is to be in the line behind people who put the phone down to rummage around in a bag to find the passport and then have to mess around unlocking the phone again because it locked while they were rummaging. So, if BA can do the passport scan and face capture away from the boarding gate they can make for a much smoother boarding process.

Of course the boarding pass has to be real. I remember watching an episode of “Britain on the Fiddle” about boarding cards. The program, which was excellent by the way, included reports of ID fraud that I found fascinating, but also featured Mickey Pitt, an engaging cigarette smuggler who masterminded an operation that used fake boarding passes to get in and out of airports undetected. Perhaps we can fix that problem with the same technology.

According to International Airport Review, a scan of the customer’s face is recorded when they travel through security, and when they arrive at the gate, their face is matched with this representation when they present their boarding pass. Thus you can get on the plane just using the boarding pass in your Apple Wallet and you can leave your passport in your bag.

I hope Terminal 5 will move to remote capture for all flights. Surely as an Executive Club member I should be able to have them capture a picture of my passport at home using Au10tix or similar and store it with my account so that next time I go to the airport I can breeze through the boarding process: they should get rid of the “priority” boarding line (which on many BA flights seems to include almost all passengers) and replace it with a mobile/biometric line.

If we analyse the problem by breaking it down using our identity model, the three-domain model (3DID), we can see there are three separate problems that need to be solved using the technologically effectively:

  • identifying the person travelling (we need to bind a passport);
  • authenticating that the boarding pass is in the hand of the correct person; and
  • authorising the person with the boarding pass to go through the gate on to the plane.

The way to do this is, in my opinion, is to create a digital identity for the purposes of travelling (the travel ID) and to bind this identity to a mundane identity by linking it to a specific passport. Then British Airways can bind this identity to my Executive Club by creating a BA virtual identity, Delta can create a Delta identity and so on. Now, when I make a booking, the booking is connected to my BA ID.

That BA ID could, of course, contain either my face (in the form of a biometric template) or it could contain some other biometric that is optimised for speed and convenience at the airport. Finger vein, is a great example of a technology that has been around for ever and is tried and tested. You can’t take a picture of my finger vein when I’m walking down the road and then use it to pretend to be me, I have to walk up to a scanner and then physically insert my finger, thus consenting to the authentication.

That way, we could restructure the airport experience around technology instead of electronic simulations of paper. In this way, I can check in for the flight on my phone and then put my phone away. When I get to the airport, I go through security (at which point my face is checked against the passport photo in my BA ID) and then go to experience the Terminal 5 shopping experience. When it is time to board the plane, I put my finger into a scanner at the gate and off I go.

Consult Hyperion worked on a few projects looking at finger vein technology for UK banks a while ago – and it featured in our  Tomorrow’s Transactions blog back in 2007 because Hitachi and JCB were playing around with finger vein payments. If you’d like to know more about our model for identity (3DID) or would like to hear about our experiences with secure biometric technology, drop us a line info@chyp.com


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