Mobile payment app developed for public transport worldwide

A mobile app that can be used to tap and go for fares on trains, buses and trams in cities around the world is being developed, with trials set to start this autumn.

Xerox has been working on a universal solution for contactless ticketing systems to help people navigate unfamiliar transport networks when they’re travelling to different cities. The technology, called Seamless, doesn’t rely on SIM cards and is compatible with all mobile phone operators.

Richard Harris, marketing director for international transportation at Xerox, told E&T: “I travel a lot and whenever I arrive somewhere I always have the challenge of whether I learn how to use the public transport network or I give up, take a taxi and pay extra money.

“The problem with learning the system is that if you don’t know it, you look like a victim and you become a victim by not being confident in what you’re doing.”

As part of the solution, transport operators would have to install tags featuring Near Field Communication (NFC) - the technology that enables the tap-and-go process - on their network to act as ticket validators. While NFC validators traditionally require internet and power connection, Xerox’s tags will not.

Harris said: “It’s very difficult for transport operators to continue to invest in the latest technology, so this doesn’t disturb any of their existing operations. It would just run alongside the existing ones, without them having to make a big investment and change everything.”

Travellers will be able to download the app for free and will be charged automatically based on the trips completed. E&T spoke to Geraldine Lievre, Xerox’s CTP for international public transport, to find out more about the technology.

E&T: What differentiates Seamless from other existing ticketing solutions?

Geraldine Lievre: You can find lots of ticketing systems based on different technologies. The fact that we are not using the SIM - or the secure element of the phone - but still provide the same level of security like a standard ticketing system based on the contactless card, for instance, is one thing.

We took every single point of a traditional ticketing solution and we did the exact opposite with Seamless. It is disruptive in the way that the intelligence is transferred to the app and not within the traditional validator and the contactless NFC tag identifies the service provider which you are using as a traveller.

Before, you had a contactless card to identify you. You tagged on a validator where the intelligence was: now the concept is reversed. You identify the service provider by the tag and the app is the intelligence.

E&T: Have you started trialling Seamless? If so, what was the feedback from either transport authorities or passengers?

Geraldine Lievre: The first trial will start on September 1, and we are working with a French city [yet to be announced]. We will do a pilot with 200 users, whom the city is currently identifying, probably students. It will run until the end of the student year in June, but we will have feedback coming in at the end of September.

E&T: How soon do you expect to roll out the programme? What countries or cities do you think are more likely to adopt it first?

Geraldine Lievre: We had several hypotheses since we started working on it two years ago. We initially thought it would be probably targeting developed countries with advanced ticketing systems – the US, Europe, Asia. However, since we made the announcement we have been contacted by people in Africa, Latin America and India.

E&T: How much will it cost  transport operators to set up Seamless?

Geraldine Lievre: We would provide the tags for free, there is no investment for the transport operator and the costs are handled by us. We operate the solution, so it is a transactional business model. There will be a fee for each transaction. We will bill-invoice the traveller and we will transfer-revert the money to the operator, minus the fee.

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