It’s that time of year again: where’s it’s traditional to take stock and look to the future. At Consult Hyperion, we do that through our ‘Live 5’ process; where we look at major trends in business, technology and consumer attitudes and project them onto our areas of business focus, with twists of our own. This is more than a marketing exercise. It informs our advisory services, but also sets our own strategy, for example by determining what technologies are investigated, and protypes built, by our Hyperlab unit.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- In the ‘Before Times’, MaaS was the direction of travel motivated by congestion and global warming. Will this continue to be the case?
- During the COVID-19 Lockdown, how can technology help facilitate safer essential travel?
- 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:
- Journey planning
- Hyperpersonalised packages
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Government of the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Dallas Areas Rapid Transit, USA
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
I was delighted to have the opening speech at the Transport Card Forum (TCF) in London in which I talked about Mobile Wallets. At the previous meeting there was a presentation about mobile ticketing and a member of the audience asked why there was no mention of the use of mobile wallets. I tended to agree since most of our mobile ticketing projects have been about clever ways of using mobile wallets to get around the technical barriers associated with barcodes, HCE and the like.
There is a problem which Transport Scotland have termed the “Glasgow Conundrum”. Within one city or region, a passenger door-to-door journey might consist of several legs and each of these legs might be services by a different transport operator. Each operator might use a different ticketing technology and accept payments in different limited ways. From a customer point of view, it stinks; integration is what they need. But it is clear that there are two distinct questions:
- 1. How can the customer pay for travel rights?
- 2. How can the customer prove they own travel rights when travelling?
Ideally the payment mechanism would be decoupled from the type of travel rights and the transport operator. MaaS Providers should be free to accept payments from whatever means suit the customers. If you are interested in this aspect of things, download our white paper: MaaS Payments, a billion dollar opportunity. The download includes a discount code for Transport Ticketing Global 2020 where I will be chairing a panel again in January and judging the awards entrants.
The multiple legs that make up the end-to-end journey might be thought of as what the rail industry called ‘split ticketing’. Rather than having a single ticket, you can buy single tickets for each part of the journey and sometime (usually where Train Operator boundaries are crossed) this can work out cheaper. Mobile apps are very good at hiding this sort of complexity from the passenger and one can imagine that, using geolocation services, the app can decide which ticket should be presented when in order to sail through the gates and turnstiles. And all the split tickets could be stored in the mobile wallets.
Meanwhile, the sales of tickets are diminishing as the areas offering Pay As You Go (PAYG) continue to expand. Project ‘Oval’ round London is seeing the imminent expansion of PAYG contactless bank cards as far as Reading on the new Elizabeth Line from January 2020. For various reasons, Oyster will not be able to be used as far out. So, once again we are seeing contactless bank card technology reaching further than Oyster. There are government plans (election permitting) to add hundreds more rail stations to the TfL PAYG scheme.
London is not the only game in town, and we see other PAYG schemes around the UK. The continued expansion of PAYG represents improved customer experience but is not great news for retailers of travel rights unless they can find a way to sell PAYG and make a profit.
If the PAYG area accepts contactless bank cards (like London), then mobile wallets can be used to allow passengers to travel seamlessly in these areas. Citymapper launched a plastic prepaid Mastercard for this purpose for residents of London only in April 2019. It has recently become available as a virtual card using mobile wallets on both Android and Apple iOS devices. By contrast, the UK smart ticketing standards, ITSO, has partnered with Google and Google Pay wallet has been customised for ITSO so that now ITSO tickets can be loaded into the mobile wallets of Android phones only.
So, lots of choices. And the Glasgow Conundrum continues to some extent, though I can see MaaS Providers apps being able to hide this complexity if they get it right. I was very happy to recently have Ben Whitaker round at Chyp towers explaining Masabi’s take on automatic fare collection using mobile apps. We made a podcast about their Fare Payments as a Service and Ben’s views on where MaaS is going which I found very interesting.
At Consult Hyperion we have a lot of experience with smart ticketing, mobile ticketing and, in particular, mobile digital wallets. If you would like to learn more, give us a call.
I’ve just been in Bristol at the annual Transport Card Forum (TCF) two-day event. I was on the agenda as chair of Working Group 27 giving the final report on progress. The report will be going to DfT shortly and thereafter available to TCF members via the website. I’ve been attending TCF for many years and it is impossible not to notice how very slowly things change in transport ticketing.
One piece of our recent advice to a sub-national transport body, when hired to outline their smart ticketing strategy can be summarised as: do not seek government funding to implement a region-wide (expensive) smart ticketing solution, but rather look at what already exists and how these ticketing schemes might be brought together to meet the needs of the various travelling customer types in the region. In this context, I was pleased to hear mention of software development kit (SDK) offerings from Masabi and FAIRTIQ giving me hope that the transport ticketing industry is moving in the right direction. For example, Masabi using their SDK to insert their ticketing technology into the Uber app for trials in Denver, Colorado.
A recurring theme at the event was operators reporting how PAYG solutions are proving popular with customers and how they are eroding the other forms of ticketing such as season tickets. This is an increasing area of concern for clients we are working with, most notably in terms of cash flow and forecasting but also technically. Some of our current work is helping clients deal with the array of ticketing solutions they are operating and how to rationalise these in the light of the way that the automated fare collection (AFC) industry is moving and responding to customer needs. Consumer demands will continue to drive change in their purchase patterns as flexible and remote working opportunities increase.
It is not uncommon for a transport operator to support all of the following:
- Paper tickets as the only medium interoperable at all acceptance points for all customer types.
- Legacy smart card solutions based on 1990s technologies where the operators were focussed on owning the customer by issuing them with a smart card.
- Barcodes as a cheaper alternative to smart cards that can also go paperless if delivered to mobile phones.
- Mobile ticketing solutions based on bar code or flash pass, sometimes with low security levels and high fraud levels. Some using the ‘software only’ HCE innovations which Apple will not currently allow.
- Open-loop (EMV bank card) PAYG solutions which have grown out of our work with TfL in 2008-14. These are intended to increase ridership and reduce costs by using the bank card in the customer’s pocket, but because they are one card per passenger, they do not cater for group tickets or for those not having (e.g. children) or not wishing to use bank cards. This could be addressed on buses by introducing a ‘retail model’, but this would require driver interaction to determine the price of the ticket before purchase and slow down bus boarding.
Operators are transport providers and their core business is providing transport services, not running ticketing solutions. The last thing they want is to be maintaining systems that have to be able to handle multiple different front ends, though many of them find themselves doing so. The classic example is TfL’s intention to switch off Oyster when open-loop was up and running, but they not yet managed to achieve this.
Our recent work with clients about how to use Digital Wallet Ticketing in a customer’s smart phone to unify their disparate ticketing solutions is proving popular. This has been both in sports stadiums and transport ticketing. Digital Wallet Ticketing was not much discussed at TCF19, which I guess is a sign of how slowly things move within the transit ticketing community. We believe DWT is the future.
We have a wealth of experience over several years of designing and building DWT solutions. Let us know if you’d like a chat about how this might work for you, be it payment, identity or ticketing.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has just made a quarterly statistical release for Passenger Rail Usage. So what?
There are relevant economic and social trends to which public-sector bodies must respond with transport policies:
- Circa 60% of the UK population lives in cities. Congestion is a real problem which in turn leads to increased pollution and reduced air quality.
- As a population, we travel substantially less today than we did one or two decades ago.
- We are travelling less by car and more by train and bike. Fewer of us are getting driving licences, and we are getting them much later in our lives.
A key response to these trends is to try to drive modal shift from privately owned cars to mobility as a service (MaaS). Rail is a key mode in MaaS solutions, and Rail, in the UK, is undergoing a root and branch review which was announced by Chris Grayling and the Department for Transport in September 2018. Keith Williams is leading the review, supported by an expert panel. Amongst other things, it will look at the structure of the whole rail industry, regional partnerships and improving value for money for passengers and taxpayers. Any emerging reform plans will be implemented from 2020.
One can imagine that there are many problems to be addressed as part of this review and that fares and ticketing might not get much of a look in. However, the ‘value for money for passengers and taxpayers’ part seems significant.
In a February meeting with DfT about the future of fare collection and transport payments, Consult Hyperion was asked to respond to the recent Rail PAYG Consultation covering:
- what a Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) travel area is, and how it would work in general
- where a PAYG travel area could cover
- the changes to fares that could be made within the area
The consultation ran from February to the end of April 2019 and now the Department for Transport is considering the responses.
In the context of this activity, the ORR statistical release makes perhaps more interesting reading than it otherwise would have done.
“Passenger journeys using ordinary tickets increased by 5.0% in 2018-19 compared to the previous year. This was driven by a 6.9% growth in anytime tickets. In contrast, the number of passenger journeys made using season tickets fell for the third consecutive year, down 0.4%. Market share of season ticket journeys was 36% in 2018-19, down from 48% a decade ago.”
These would seem like exactly the right market conditions for introducing PAYG on rail beyond London. Today’s passengers cannot easily predict their journeys in advance, but would like to be rewarded for frequency of travel; which, by choosing Rail, will help meet social and environmental goals. Granted, PAYG is not well suited to long-distance Rail if ticket prices are high, but there are many train journeys that are in the right price bracket.
In time, it would seem desirable to phase out season tickets. Ticketing should be tailored to the increasingly flexible patterns of work: perhaps for a specified number of days per month or the use of digital carnet tickets (to be enabled prior to departure). It would seem that smartphone apps are ideal for handling this.
Flexibility is also required within each day. Passengers travelling out in off peak times frequently don’t know until they start their return journey whether it will be peak or off-peak. In addition, designations of peak and off-peak are complex, localised and require further study.
A PAYG solution which focuses primarily on the gate line may limit subsequent progress. Mobile ticketing has an important role to play. It provides the means to offer a variety of ticket types on a single device and is comparatively easily updated. It also offers much greater flexibility for passengers travelling from unmanned stations, where gate lines don’t generally feature, and ticket machines are frequently vandalized. Another benefit of mobile ticketing is the quality of travel data that can be collected (while respecting passenger privacy).
We have recently been advising three UK Sub-national Transport Bodies (STBs) and recently facilitated a transport operator workshop to discuss options for fare collection and transport payments. The thing that the operators seemed most excited about was PAYG. The kind where customers just turn up and travel without having to worry about the tariffs in advance and trusting that they will be charged a fair price. Inevitably, the discussions dipped into which technologies are good at this and which are bad, but the fact remains, they are clear what their customers want and truly believe that by giving them what they want, they will receive increased ridership in return.
Clearly, this is what Transport for London already provides and their offering is slowly extending out from London into the SE region, for example to Gatwick Airport. However, the open-payment-based PAYG models (using contactless bank cards) are limited in the amounts up to which fares can be aggregated before payment is taken. This is for reasons of risk of payment for the journey never being received, but it also makes sense from the point of view of the customer who does not want to travel on trains all day not knowing how many hundreds of pounds they will be charged at the end and they also want to benefit from any available capping of fares.
What is needed is flexibility. Open-loop transit payments are better than conventional card-based transport cards for travelling within cities. As we have said before, open-loop transit payment suffers from the passenger identifier (their bank card) being tightly coupled to just one of their payment mechanisms (one of their bank accounts). We have been exploring other mobile-based solutions with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) recently and are hopeful that such customer-centric alternatives will emerge soon.
If you’re interested in finding out more, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Simon Laker and I recently published an article about open-loop transit payments in the US and how they are catching up with the UK with significant US launches planned for 2019 and beyond. It was very interesting to look back, draw the timeline and, with the benefit of hindsight, see why the major US cities tried to be first but ended up being seven years or so behind the 2012 London launch on buses.
Whilst it is fun to look back, we spend most of our time making the future. Over the last year we have been back working with TfL to help determine the best revenue inspection solutions for open-loop transit operators. While the majority of bus operators might not care much about revenue inspection (the potential fare dodger has to board the bus and this usually requires walking past the vigilant gaze of the bus driver), revenue protection through inspection is a significant requirement for city-based smart ticketing schemes.
Back in 2011 we helped TfL choose their current revenue inspection device (RID) hardware which is now no longer manufactured. At that time, there was no single off-the-shelf device hardware which could meet TfL’s need and therefore, hardware customisation was needed. Now is the time to look for opportunities for replacing these bespoke devices with more cost-effective solutions.
One of our specialisms is adapting devices without secure hardware to become secure enough to handle transactions involving payments and identity, such as ticketing. There are approaches known as host card emulation (HCE) and host terminal emulation (HTE) that we have been working on since 2007 before they were named in 2012 as part of the open-source Android OS. The idea is that ‘software-only’ approaches can be used, without any secure hardware, to secure cryptographic secrets (e.g. keys) used to secure transactions. Traditionally, tamper-resistant smart card chip hardware is used to store the keys, and similar chips, known as secure hardware modules (SAMs) are used in terminals needing to communicate securely with smart cards.
In 2015 we worked with ITSO to design how ITSO can work securely enough on mobile devices without secure hardware. Android Pay launched in the same year. This approach is now being exploited by the ITSO on Mobile solutions from the likes of Rambus.
We helped Barclaycard be the first UK bank to launch a software-only banking payment app that works on mobile devices without using SAMs in 2016. This was all card emulation. When we want a mobile device to act as a RID without a SAM, then it is terminal emulation and it is harder. The card merely has an antenna in which a current is induced when the antenna is placed in the reader electromagnetic field. The reader has to produce that field. The hardware in most mobile devices on the market is not certified to act as a reader for accepting payment cards. You may have noticed that when small merchants use their phones to accept contactless cards, they use an additional device from organisation such as PayPal, Square or iZettle.
In 2018, we produced a software-only app for an Android phone that can be downloaded and installed on any phone and securely accept contactless payment cards. No secure hardware, no SAMs. It works, but the payment industry is playing catch up and it was not possible to certify such a merchant payment terminal to the satisfaction of the payment card industry. In January, PCI released new documentation aimed at this purpose. Exciting times are ahead. We are currently helping TfL engage with the market to see whether RID solutions based on off-the-shelf Android devices might be used as the next generation RID.
We have a wealth of experience over the last two decades, designing and building software-only solutions. Let us know if you’d like a chat about how this might work for you, be it payment, identity or ticketing.