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ITSO on mobile trial launched

February 2017

New technology

that allows passengers to use their smartphone as a replacement for a paper or smart card ticket will soon become a reality for public transport passengers in West Yorkshire, reveals the national leader in smart ticketing standards.

ITSO, the organisation that manages the specification used by transport providers to implement smart ticketing schemes, is working with smart technology suppliers to the industry Rambus Ecebs and Penrillian to support  the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, in delivering this advancement in ticketing technology through a pilot project to inform work being undertaken by Transport for the North. This technology will enable passengers to purchase travel on their smart phone with confidence, quickly and easily.

The mobile app technology

The technology behind the mobile app was developed by Rambus Ecebs and uses Host Card Emulation (HCE), an approach used widely within the payment industry to enable software emulation of a traditional smartcard on a mobile phone.  This combined with an App, developed by Penrillian, enables passengers to purchase a ticket directly to their mobile phone.  The mobile device then acts as the “host” for that ticket and through the NFC facility communicates with the card reader/ticket barrier to enable automatic recognition of the purchased ticket, in exactly the same way as a smartcard.  This interaction sets aside the need for the passenger to show the ticket displayed on the phone screen to inspectors, while significantly increasing the security of the transaction.

Like all existing ITSO smart card solutions, the HCE technology on the phone will provide a strong security management system that guarantees the security of the transaction data at all times and enables interoperability, meaning different equipment and systems can talk to each other.

Steve Wakeland, General Manager, ITSO comments on the trial and the ongoing work with ITSO and HCE: “The delivery of the Transport for the North trial is a significant landmark in the development of HCE with ITSO on smartphones. We have been working very closely with our members and suppliers on the solution for the trial, and through their knowledge and expertise we have been able to identify various technologies and approaches relating to HCE.”

“We will continue to explore these different options, with the objective of identifying viable solutions for broader adoption and rollout by our members” Steve concludes. “We want to give our members the confidence to enter into this new market. What is clear is that we have identified a number of solutions that meet the high security standards placed on ITSO schemes which means that it is no longer as challenging as it used to be to provide mobile ticketing alongside classical contactless smart cards.”

Cllr Keith Wakefield, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, said:  “Having been a leading player in the development of smartcard travel, through our MCard scheme, I am delighted the Combined Authority is a partner in this exciting pilot.

“It has the potential to benefit customers across the north, and further afield and we believe that customers will welcome the opportunity to use their smartphone to purchase a ‘smart ticket’ simply and easily, safe in the in the knowledge that the transaction is secure.”

When is the trial due to start?

The trial, due to commence in autumn, will use a small test group of staff who will be issued with NFC-enabled smartphones with the ITSO HCE app installed.  Staff will be able to test purchasing and downloading tickets to their phone as well as using the phone for validation purposes on ticket barriers.  The trial will operate on train lines between Huddersfield and Leeds stations where a number of its ticketing gates have been configured to accept this new ITSO-based technology.

Smart ticketing is one of the Transport for the North’s main goals in achieving its vision to boost the economy of the North of England with a host of transport improvements. The implementation of ITSO HCE will build upon the investment made to date using the ITSO technical specification, as well as take account of the emerging technologies.

David Brown, Transport for the North’s Chief Executive, said, “Shared payment platforms that allow truly smart ticketing across a number of devices, taking into account user preferences, are key to a positive passenger travel experience. This trial is one of a number of initiatives moving us closer to that vision.”

Rambus Ecebs Managing Director, Russell McCullagh said: “As the demand for interoperable smart ticketing grows, so does the use of mobile to deliver new and exciting services. Rambus Ecebs are delighted to support ITSO in delivering truly mobile and secure smart ticketing.”

Penrillian CEO Joanne Thompson said: “An Oyster-like card may be a convenient way of travelling but that bit of plastic is a cost to both the traveller and transport operator and those cards can be easily misplaced. The aim of this trial is to go beyond travel cards and turn the mobile phone into the ITSO ticket itself, making it even more convenient to use public transport.”