Just the Ticket

Im at an m-ticketing seminar organised by mobile transaction network mBlox. The audience is a mix of mobile operators, press and transport companies, with the transport companies in the majority, Most are there to hear what some of the early pioneers in mobile ticketing have to say about their experiences; in particular, no doubt, to learn what mistakes they made, so they can avoid making the same ones themselves.
There have been two case studies so far, one from Swedish train operator SJ Rail, the other from bus company Arriva. The thing that struck me about both is that the delivery mechanism for the m-ticket in each case is vanilla-flavoured SMS. In both cases, the reasons for this are concerned with reach and inclusivity. 1-D and 2-D barcodes may be sexy, but not all phones can handle them. As Mike Woodhouse, Marketing Manager UK Bus, for Arriva said when explaining why the company went for an SMS-based solution:
We want it now. Yes things are happening with things like NFC. But two years ago, they told me NFC was two years away, now they say its still two years away, maybe two and a half.” He added that due to the design of the Arriva tickets, our scanning device is called the driver.
And this on the day that Russell Buckley, of AdMob and the Mobile Marketing Association, and a resident of Germany, put out a tweet saying: Why is the #Lufthansa online checkin system always so flaky? Only seems to work 50% of the time #fail. This system, which has been widely lauded, does use a mobile barcode.
So while mBlox Executive Chairman Andrew Bud may have a vested interest when he describes SMS as the greatest mass market interactive media that the world has ever seen, as he did earlier today, you have to concede that for the moment, he may have a point.

David Murphy