All aboard for seamless travel

According to RFID chip design specialist, Innovision Research & Technology, the time has come for transport operators to reassess the benefits of contactless ticketing.

The widespread deployment of smart ticketing for mass transit has been held back by the technology, and the relatively high costs involved. However, according to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip design specialist, Innovision Research & Technology, with costs falling dramatically, the time has come for transport operators to reassess the benefits of contactless ticketing.

Trevor Crotch-Harvey, Innovision R&T’s smartcard expert and chair of the UK’s industry working group focusing on Low Cost Smart Tickets, will lobby the transport sector at this week’s UITP World Congress in Rome to re-evaluate the business case for smart cards in transport.

Mr Crotch-Harvey, who presents his paper ‘Low Cost Tickets & their impact on the Business Case’ today, June 7 explained: “The industry is demanding low cost Limited Use smart ticketing, but very few are prepared to step up to the mark and fully commit to it.

“Cost has certainly been an issue up to now for low value ticket types such as daily passes or single trip tickets. But recent developments in RFID components and improvements in silicon chip manufacturing are rapidly driving down the unit cost, to the extent that it should no longer be a major concern.”

Industry analysts believe that if Limited Use contactless smartcards can be manufactured for about 25 US cents each, then the market could be substantial.

According to Innovision R&T’s white paper: ‘Smart ticketing for mass transit – the new global opportunity created by low-cost, contactless ticketing’, the total available market for Limited Use tickets is projected to grow from 277 million units in 2006 to 8.6 billion units in 2009.

Hassan Tavassoli, Vice President of Industry & Government at global smartcard manufacturer Giesecke & Devrient, added: “We recognise the significant market potential for Limited Use contactless smartcards and are predicting good growth this year within the mass transit sector, as transport agencies and operators start technology trials and implementations. The cost of the technology is no longer a barrier to adoption, operators can now enjoy a positive return on investment and passengers can benefit from seamless travel.”

Walt Bonneau, Vice President of Cubic Corporation, which designs, manufactures and integrates automatic fare collection systems for global public transit projects, said: “There’s no doubt that interest in Limited Use smartcards is gaining momentum in the mass transportation market. It presents an exciting opportunity for ourselves and our partners and is a major step towards the vision of fully contactless interoperable ticketing systems across all fare structures and modes of transport.”

Innovision R&T’s Trevor Crotch-Harvey accepts that there are technical and mechanical production challenges that need to be overcome in order to achieve a robust and reliable high volume process, capable of meeting the demands of such a high volume market, but believes these are being addressed.

“Challenges at the technology level tend to focus on chip design and layout. But now with the introduction of custom RFID chips specifically designed for low cost ticketing, manufacturers of tickets and contactless reader technology need to start taking advantage of these developments by designing interoperable systems.

“In parallel with this, the latest regulatory specifications from ITSO in the UK and ISO have been modified to reference low cost ticketing, limiting product performance to what is absolutely necessary in order to achieve lowest cost.

“The message is loud and clear. Many of the barriers to adoption are being removed and, while there are many contactless ticketing trials now in place, it is up to the transport operators, authorities, systems integrators and vendors to seriously re-evaluate this opportunity and make low cost smart ticketing for mass transit a reality.”