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Nottingham City Transport and touché complete a successful beacon ticketing trial

Nottingham City Transport (NCT) and Touché-NFC Ltd (touché) have successfully completed their ticketing trial in Nottingham, designed to test the feasibility of a mobile phone solution that detects when and where passengers board and alight buses.

NCT introduced its own mobile ticketing two years ago and now over 67,000 individual registered customers are paying for bus travel on their mobile phone, with single tickets and day ticket products the most popular.

The objective of this trial was to find a way of recording point to point journeys automatically, which are the most challenging journeys, as traditionally only customer boarding information is captured. To capture boarding and alighting stops, beacons were installed on buses and at stops to detect where customers were as they travelled by bus, through use of an Android based app. Recording this information can assist NCT with future network planning and customers could see their fares automatically calculated and deducted from their bank accounts, saving them the hassle of carrying cash and having to decide which ticket to buy in advance.

The project took place on the Green 11 bus route run by NCT, which runs from the City through The Meadows to Trent Boulevard and Lady Bay. The route was chosen because it has a good mixture of customers purchasing different tickets and making short and long journeys.

NCT recruited more than sixty volunteers to ride the number 11 bus route and test the solution for three months. Each user downloaded touché’s “Riposte” app from Google Play to their Android smartphones. These were the users’ usual phones, with no special modification, and carried different versions of the Android operating system. As they travelled the route, beacons detected their boarding and alighting stops, and created journey records which were sent to touché’s back office system. Users were asked by the app to confirm whether their recorded journeys were correct or not.

The results were good: 40% of the users had accuracy rates of more than 90%, of which 30% were 100% accurate. Most of the other users were over 85% accurate, with a few outliers having lower accuracy rates. Touché is confident these rates can be improved still further in the future, with more guidance to passengers on how to use the solution, and further refinement of the interaction between the app and the operating system.

Anthony Carver-Smith, NCT Marketing Manager said, “We are encouraged by the results of our beacon trial with touché, particularly customer feedback on their experiences, which were overwhelmingly positive. Many described the app as being ‘stress free’ and ‘very simple to use’ and this is encouraging for touché as they develop and refine their Riposte solution”

NCT partnered with touché, which is a specialist technology business, based in Nottingham and Bristol, which develops interactive mobile solutions, especially in the transport and parking sectors. The project was also supported by ITSO, the organisation which is responsible for developing and maintaining the specification used to develop smart ticketing schemes in the UK.

Touché was encouraged by the successful outcome of the pilot. Trevor Crotch-Harvey, Director of touché commented, “We think beacons and smartphones can reduce the dependence of bus and tram operators on complex ticketing infrastructures. We see beacons as likely to be one element in smartphone integration, including timetable/route information, travel options, expected arrival times, disruption information, and social media. We’re working with ITSO and others on standards which will give operators confidence to deploy the technology. The Riposte solution is ready for further expansion and we look forward to working with partners to take it forward.”

Steve Wakeland, Executive Chairman, ITSO Ltd, says: “As ticketing technologies advance, we are keen to work with suppliers of solutions to the industry to support in improving the passenger experience. As Guardians of the Specification, our role is to ensure the smart ticketing platform continues to meet the changing needs of today’s travelling public. It needs to be easily adaptable to meet new technology requirements.

“ITSO is delighted to be supporting NCT and touché to automatically track passenger journeys, a venture that will ultimately enable NCT to optimise its routes and fare options. We are pleased to see the trial has seen positive results and believe it will lead to an improved passenger experience across the network.”

Another important part of the project was to collect data on bus journeys, to enable more detailed planning of routes and services. In particular, the solution provided alighting data, which is not currently available. In the future, depending on data collected from users, it could be possible to obtain alighting data by passenger demographic, allowing better targeting of bus shelter advertising.

Nottingham City Transport is the City’s biggest transport provider, carrying 50 million customers per annum on a fleet of 320 buses.

touché (www.touche-nfc.com) offers a range of interactive mobile solutions, including:

For further information, contact:

NCT: Anthony Carver-Smith - anthony.carver-smith@nctx.co.uk

Touché: Trevor Crotch-Harvey - trevor@touche-nfc.com