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Exploring the evolution of fare collection

|   Fare-Collection-Systems

In the dynamic landscape of public transport, the evolution from traditional ticketing systems to cutting-edge account-based ticketing (ABT) has been nothing short of transformative. To best grasp the evolutionary change to the fare collection industry, let’s look at the nuances of fare collection systems that have defined public transport.

Understanding the basics: Card-centric systems

Traditional ticketing systems are card-centric, using for example paper tickets, mag stripe or smart cards as fare media. Card-centric means, that all vital information such as fare products, stored value and more is solely stored on the fare media. It is for example printed on the paper ticket or written to the mag stripe or smart card chip. If passengers lose their fare media, it usually means that their fare product or stored value is lost, too.

The challenge with card-centric systems is to regularly compare the data stored on the fare medium with the corresponding information in the back office system. While the data on a smart card for example is updated with every transaction, the back office system usually receives an update only once a day.

Transition to account-based ticketing (ABT)

ABT marks a paradigm shift by centralizing intelligence in the cloud. The travel and passenger information is no longer stored on the fare media, but centrally in the cloud, in an account. The fare media has turned from a ticket into an identifier that just refers to the information stored in the central back office system.

If a fare media is lost, the related fare product or stored value is still existing in the cloud. The back office system can proactively block the lost fare media and provide a new media which refers to the account and the travel and passenger information. This functionality is a game-changer, setting ABT apart from legacy systems.

The role of technology in ticketing

In card-centric systems, field devices hold all the tariff logic needed to conduct fare processing. When a passenger for example uses a smart card to pass a fare gate, the gate swiftly reads the media, validates the fare product or stored value and updates the information stored on the smart card. However, the back office system receives these transactions usually only once a day with an overnight update, which leads to potential information discrepancies.

ABT systems, on the other hand, leverage cloud-based intelligence. Identification, verification and validation of fare products or stored value - everything happens almost instantaneously and in the back office system. Online communication is key as the devices request the necessary information from the back office. The result? A seamless experience for passengers.

Online processing: ABT's computing power

ABT systems demand substantial computing power due to their continuous processing of high data loads. With thousands of taps per minute, the back office system must reliably identify and check the account, construct the journey, calculate and apply a fare – and send the required result back to the device almost immediately. Based on advanced technologies, ABT systems are designed to master this challenge with ease.

With all information centrally managed and processed close to real time, information discrepancies are avoided.

Smartphones: More than ticketing apps

In modern fare collection systems, smartphones enhance the range of conventional fare media and offer new and attractive options for passengers:

  • Mobile ticketing apps for purchasing: Using mobile apps or web browsers for ticket purchases and top-ups
  • Barcodes in mobile apps: Using QR codes in mobile apps for identification
  • Mobile payment: Using debit/credit cards integrated in mobile wallets for travel and payment in open payment systems
  • Closed-loop smart cards in mobile wallets: Providing smart cards in digital wallets reduces the need for physical smart cards and improves the passenger experience
Summary: Navigating the future of fare collection

As we look at each moment in the history of fare collection evolution, one thing becomes clear: the future of ticketing technology is dynamic and multifaceted. ABT systems, with their cloud-centric approach, are reshaping the passenger experience, offering a level of flexibility and real-time responsiveness that traditional card-centric systems struggle to match. The journey towards a more connected and efficient public transport ecosystem continues, guided by innovation and a commitment to enhancing the passenger experience.


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