The UK witnessed the launch of its first host-card-emulation (HCE)-based mobile ticketing system earlier this year. The announcement generated significant media interest, but why? Using mobile phones for ticketing is something that we have been speaking about for years, so what is so special about HCE?
We spoke with Richard Moore, Solutions Manager at Rambus Ecebs, and the HCE technology provider in the UK’s first HCE pilot, to get a preview into the presentation he delivered on 24 January 2017 called “HCE Ticketing is a game changer”. Here he explains why HCE really is a ‘game changer’ and the long-term impact it will have on the industry as a whole.
How does HCE transport ticketing work?
[RM] Essentially, HCE is software that can be used to create a virtual smart card on a smartphone that has NFC capabilities. This in turn enables the smartphone to act as a secure ‘virtual’ travel ticket. Similar to a travel smart card, when the smartphone is ‘waved’ over a ticketing barrier, the ticket is validated and the barrier opens.
While this scenario has been described before in relation to mobile ticketing, there are two differentiators for HCE:
- It uses software that is developed to meet the requirements of the transport operator and the ecosystem it will be used in.
- It is independent. This means the software can work across all NFC-enabled smartphones and network carriers. This simplifies the route to market and makes secure mobile ticketing accessible to the mass market.
We also provide software that enables travellers to securely download their virtual smart ticket to their mobile device which works alongside HCE. The simplicity of use cannot be underestimated. No more waiting in queues at ticket offices or ticket vending machines and no need to wait for tickets in the post. This opens up choice for travellers and operators in how they enable travellers to access ticketing.
What are the key benefits to transport operators and the traveller?
[RM] Firstly, let’s look at transport operators. As HCE leverages existing infrastructure and the smartphone is already in the hand of the consumer, the initial investment is contained. Operators can provide a secure mobile ticket for their customers, which gives them fraud protection and reduces their requirement to issue plastic smart cards which provides additional cost savings.
HCE mobile ticketing, therefore, provides operators with a secure and quick to market option to support their mobile ticketing strategy.
While the benefits of mobile ticketing are clear for both transport operators and travellers, utilizing smartphones for ticketing opens up further opportunities for operators to communicate with their customers. How was your journey today? Did you have a seat on your train? Ancillary third party offerings could also be provided, ‘here is the weather at your destination’, ‘here are you’re your options for ongoing travel’. There are vast opportunities to offer travellers more than just a ticket.
Your presentation at Transport Ticketing Global is entitled 'HCE ticketing in the UK is a game -changer.' What are the 3 key points that you will make to explain why it is a game-changer?
[RM] Transport operators looking to integrate HCE provisioning technology into their systems can clearly see the cost-efficiencies and long-term potential it has to offer.
Using HCE to deliver mobile ticketing:
- Represents a real-world, feasible and cost-effective way to transition from physical transport ticketing to a digitalised ecosystem.
- Promotes interoperability across regional and national systems.
- Provides the transport operator with control of its mobile ticketing solution. This ensures a wide audience can access the services as it will not be limited to one network operator or one type of device manufacturer.
Once HCE mobile ticketing is adopted widely across the transport network, what are the potential developments that it can help to bring to the transport ticketing and payments arena?
[RM] As public transport usage grows, it is important to manage the cost of ticketing while taking advantage of new technologies to improve the customer experience. Secure mobile ticketing and other disruptive technologies have the potential to help achieve this. They create a platform on which to converge traditional ticketing services with new partnerships that could drive new revenue. For example, pushing food and refreshment promotions directly to a traveller’s smartphone on arriving at a new location.
Taking this even further, the introduction of new technologies will influence how other aspects of the transport ticketing ecosystem can adapt. Access to a transport network, for example, could become ‘frictionless’ using geolocation beacons rather than turnstiles and using the data of how and when people like to travel, could be used to offer unique ticketing prices that directly meet a traveller’s needs.
At Rambus Ecebs we are excited at seeing how these developments unfold and are investing in R&D programs to ensure we continually challenge today’s thinking.