Nov 07, 2023

Creating Modern Transit Ticketing Solutions With NFC

5 Key Reasons Why NFC Technology is the Future of Ticketing

Traditionally, those using public transport have been issued a physical paper ticket as proof of their right to ride. While this remains an effective way by which networks can validate that a passenger has paid to use their service, it seems primitive in the digital age in which we live. Physical ticketing also brings with it a number of challenges and inefficiencies. For example, the vast scale with which these tickets must be produced creates a significant amount of waste, and issuing each ticket individually can be a slow process.

Dematerializing and digitalizing transport ticketing must therefore be a priority, alongside improving efficiencies, providing consumer convenience and delivering joined up value added services. So how can Public Transport Operators and Authorities (PTOs and PTAs) work to offer communities a new era in transport services which supports door-to-door joined up journey planning and digital ticketing?

The answer: Near Field Communication (NFC). A proximity technology that was originally developed as a data transfer protocol, NFC has evolved to become a multifaceted disruptive presence across a host of ecosystems. Transport ticketing is one such ecosystem which is optimizing the functionality of NFC. It can be used to store a ticket on a smart device or card which passengers can simply tap against a terminal to validate.

But beyond the ‘tap’, why is the technology so perfectly positioned to seamlessly facilitate the mass adoption of smarter mobility solutions, allowing PTOs and PTAs to deliver an enhanced experience for both passengers and networks?

1. Passenger throughput and convenience

One of the main challenges that PTOs and PTAs face is validating the right to ride of all passengers as quickly as possible. Be it at train station ticket gates or as passengers step on to the bus, ensuring maximum throughput is vital to operational efficiency.

As NFC tickets can be downloaded onto a smart device remotely, it provides a seamless ticketing experience that reduces or even eliminates the need to queue at ticket offices and machines. The ergonomic tap-and-go user experience also allows users to securely validate their ticket in a matter of seconds, speeding up the validation process at barriers, helping travellers get to where they need to be without undue delay. And as most passengers – from regular commuters to occasional users and tourists– are already familiar with contactless payments, using NFC for their transport ticketing is intuitive and instinctive.

2. Seamless travel available to all

NFC provides crucial flexibility to passenger and network alike. While most people are comfortable and familiar with digital solutions, this cannot be assumed as universal. Networks must ensure stakeholders who are not comfortable with digital only solutions or are unbanked are not left behind.

The flexibility of NFC gives PTOs and PTAs the tools they need to provide this accessibility. Be it an open-loop EMV system where a user taps their bank card, or a closed-loop smartcard which can be purchased at a kiosk, NFC can be implemented to provide the same quick and easy ticketing experience for all, while enabling the PTO and PTAs to benefit from the operational efficiencies of digitalization.

3. Easy to implement; easy to evolve

With transit networks spanning potentially hundreds of stations and maintaining full fleets of vehicles, any ticketing infrastructure upgrades are a sizable investment. It is therefore imperative that any decisions on upgrading the network are made with the future in mind.

The flexibility of NFC means that networks are compatible with a range of devices and operating systems. From new fare media such as wearables, to innovative approaches like Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), NFC is proven to evolve alongside the dynamic and advancing needs, trends and requirements of the ecosystem to make sure any ticketing solution remains at the cutting edge.

The NFC industry is also underscored by standards defined by NFC Forum. This open community gives PTOs and PTAs key supply chain resilience and an opportunity to engage in standard evolution discussions and decisions.

4. Sustainability and dematerialization

Affordable and reliable public transport is one of the best ways to reduce emissions outputs and offset carbon emissions by taking countless private vehicles off the streets. However, issuing physical tickets to every passenger also creates a significant volume of waste, especially when a large number of them are single use.

Coupling the environmental impact issuing paper or plastic tickets has with the ongoing chip shortage, producing such quantities of single use tickets is no longer sustainable. PTOs and PTAs must consider the best way by which to dematerialize their offering.

NFC allows PTOs and PTAs to take a pragmatic approach to dematerialization while also allowing passengers to select their preferred fare media. Issuing tickets through the user’s smartphone or EMV bank card allows networks to take payment for travel without needing to distribute an additional travel card. And while physical tickets will still need to be available, NFC can be integrated into more robust, reusable smartcards to be topped up rather than discarded immediately after first use, significantly limiting the number of single use travel cards required.

5. Visionary

Many of the world’s foremost and busiest transit authorities have already standardized on NFC technologies. Japan’s JR East has even evolved its offer to allow transit tickets to be used as digital keys for a hotel or office.

The benefits of affordability, flexibility and interoperability NFC can offer unparalleled potential for innovative approaches to ticketing, and with both MaaS and Unified Ticketing initiatives gaining significant momentum, finding a technology to deliver on the convenience promised to customers is integral to their success.

Want to Learn More?

NFC Forum has a Special Interest Group focused on Mobility issues. It published a free to access white paper that details different NFC use cases and how they should be implemented. Authored by leading providers of transport ticketing technology, the paper is ideal for those considering, managing, and advancing MaaS ticketing services. Download today.

Interested in understanding the wider role of NFC in transport ticketing? Read The Future of Mobility – Driven by NFC.

Interested in joining the discussion? Connect with the NFC Forum team.