Cubic Corp. has launched an updated application that enables consumers in one German city to purchase public-transportation tickets using Apple Inc. iPhones, which display purchased tickets as barcodes scanned at turnstiles for entry, the transportation ticketing company announced Oct. 6.

Cubic Transportation Systems Deutschland GmbH, the business unit of San Diego-based Cubic Corp., developed the iPhone application for the transport association of Karlsruhe, Germany. The updated application is available only in Karlsruhe, Marcus Platts, Cubic Transportation Systems managing director, tells PaymentsSource.

Karlsruhe’s public-transportation system has offered its residents a mobile-ticketing option for the past three years through a system Cubic also developed.

The new application, which eventually will include other smart phones such as Google Inc.’s Android and Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry, “is definitely more user-friendly than the [older] mobile-ticket system, as it is all touch screen and includes [a global positioning system service] to help users find the nearest transport stop,” Platts says. The updated application also is faster than the existing system, he adds.

The previous system, which still is available, also is application-based, Platts says. Customers initially register their phone type and payment information on the transport association website and similarly receive a barcode image on their phone screen after the ticket is purchased, Platt explains. The existing version works with all mobile phones sold after 1996, he notes.

The free downloadable iPhone application is available through Apple’s online application store and enables consumers to purchase tickets for buses, trams and trains, Platts says. Customers follow the same initial procedure to apply and register their phone type and payment information.

To purchase tickets using the new system, a customer opens the application and is prompted to enter a user name and password. The customer then selects the “buy ticket tab” and selects the route zone and ticket type, such as a single, day or group ticket, Platts explains.

After the customer selects the ticket and route, the application prompts the user to touch the “buy” button, then a confirmation button. When the system confirms the purchase, the ticket appears on the mobile phone screen as two-dimensional barcode, which ticket collectors or turnstiles may scan from the iPhone screen, Platt says.

Since the launch of the iPhone application on Sept. 17, mobile-ticket registration in Karlsruhe has increased 20%, Platt says.

The United Kingdom’s National Rail network also plans to use a mobile-ticketing service with barcode technology for its rail system (see story). 

By using mobile tickets and barcode technology, the transportation industry seems to be “mirroring the payments industry by moving away from paper tickets and cash usage” and adding mobile-payment options, Red Gillen, a senior analyst with Boston-based Celent LLC, tells PaymentsSource.

“Germany is a relatively cash-heavy economy,” so it seems like mobile ticketing is a viable option for saving money on processing cash and paper tickets and eliminating the need for physical ticket windows, Gillen notes.

 However, as mobile tickets become more widely available, the main challenge will be to “make sure the readers can read the two-dimensional barcodes and will continue to work as new ticketing technology is developed,” Gillen says.

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