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Overview of the latest contact-less smart card systems and electronic ticketing developments in Europe

Posted: 9 August 2007 | Dr. Manfred Ritschel, Chairman, Kontiki Group | No comments yet

The Kontiki Working Group is a product and system independent platform comprising of 76 members from public transport associations, transportation companies, and industry, banking and credit services. As well as these, there are also consulting companies for the implementation of contact-less smart card systems for electronic ticketing in public transport and other mobility systems; such as car parks, park and ride, and car sharing. Kontiki engages in an international working group dedicated to standardisation and inter-operability.

Initial results were presented at the UITP conference in Helsinki and further results will be presented with an international round table at the Kontiki conference in Brussels on 13 and 14 September 2007, together with the international UITP Information Technology and Innovation Commission, the Transport Card Forum (UK) and the Contact-Less User Board (CLUB).

The Kontiki Working Group is a product and system independent platform comprising of 76 members from public transport associations, transportation companies, and industry, banking and credit services. As well as these, there are also consulting companies for the implementation of contact-less smart card systems for electronic ticketing in public transport and other mobility systems; such as car parks, park and ride, and car sharing. Kontiki engages in an international working group dedicated to standardisation and inter-operability.Initial results were presented at the UITP conference in Helsinki and further results will be presented with an international round table at the Kontiki conference in Brussels on 13 and 14 September 2007, together with the international UITP Information Technology and Innovation Commission, the Transport Card Forum (UK) and the Contact-Less User Board (CLUB).

The Kontiki Working Group is a product and system independent platform comprising of 76 members from public transport associations, transportation companies, and industry, banking and credit services. As well as these, there are also consulting companies for the implementation of contact-less smart card systems for electronic ticketing in public transport and other mobility systems; such as car parks, park and ride, and car sharing. Kontiki engages in an international working group dedicated to standardisation and inter-operability.

Initial results were presented at the UITP conference in Helsinki and further results will be presented with an international round table at the Kontiki conference in Brussels on 13 and 14 September 2007, together with the international UITP Information Technology and Innovation Commission, the Transport Card Forum (UK) and the Contact-Less User Board (CLUB).

The Use of Smart Cards in Public Transport

In addition to numerous pilot projects, the past few years have seen extensive e-ticketing system applications being put into production worldwide. Selected examples include SUCIA (Japan), Octopus (Hong Kong), EZLINK (Singapore), T-Money (Korea), SmarTrip (Washington, USA), Oyster (London, United Kingdom), NAVIGO (France), and Schwäbisch Hall (Germany).

In Germany, numerous projects are being implemented on the basis of the VDV core application; the German standard for e-ticketing from the VDV (German Association of Transportation Companies). This is in order to introduce smart cards for subscription, annual and student tickets; in the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr (Rhine-Ruhr Transport Association) for example. Some are in the final stages of preparation; the Verkehrsverbund Oberelbe (Upper Elbe Transport Association), Dresdner Verkehrsbetriebe AG (Dresden Transport Services), Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (Rhine-Main Transport Association), Verkehrsverbund Mittelsachsen (Central Saxony Transport Association), Leipziger Verkehrsbetriebe GmbH (Leipzig Transport Services), Erfurter Verkehrsbetriebe AG (Erfurt Transport Services) and other transportation companies and transport associations.

These solutions for using a smart card for subscription, annual and student tickets in public transport have been verified in cost-benefit analyses in accordance with a standard methodological model for efficiency appraisal recommended by the VDV. They are based on a timeline of ten years and take into account the necessity of replacing the card after five years. The results are sufficiently firm findings that, on condition that a 75 per cent subsidy is provided for initial purchase and card renewal after five years, there are demonstrable savings to be made from the introduction of the card by larger transportation companies. This conclusion is directly linked to the number of subscriptions and is valid for numbers in the range of 30,000 subscriptions or more.

HandyTicket (Mobile phone based ticket)

In addition to these solutions based on smart card systems, there are numerous solutions that use a mobile phone. It is important to distinguish between two technological approaches.

Mobile Ticketing applications based on GSM technology

Here, we refer in particular to the two-year VDV joint pilot project with the HandyTicket in eleven public transport regions with several transportation companies and public transport associations (including Verkehrsverbund Oberelbe, Verkehrsverbund Mittelsachsen, and Dresdner Verkehrsbetriebe AG). Tickets can be purchased both on the basis of SMS and JAVA as well as using a favourites solution.

NFC Interface

Mobile Ticketing developments based on an NFC interface have found a place in the public transport sector and are raising various questions.

On the one hand there is the issue of compatibility between NFC and ISO 14443, which is viewed as essential. In the interests of maintaining inter-operability, apart from the point of view of customer interfaces, it must be ensured that vehicle-based readers or personal terminals can read from and write to different user media; such as NFC mobile phones, smart cards and chips contained in other form factors (key fobs for example) based on ISO/IEC 14443.

On the other hand, this raises and partially answers the question of whether the mobile phone spells the end of the smart card in public transport. This must be answered with a clear ‘no’, but with the note that the mobile phone definitely represents an innovative alternative and a complementary addition to the spectrum of user media for e-ticketing. The range of user media shown in Figure 1 can be expected in the future. This shows all logging technologies from Check in/Check out, to Be in/Be out.

Further Developments

After years of certain stagnation and a phase of necessary initial pilot projects, the next few years can be expected to bring about the breakthrough for the use of electronic tickets in productive systems.

Pilot projects were nevertheless necessary and have proved the feasibility of e-ticketing, particularly in the context of new approaches to electronic tariffing; for example in Dresden. In the intermobil project based on technology for On-board Passenger Tracking using the Be in/Be out (BIBO) principle and pay as you ride (CICO) Check in/Check out technology in Hanau.

From the user’s point of view, there are limitations in the cost of the components. The market must still grow with appreciable order volumes. From the customer’s point of view, there are limits if transition resistance to public transport cannot be effectively reduced or is replaced by new electronic barriers. Due to the VDV core application, limits on the inter-operable implementation in Germany can be considered overcome.

All e-ticketing systems that simply switch customer ticket actions prior to (purchasing), during (validating), and after (checking out) the journey, to a new electronic level, have no chance of real market penetration in the long term. This can only be expected from a new ‘get in and ride’ approach in line with development step 3 of the VDV core application Automatic Fare Calculation.

Integrating automatic presence logging with fare calculation will provide basic data with quantitative and qualitative attributes for assessing the actual passenger trip and usage behaviour; thus automatically calculating public transport performance criteria such as transport volumes and capacities. In the long term, it is a question of integrating current individual solutions (CAD/AVL, positioning, data communication and e-ticketing) into one on-board system. The second area of focus will be the development of suitable background systems for this.

European Standardisation

The last few years have seen the development of national specifications for e-ticketing. The following are the most important examples of such e-ticketing specifications; VDV core application (Germany), ITSO (England), SDOA (Netherlands), Rejsekort (Denmark), and Intercode and Interbob (France).

These national standards have had a strong influence on standardisation in Europe. The following modular components of an Inter-operable Fare Management system (IFM system) are currently available as the most important standards:

  • Standard for data elements EN 1545
  • Standard for data structures EN 15320
  • Standard for interoperable ticketing (IOPTA) EN 15320
  • Standard for functional system architecture (IFM SA) ISO 24014-1

Inter-operability

The main focus is the vision of seamless public transport. Bringing this about involves on the one hand seamless access to public transport (ticketing) with the associated access technologies; and on the other hand seamless payment over the complete journey chain (payment). A fundamental requirement is the inter-operability between the technical and application layers. The simple but important principle applies; inter-operability demands the standardsation of the technical and application layers.

The UITP focus paper, Everybody Local Everywhere – Electronic Ticketing Inter-operability and Fare Management Co-operation, presents alternative ways to inter-operability in e-ticketing as well as to payment systems, while taking account of differing national and technical approaches.

In practice, the situation depicted in Figure 2 can be assumed where, for example, various regional IFM systems exist within one transport area. For this reason, it is not possible for customers to use public transport between the regions with the same user media, applications or products. The proposed solution here can be to integrate current regional IFM systems into larger IFM systems. Figure 2 makes this principle clear.

This opens up a migration path for e-ticketing from local to national public transport applications and public transport applications for much larger regions. Figure 3 visualises these steps.

An electronic fare management system comprises various technical and organisational components that are also elements or indicators of inter-operability. Figure 4 shows a general overview.

The inter-operability of e-ticketing systems or their respective components can be achieved by various means.

Firstly, by developing common IFM systems, every system would use the same IFM specifications as well as all the other elements of the previously explained IFM system. The underlying assumption in this case is that it is the correct direction that should be aimed at for the future, but that cannot in any way be realised immediately.

The second alternative solution centres on a commonly accepted IFM system, meaning every IFM system accepts the other. This is an expensive solution, as every system would have to implement the technology of the other system.

From this perspective, it would be very complicated to implement either path to inter-operability under present conditions. A more realistic alternative would be to take a third path towards partially common systems. This migration path consists of a three-part solution:

Low cost applications

Inter-operability should evolve from the implementation of a limited number of tickets that are based on a defined and agreed level of jointly accepted security, that are approved for use in various IFM systems, and that ensure partial inter-operability for the customer.

Common security modules

In this case, inter-operability is achieved through common security modules for all applications and security keys that exist in the system.

Application download

This method ensures inter-operability by enabling regional applications to be downloaded onto multi-application user media that are accepted by all IFM systems.

We herewith issue an invitation on behalf of the UITP, the UITP Information Technology and Innovation Commission, and the Kontiki Working Group, to work towards establishing a common understanding, common positions and common actions for inter-operability in e-ticketing through a common discussion platform involving all participants. The next activities will be the Kontiki conference in Brussels and the meeting of the IFM Forum of the UITP.

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