How it works?

mobile ticketing works

How Mobile Ticket delivery works?

Delivery of tickets to mobile phones can be done in a variety of ways:

  • Text messaging (SMS) - visual inspection or OCR
  • Text messaging with WAP Push - visual inspection or OCR
  • Picture messaging (SMS, EMS, WAP Push and MMS) - usually uses a barcode
  • Dedicated Mobile application - which can store and render barcodes delivered via SMS, GPRS, Bluetooth, IRDA or RFID. Barcodes rendered on the device by a dedicated application have the advantage of being full screen without clutter, meaning faster and more successful scanning. A dedicated mobile application can also help the user to organise and sort their tickets better than when an SMS or MMS inbox is full of similar tickets, which is especially useful for transport tickets.
  • Device RFID - This is the method proposed under the Near Field Communication (NFC) specification but not yet in general use, except of Japanese Osaifu-Keitai.

Southend United Football Club is currently the only team in the UK to have a mobile ticketing facility offered to fans.

Very few phones outside Japan have RFID/NFC tags and so this method of delivery is largely unsupported. Picture messaging is supported by almost all phones and is generally the delivery method of choice. It usually requires the sender to know the phone model in advance so that the picture is rendered at the correct resolution. Text-only messaging is supported by all mobile phones and is the simplest method of delivery.

How Mobile Ticket scanning works?

Visually validated mobile tickets do not require a scan device. Most forms of mobile tickets require some form of device to read the ticket from the user's device. Picture-based messages require a laser scanner (for 1-dimensional/linear barcodes) or camera based imager (for 2-dimensional barcodes) to photograph the message and decode it into a ticket ID. Text-based codes use OCR software. Near Field Communication devices scan using an RFID reader.

Each of the above methods has its specific benefits and drawbacks. Optically reading the display of a cell phone is heavily influenced by the quality of the display (resolution, size of pixels, reflections). RFID is only supported by a very few phones yet.

How Mobile Ticket redemption works?

Visually validated mobile tickets are validated without connection to a back office system. Other forms of mobile ticket systems contact a server that is able to verify the ticket and record that it has been used.

New systems that make use of encryption of the data inside the barcode enable off-line scanning and validation, which is especially important if users are purchasing tickets immediately prior to use, and the portable venue or on-vehicle scanning devices cannot always have a connection to the live ticket database. (Many transport ticketing systems, such as the London Oyster card travel system and the M-PhaTic system of the Swedish state railways SJ are designed so that scanners can operate as disconnected islands when connectivity to central systems is lost.) More than 10,000 airport travellers have made use of a mobile phone-based ticket service on the Heathrow Express.

The system allows passengers to buy tickets online and either print off e-tickets or have one sent to their mobile.

Heathrow Express is the first customer to implement Atos's system known as Avantixmetro.

Using the system, passengers who choose to receive a ticket by SMS, will be sent a text message containing an internet link. When the passenger logs onto the link using their phone, they are able to retrieve their ticket, containing a barcode.

On the train, the inspector then scans and validates the code. A Heathrow Express spokesperson said the scheme helps customers to avoid queuing by using their mobile.

"The key reason Heathrow Express brought in this innovation was to make travel more seamless for our customers. Approximately 60 per cent of our customers are business passengers, and time is something they are very conscious of," he said.

The terminal used by train staff is built on the Casio IT-3000 and uses communications options including standard Bluetooth and Infrared Data Association capabilities, and a PCMCIA slot allowing GPRS and WLAN communications.

In April, Virgin Trains began piloting mobile ticketing, with a view to rolling it out nationwide in summer 2009

“Mobile ticketing is fast becoming the simplest and most cost effective way to sell train tickets,” said Tony Lacy, head of bus and rail at supplier Atos Origin.