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Nottingham City Transport, touché and ITSO announce a smartphone and beacon ticketing trial in Nottingham

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

Nottingham City Transport's new app which is being trialled on the number 11 Lady Bay route
Nottingham City Transport’s new app which is being trialled on the number 11 Lady Bay route

 

NCT introduced mobile ticketing just under 2 years ago and now over 50,000 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 is to find a way of recording point to point journeys automatically, which are the most challenging journeys to capture as traditionally only customer boarding information is captured. To capture boarding and alighting stops, beacons have been installed on buses and at stops and will detect where a customer is as they travel by bus through use of an Android based app.  Recording this information will 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 will take 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 has been chosen because it has a good mixture of customers purchasing different tickets and making short and long journeys.

 

Nottingham City Transport has 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.  It was previously awarded a grant by the Department for Transport (DfT) to carry out a “Future Ticketing” Project – testing the use of smartphones in combination with Bluetooth Smart beacons and the touché locate back office.  The project took place in Bristol.

 

The Bristol and Nottingham projects are also supported by ITSO, the organisation which is responsible for developing and maintaining the Specification used to develop smart ticketing schemes in the UK.  The Bristol funding supported a Passenger Behavioural Study by the University of the West of England, which highlighted a number of valuable points about how bus travellers view mobile ticketing – touché wanted to ensure the solution would be appealing to use as well as technologically robust.

 

Steve Wakeland, CEO, ITSO, says, “As ticketing technologies advance, we are keen to support those that co-exist with traditional smart ticketing services.  As Guardians of the Specification for the Department of Transport, our role is to keep the smart ticketing platform up to date and fit for purpose – it needs to be easily adaptable to meet new technology requirements. Therefore, ITSO is delighted to be supporting NCT and touché in their quest to find a way to track passenger journeys and therefore ultimately enable NCT to optimise its routes and fare options and improve passenger experience across the network. We will support and facilitate a consensus that develops consistency in the use of beacons in associated smart ticketing schemes across the industry”.

 

Another important part of the project is to collect data on bus journeys, to enable more detailed planning of routes and services.  It is planned for the trial to run until January 2019.

 

Customers who travel on Green 11 and have an Android device, who would like to participate in the trial can register their interest at www.nctx.co.uk/trial

 

ENDS

 

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:

 

ITSO Ltd is a non-profit distributing membership organisation which aims to make travelling on public transport throughout the UK seamless and easy by enabling smart ticketing technology. The ITSO community is a membership of public sector authorities, transport operators and equipment and solution suppliers to the smart ticketing industry, who together use the ITSO Specification to deliver smart, integrated and interoperable ticketing across the UK. For more information about ITSO visit www.itso.org.uk.

For further information, contact:

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

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

ITSO: Julie Liburd – julie.liburd@itso.org.uk

touché completes feasibility Study of smartphone/beacon ticketing in Bristol – Policy

By Trevor Crotch-Harvey

This is the fourth part of our series of four blogs about the “Future Ticketing” Feasibility Study touché conducted in Bristol, testing the use of smartphones in combination with Bluetooth Smart beacons and the touché locate back office.  The project was funded by the DfT as part of its “T-TRIG” programme, which the DfT uses as a route to encourage transport innovation by SMEs.  It also included a Behavioural Study, funded by ITSO.

People using cell phones on bus

This post focuses on policy issues.  In our report to the DfT, we were asked to consider the application to transport policy of the combination of smartphone, Bluetooth Smart beacons and back office.  Here are some of our observations:

 

  • Off bus ticket purchase. Bus operators are focusing more and more on reducing dwell time (the time a bus stays at a bus stop while a queue of passengers board and pay the driver, often with cash.)  In London, TfL took the bold step of mandating off bus ticket purchase, and anyone who travels in London can see how fast boarding is there.  (Of course that is helped by having a flat fare scheme.)  A number of operators around the rest of the UK are experimenting with off bus ticket purchase, e.g. the new Metrobus project in Bristol.  But many passengers will prefer to buy their ticket remotely before arriving at a bus stop, rather than use a kiosk, especially if the bus they want to board is arriving.  Smartphones and beacons could play a role in making this practice more widespread, speeding up journeys and reducing congestion.  They could also help operators by reducing the dependence on expensive, complex, hardware ticketing infrastructures.

 

  • Mobile/beacons versus contactless bank cards. With the progressive deployment of contactless bank cards we are observing a growing takeup of this form of on bus ticket purchase.  Some industry observers are taking the view this could be the way to take cash ticket purchases off bus.  We think contactless has a role to play, but that it’s not a case of either/or.  Passengers using contactless cards still need to interact with the driver to determine their fare, and require an on board terminal, whereas mobile/beacon solutions can eliminate them.  Operators and authorities may want to use both solutions as parts of a forward looking strategy.

 

  • Modal shift. Ultimately, the goal of a ticketing scheme is to play its part in encouraging passengers out of private cars and onto public transport. It’s not the only factor – punctuality, cleanliness, convenience are all important.  But if it’s difficult or confusing to buy tickets, research shows that can put infrequent travellers off.  We think the use of smartphones can help, because these devices are carried by large numbers of the travelling public anyway.  If the other factors line up, a smartphone/beacon combination should make it easy to make a switch.  And that’s why point to point singles of variable length need to be covered, because passengers making the switch will try it out before committing to period passes.

 

  • In many future scenarios, probably the most important factor is interoperability.  This means having a technical implementation which is universally accessible by all makes of smartphones, useable, probably through commercial agreement, by all transport operators and providing a flexible framework which enables multi-operator, multi-modal ticketing.  Standardisation plays a key role in any open technology solution where infrastructure is provided by suppliers and used by potentially different organisations using a wide range of portable devices.  There could be a framework for multiple users of beacons, while allowing suppliers to compete on functionality and performance.

 

The ITSO scheme is a good example of this in the transport arena; it allows for infrastructure and ticket media to be used by multiple operators all of which could be independent of the companies providing the HOPS and AMS solutions, while allowing those supplier companies to innovate and compete within the standards.  Touché believes organisations like ITSO have an important role to play in moving beacon technology into the wider public domain, not only in the UK but within international standards fora.  However, their activity could, and probably should, be based on the developments and experience of smaller scale implementations.  Touché has experience of these processes and is willing and able to be actively involved in this activity at the appropriate time.

 

  • Customer engagement. In part 3 of this blog, we talked about the commercial opportunities where customers are no longer anonymous.  We wonder whether operators are ready to take such a customer centric/holistic view.  In these times of cash strapped public bodies, we think they may wish to consider encouraging operators to enhance their customer engagement.  It would be helpful to explore how this could support the provision of more customer centric services.

 

In addition, once operators know who their customers are and have their phone details, smartphones can be used as a portal for operators/authorities to communicate with travellers.

 

  • Use of data. The flip side of engaging customers directly relates to privacy, highlighted by the introduction of GDPR.  Obviously there is a need to reassure passengers about privacy – this came up as a minor, but not zero, concern in our Behavioural Study.  This reassurance needs to be weighed versus the usefulness of data to the data owner and passenger.  The solution can provide more data for traffic planners.  In return for consenting to the use of data, customers need to be offered corresponding benefits – we think this is a fruitful policy area that has hardly begun to be developed.

 

  • Suspicion of devices. Another small but not zero concern we encountered was suspicion of the beacons themselves.  The public is not accustomed to seeing these devices, and there was a small amount of worry about whether their movements were being tracked.  (Even in areas covered by CCTV.)  As the owner of bus stops is usually a local authority, it needs to consider how it will adapt its stop infrastructure to enable discreet or invisible deployment.  This could be another matter to consider under the heading of standards.

 

  • Although our project took place on buses, there is no reason why it couldn’t also be deployed on trams.  We have always taken the view that smartphones/beacons are even more suited to tram networks, with no driver interaction, boarding through multiple doors and no gates at tram stops.  A “virtual” ticket purchase and validation system could be well suited to this transport mode.  Indeed, the solution could combine several modes – bus, tram, train, parking, bike hire, i.e. MaaS.

 

  • In this project touché concentrated on a small scale, closed user group trial aimed at evaluating the potential of Bluetooth Smart beacon technology within a transport ticketing environment.  If one looks to the future then a full Mobility as a Service (MaaS) roll out of this technology would involve enfranchising an entire population, equipping many bus shelters and other transport gates owned by multiple local authorities and commercial entities plus, very likely, multiple transport operators including multi-modal solutions covering bus, trains and trams.  By focusing on solutions which use the power of passengers’ own devices, with transactions taking place in the cloud, transport authorities and operators will have maximum flexibility at minimum cost.

 

  • Unanswered questions. There are several issues to be defined, outside the scope of our project, before we can call smartphones/beacons a mature option for operators.  The risk management/revenue protection policy and strategy are still undefined.  In addition, business models are yet to be agreed, concerning solution providers, app integrators, beacon access, transaction processing, and others.

 

Once again, we gratefully acknowledge the support of UWE, ITSO, First, DfT and Bristol City Council in conducting this project.  Check out the blog on the technical/operational results, the Behavioural Study, and commercial opportunities.  For any further information on this blog, the Bristol project, or the use of smartphones in transport, get in touch with touché using the contact page.

 

touché offers a range of interactive mobile solutions, including:

touché completes Feasibility Study of smartphone/beacon ticketing in Bristol – Commercial

By Trevor Crotch-Harvey

This is the third part of our series of four blogs about the Feasibility Study touché conducted in Bristol, testing the use of smartphones in combination with Bluetooth Smart beacons and the touché locate back office.  This post focuses on commercial issues.

 

The first point about the use of smartphones in public transport is that previously anonymous “passengers” become known customers.  Our friend Sam Rudder at The Hub nailed it: “If passengers are no longer anonymous, that changes things.”  Touché’s Riposte solution used in Bristol allowed the creation of journey records, by date, time, boarding and alighting points, and user ID.  So for the first time we can see the travel patterns of individual users, as opposed to aggregated totals of tickets purchased.  Even if we don’t know who these customers are by name, analysis of their travel should help operators to plan services which more closely match their needs – the data now allows this.

 

And if the passenger allows us to, we can start to use the data in ways which benefit them and gives commercial value to the data owner, the operator.  Let’s use an example to illustrate this.  This picture shows the bottom of Gloucester Road in Bristol – a busy street of independent retailers.  At this Gloucester Road cafesplace there are three cafés in a row, with a number 72 bus stop outside.  Our theoretical user is called “Jane”.  Let’s say we discover that Jane gets off the 72 bus here every Tuesday at 09:30.  How much is this information worth to the three cafés?  They could get a message to Jane, promoting 20% off a flat white until 10:30, potentially creating a new habit for her.  Now that operators know where individual users are going and when they’re going to get there, they can use this data to give commercial enterprises access to them.  Of course, this requires commercial messages to be relevant and not a nuisance – that’s outside the scope of this blog.

 

Now look again at that bus stop.  Bus shelters are typically owned by city councils, sometimes in arrangements with Out Of Home (OOH) advertising companies.  If the operator allows, say, the city council to have access to travel data (for instance, under a commercial agreement), now the stop owner knows how many people get off at that stop.  If they want to break this down by demographic, this would be possible too.  Now, when the stop owner goes into its next negotiation with advertisers, it is much better armed to strike a good deal because they know what audience they’re delivering.  This should improve revenue for very cash strapped organisations.  But our open question is to what extent public authorities are open to these opportunities – from discussions we have had so far, the answer is they are, to a surprising degree.

 

We can go a step further.  (Obviously this has to comply with Data Protection regulations (GDPR).)  If the user gives the operator access to other personal information, this can be further used to tailor offers sent to their smartphones.  Now we can find out that Jane prefers cappuccino, not flat white, and she has a penchant for granola – how could she resist such an offer?

 

We’re only at the beginning of thinking about how we can use travel data to make life easier for passengers, and create commercial benefits for transport stakeholders.  Touché looks forward to engaging with interested parties to explore what will deliver benefits for all concerned.

 

Once again, we gratefully acknowledge the support of UWE, ITSO, First, DfT and Bristol City Council in conducting this project.  Check out the blog on the technical/operational results, the Behavioural Study and a future blog for more about the implications for policy development.  For any further information on this blog, the Bristol project, or the use of smartphones in transport, get in touch with touché using the contact page.

 

touché offers a range of interactive mobile solutions, including:

touché completes Feasibility Study of smartphone/beacon ticketing in Bristol – Behavioural

By Trevor Crotch-Harvey

6th March 2018

People at a bus stop using mobiles
People at a bus stop using mobiles

This is the second part of our series of four blogs about the Feasibility Study touché conducted in Bristol, testing the use of smartphones in combination with Bluetooth Smart beacons and the touché locate back office.  This post focuses on the Behavioural Study, managed by UWE and funded by ITSO. The project was carried out by UWE’s Centre for Transport and Society – a body that acts to provide expert advice on how transport needs to adapt to reflect life in the 21st century.

 

The intention was to ensure the project was not just a technical test, but would also examine how regular travellers would react to the solution.  We wanted to ensure it would be appealing to use as well as technologically robust.  UWE recruited fifteen volunteers, who were users of Android smartphones; they were a mix of students, day travellers and other categories, with age ranges from twenties to fifties.  The plan was to monitor the behaviour of passengers as they used the Riposte app, and gauge their reactions, through a combination of focus groups, video and before/after questionnaires.

 

UWE also conducted research on the international application of smartphones in transport.  Academic studies support the benefits of smartphone based systems – creating efficiencies, image and reputational benefit, passenger growth, financial benefits, speeding services, and flexible fare management.  The research also found:

  • Passengers are more likely to keep Bluetooth activated if they perceive services offered have value
  • Users are increasingly likely to engage with a mobile device if they wait for longer periods at bus stop (more than ten minutes)
  • Younger passengers are more likely to use mobile phones at bus stops
  • Devices must be durable, and must be seen as more secure than cash
  • Device journey preplanning should be minimised; automatic calculation of best price journeys is acceptable

So how did users find the touché solution in Bristol?  Most of it was very positive – not particularly surprising, considering how many passengers access their smartphones while waiting for a bus:

  • Oyster was well known to the cohort of volunteers and is the yardstick for ease of use
  • With limited instruction, users were able to operate the solution, and people adapted their travel behaviours relatively easily to incorporate a different approach to ticketing; different users did this in a variety of ways, depending on their travel circumstances
  • Most users liked the idea of automatic journey detection; they perceived use of the app would lead to faster boarding for all
  • Existing m-Ticketing users are likely to be early adopters
  • The solution could resolve the perceived issues of using a bus with cash, worry about having cash to begin with, or fear of having the wrong money
  • Irregular users felt in the future they could “bus hop” and make additional trips
  • There was enthusiasm for multi modal and multi-location services (perhaps leading the way to “Mobility as a Service”, or “MaaS”)
  • Car users said they would also like to see Bluetooth used for parking

 

However, there were a few issues:

  • It turns out Bluetooth has a poor reputation among some users – especially (incorrectly in the case of Bluetooth Smart) that it drains the battery; awareness of Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth Low Energy) was low
  • There is an understandable lack of awareness of the detail of beacon technology and consequent misunderstandings, e.g. the perceived need to “pair”
  • Despite having been instructed otherwise, several users turned off Bluetooth or data after using the app
  • Older users were concerned about privacy

 

We felt these issues could all be addressed in a solution roll out, through better education of users at the outset.  This discovery, while not surprising, shows the value of conducting test like this, to inform the way forward.

 

Once again, we gratefully acknowledge the support of UWE, ITSO, First, DfT and Bristol City Council in conducting this project.  Check out the blog on the technical/operational results, and future blogs for more about commercial opportunities, and implications for policy development.  For any further information on this blog, the Bristol project, or the use of smartphones in transport, get in touch with touché using the contact page.

 

touché offers a range of interactive mobile solutions, including:

 

touché completes Feasibility Study of smartphone/beacon ticketing in Bristol – Technical/Operational

By Trevor Crotch-Harvey

16th January 2018

In 2017, touché was awarded a grant by the Department for Transport (DfT) to carry out a “Future Ticketing” Project – a Feasibility Study of the use of smartphones in combination with Bluetooth Smart beacons and the touché locate back office.  The grant was awarded under a scheme that enables DfT to fund early-stage research projects in support of innovative ideas or concepts that facilitate a better transport system.  The project name was “Mobile Beacon Ticketing – Feasibility Study”.  The project took place in Bristol, and collaborators were the University of the West of England (UWE), First West of England and Bristol City Council.  It was due to go live, from a standing start, 9 weeks after the awarding of the grant.

 

What were we trying to show?  Well, a problem that Bristol has in spades is congestion.  And some reports suggest that buses in Bristol spend as much

EYJBM5 Passengers queuing at bus stop to board local double decker bus, Bristol, UK

as 29% of their time at bus stops, while queues of passengers board, presenting cash to the driver and waiting for change.  Buses can spend minutes at a single bus stop (“dwell time”), adding to the already significant congestion.

 

So any scheme or technology which takes the purchase of a ticket off the bus can potentially help to reduce this problem.  First already has a good m-Ticketing app which regular travellers can use for weekly and monthly passes, but this doesn’t necessarily address customers using cash, who travel irregularly.  So the quest is to find a way of recording point to point singles without the passenger having to interact with the driver – these are the most challenging journeys to capture automatically.

 

The project took one Bristol bus route run by First – the 72 route, which runs from UWE, through the residential areas of Lockleaze, Horfield, along the busy Gloucester Road, through the University of Bristol area, to the city centre, terminating at Temple Meads station.  We chose this service because of the mix of passengers and journeys along the long and varied route.  (Incidentally, some of the buses were new electric/diesel vehicles, also supported by a DfT grant.)

 

A major objective of the project was to understand the logistical requirements.  We needed to equip 70 bus stops, seven buses, in a live, city environment (very different from a controlled laboratory), outdoors, subject to the trials of British weather.  We were grateful to Bristol City Council (which owns the bus stops, except for those at UWE) and First for their co-operation, without which it would have been impossible to conduct the project.

 

Touché developed a new app for the project, called Riposte.  For the purpose of the project it ran on Android only, although in the future an iPhone version can be developed.  Volunteers downloaded the app, registered, and it was this which tracked them as they boarded, rode the service, and alighted.

 

Another important part of the project was to collect data on bus journeys, using touché locate.  Using Riposte, we were able to collect data on each leg of these journeys, playing them back to users so they could check their accounts.  For the bus operator and bus stop owner, data was available for the first time; cross referenced by individual. Even if the data was anonymised, individual travel patterns could be analysed and the number of passengers at each bus stop could be discovered.  (More about this in a future blog post.)

 

As well as a test of the technology, we ran a Behavioural Study, managed by UWE and funded by ITSO.  (Details in another blog post.)  The point of this was that, even if technology works, we wanted to know if people would behave in unpredictable ways which might affect future deployment.  UWE recruited 15 volunteers, who were users of Android smartphones; they were a mix of students, day travellers and other categories, with age ranges from twenties to fifties.

 

So, how did it work?  We invented a fictional user, Jane, who works at the university, and travels irregularly by bus to three different sites.  Her

Screenshot of completed journey
Screenshot of completed journey

pattern of travel means she isn’t suitable for a daily or weekly pass, and she is a typical cash customer.  To take part, Jane downloaded the Riposte app to her Android phone, then registered with her name and email.  When she used the app for the first time, she walked to her local bus stop, which was equipped with a Bluetooth Smart beacon.  The phone recognised the beacon, and connected to touché locate, which knew which bus stop that particular beacon was installed at.  The app then asked Jane if she was travelling, and she pressed a button on the app to confirm.  Now she waited for the bus to arrive; when it did, the bus beacon talked to the app and confirmed to Jane which service she was riding.  When Jane reached her destination, she left the bus, which continued on its journey, and she walked away from the bus stop.  When the app detected the bus and bus stop were out of range, the journey engine algorithm in the app deduced the journey was complete and asked Jane to confirm.  Then Riposte sent a completed transaction record to touché locate, for billing and data purposes.

 

That was the plan – how did it go in practice?  Remember, this was not in a laboratory – it was an outdoor city environment: chaotic, noisy, weather dependent, with variable access to the Internet.  Implementation was carried out in a limited timeframe, with less testing than we would have wished.  Nevertheless, it worked – we were able to detect journeys and build a record of transactions.  But not every time, and the test gave us valuable insight into the operational details which can improve reliability – we’re working on those now.

 

Check out future blogs for more about the Behavioural Project, commercial opportunities, and implications for policy development.

 

touché offers a range of interactive mobile solutions, including:

Find My Car installed at SWARCO Traffic World, Austria

Touché is pleased to announce the installation of its “Find My Car” parking solution at SWARCO Traffic World, Wattens, Austria.

By Trevor Crotch-Harvey

9th February 2017

SSTW-Showroom-37WARCO Traffic World

At the headquarters of traffic technology group SWARCO, in the beautiful Austrian Tyrol, visitors are introduced into how modern traffic management works across all traffic modes. Road safety products, parking systems, LED technology, software application and the linking of technology components within the SMART CITY concept are part of the presentation at the life-sized traffic management centre where SWARCO connects to references across Europe.

SWARCO is a collaborator with touché in the development of the “Find My Car” solution, which helps people find their cars in large shopping centres or airports, after some time away. The parking solution consists of three components:
• An Android app, branded with the logo of the enterprise, which a user taps on arrival in a car park, to have his/her parking location remembered.
• touché beacons with a 1 year plus battery life. The beacons use Bluetooth Smart (sometimes known as Bluetooth Low Energy or iBeacon) technology, and require no external power supply or network connection.
• touché connect, the back office system that knows where each beacon is located, recognises each user’s phone, alerts the enterprise to users’ arrival, and records transactions for future user contact.

Find My Car has now been installed at SWARCO Traffic World, so visitors can move around the large demonstration space and see how their smartphones detect the presence of several beacons and display location information on their smartphone screens. Each interaction is recorded on touché connect, so the enterprise can see how many individuals are visiting.

STW Crop

Touché directors Trevor Crotch-Harvey and Glenn Needham demonstrate Find My Car working at SWARCO Traffic World, along with Tom Buck, Solution Manager for SWARCO Parking Division, and Michael Strasser, Manager of SWARCO Traffic World

Upcoming versions under development are planned to offer enhanced functionality, and are intended to include iPhone as well as Android versions. Customers can be shown targeted promotions based on their known shopping habits and current location. Registering the car location could be the first opportunity to make an offer to the newly arrived customer. The app has significant potential as a collector of marketing data, including consumer visits and purchasing habits, demographics and vehicle ownership.

Find My Car is intended as an enterprise solution. It can stand alone, or it could be integrated into an existing shopping centre or airport app – touché is ready to help with this. It’s expected that enterprises will offer this solution as a free service to customers, drawing more users in and capturing data about their visits. The payback for the enterprise is from the creative use made of the data to enable Location Based Marketing.

Tom Buck, Solution Manager for SWARCO Parking Division commented: “Touché’s Find My Car solution is a natural extension to our existing parking offerings. In the future it will enable our clients to engage more closely with their commercial customers and end users. That’s why we’re happy to collaborate with the development of the solution – but it will require new thinking for the parking industry as it takes on board the potential opportunities.”

The solution can also be applied to VIP concierge services (for example casino visitors) and disability users, to provide discreet help (for example refuelling a car). For more information, call touché or contact us through the touché website: www.touche-nfc.com, or use the Contact Form: info@touche-nfc.com.

touché offers a range of interactive mobile solutions, including:
• Parking and Smart Cities
• Location Based Marketing
• Beacon and NFC support for Transport Operators
• Bluetooth Smart and NFC Business and Technical Consultancy

Find My Car – Announcing the release of v1.0

By Trevor Crotch-Harvey and Glenn Needham

11th August 2016

Searching for nearest beacon
Searching for nearest beacon

Touché is pleased to announce the release of version 1.0 of its “Find My Car” solution.

 

Have you ever struggled to locate your car when parked in a busy car park like a shopping centre, theme park, transport hub or airport?  If so, you’re not alone.  We’ve developed our smartphone based ‘Find My Car’ solution especially for this situation.  The development came after parking operators highlighted finding customers’ cars as one of their biggest logistical problems, taking up the time of security staff, and distracting them from their main tasks.  Other car finder solutions exist, but they use GPS, which may not be accurate enough, or camera systems, which are several times the cost of touché’s solution.  Click here to view our demonstration animation.

 

The new solution consists of three components:

  • An Android app, branded with the logo of the enterprise, which a user taps on arrival in a car park, to have his/her parking location remembered.
  • touché beacons, rated to IP65 to protect against dust and water ingress in outdoor installations, with a 1 year plus battery life, depending on the configuration and environment. The beacons require no external power supply or network connection.
  • touché connect, the back office system that knows where each beacon is located, recognises each user’s phone, alerts the enterprise to users’ arrival, and records transactions for future analysis and user contact.

 

How does it work?  Beacons are placed in several locations throughout the parking area.  When a customer parks their car, they will receive a welcome message, and the app will locate the nearest beacon, whose position is known by touché, and their visit will be recorded on the enterprise’s database, run by touché connect.   At the end of their visit, they tap the app to find their vehicle’s location – the app checks with touché connect and gives the user location corresponding to the Bluetooth Smart beacon nearest to their car which can help to locate the car to within a few metres.

 

Version 1.0 of Find My Car is the initial release.  Upcoming versions under development are planned to offer enhanced functionality, and will include iPhone as well as Android versions.  Customers can be shown targeted promotions based on their known shopping habits and current location.  Registering the car location could be the first opportunity to make an offer to the newly arrived customer.  Using the power of touché connect, we expect to differentiate between users at the same location, some of which will have a matching profile, while others don’t.  Only the matching user will receive a message, but it’s the task of the enterprise to stop short of sending spam.  The app has significant potential as a collector of marketing data, including consumer visits and purchasing habits, demographics and vehicle ownership.

 

Other upcoming versions are intended to alert a theme park or resort to the arrival of a VIP customer requiring a concierge service.  And we’re working with partners in the world of disability, using the app/beacon/touché connect combination to offer relevant and location based assistance to the disabled.

 

Find My Car is intended as an enterprise solution.  It could stand alone, or it could be integrated into an existing shopping centre or airport app – touché is ready to help with this.  It’s expected that enterprises will offer this solution as a free service to customers, drawing more users in and capturing data about their visits.  The payback for the enterprise is from the creative marketing use made of the data.

 

You can call us or contact us through the touché website if you want to discuss any of this further: www.touche-nfc.com, or use the Contact Form from this website.

 

touché offers a range of interactive mobile solutions, including:

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.

What is NFC?

First published 28.4.2015 and updated 21.6.2016

Near Field Communications (NFC) is a short range wireless technology, designed to provide simple communication between enabled devices.

NFC operates at 13.56MHz over a typical range of a few centimetres.

NFC offers three main operating modes, these are:
• Reader/Writer
• Card Emulation
• Peer to Peer

NFC dramatically simplifies the way consumer devices interact with one another.
Many of the world’s leading device makers, semiconductor producers, mobile network operators and applications companies support and encourage the use of NFC.

READER/WRITER MODE
In Reader/Writer mode an NFC device can read data from, and write data to contactless smart cards (sometimes called ‘tags’); this mode of operation may be used to read smart posters, information points, and tags containing links to websites or other online resources. Tags can also be used to store information needed to pair two devices by WiFi or Bluetooth, in which case an NFC device can read this information and immediately pair with another device.

CARD EMULATION MODE
In Card Emulation mode an NFC device is able to behave like a contactless smart card such as a payment card, travel ticket, or access control card. An NFC device may have the ability to emulate more than one card, so an NFC device may emulate both a payment card and a travel card.

PEER TO PEER MODE
Peer to Peer mode provides a balanced communication link between two devices where both devices are able to initiate communications; the communications link allows data flow in both directions. This mode is typically used to allow two NFC devices to exchange data and use widespread protocols such as TCP/IP and OBEX.

Touché announces touché connect: 2nd generation platform for managing digital and mobile marketing campaigns.

Press Release

First published 28.3.2014 and reposted 21.6.2016

Touché has released touché connect, its 2nd generation platform for brands and agencies to manage engagements with consumers.

In today’s connected world, smartphones and tablets are becoming the platforms of choice for customers to access information about products and services, look for offers, and share experiences with friends.  In response to this marketing campaigns must be diversified across many different media such as social networks and posters. Interactive technologies such as NFC, QR Codes and Bluetooth smart devices (BLE, or iBeacons) are also vitally important as they can enable a direct engagement between consumer and brand owner or agency. When deploying campaigns across these multiple media it is important to be able to quantify their effectiveness. With digital and mobile enabled campaigns this is now more achievable than ever before. touché connect allows users to:

  • Manage posters in a campaign
  • Add interactive technologies such as NFC, iBeacons and QR Codes
  • Link to social media campaigns: Facebook, Twitter…
  • Add vouchers and coupons
  • Analyse performance by time of day, day of the week, by source, by technology
  • Calculate conversion rates for coupons etc.

touché connect views each of these consumer engagements as a “connect point”.  These can be considered together to provide a holistic view.  Through a range of reports and data exports touché connect provides data to assess the effectiveness of campaigns.

The Hotspot Map can show which posters are working and which aren’t.  touché connect can provide data by day of the week and time of day, to allow users to tailor the message of a website or digital content to the audience at that time.

touché connect is configurable to campaign needs.  For instance, another way of presenting this data is graphically:

Notes for Editors

Touché-NFC Ltd, based in Nottingham and Bristol, UK, was founded in 2012 to provide the back office solutions needed for brands and agencies to handle the diverse engagements consumers employ in the 21st century, especially including social media and NFC.  The company offers a range of services, including:

  • Location Based Marketing
  • NFC support for Transport Operators
  • NFC Business and Technical consultancy