Mobile Ticketing Inhibitors

We were asked recently by NFC Times to comment on standards and other inhibitors which might be delaying the introduction of mobile ticketing in transport.  Here’s our response…

All NFC interactions rely to some extent on a good coupling between the tag and the reader antennae and it is well known that dissimilarUntitlym size antennae can cause interoperability issues.  This is being addressed in both ISO and EMVCo by defining multiple antenna classes and it is expected that certification will include these.  Most existing Electronic Ticket Machines (ETMs) have readers that are designed for reading contactless cards therefore there may be some interoperability issues when using mobile phones, and therefore ETM manufacturers need to consider antenna size and shape when designing the next generation of machines.  The issue with the smaller antenna classes is that the coupling with the reader antenna is poor. To some extent this can be overcome by improving sensitivity or using active antennae, and we have done work on this, but it is likely that for a time there will still be some readers that do not work with the small tag antennae.

Our view on standardisation and corresponding certification is that it has a positive effect on interoperability and ultimately increases markets; however the time taken to develop standards and certification programs can act as an initial inhibitor as operators will say that they want to wait for the certification in place before they adopt anything.

Having said that, our experience (based on live customer studies) indicates customer behaviour has a much bigger effect on usability than the technical problems; i.e. customers will present a phone in many different ways and this often causes issues, both technical and for customer perception.  Driver attitude is also a significant factor in acceptability.

To put this issue in context with other inhibitors: we have carried out market research with transport operators considering mobile ticketing.  The general view is that they regard mobile ticketing as inevitable, but they don’t feel they’re being offered a packaged solution by the market.  The problem is access to secure elements.  If your view is mega city centric, you may find operators with the clout to get around this.  But for the vast majority of medium sized and smaller operators, they don’t have the resource or motivation to undertake any new developments.

To be clear, any solution must not require any modification to existing ETMs.  It must work seamlessly with handsets already in the hands of the travelling public.  It must not have high (or indeed any) certification costs.  And it must be “secure enough” for the sizes of transactions conducted in the transport domain.  (Exactly what this means is the subject of debate.)  Our view is that a successful global solution to this challenge will avoid secure elements.