Masabi Wins BLN Money In Mobile Award

With a name like Money In Mobile Forum 2011, todays BLN event in London addressed the question thats on everyones mind – how do we make cash out of this great technology?

One man who knows is Giacomo Biggiero, chief product officer at mobile payments solutions company Masabi. Biggiero picked up the Money in Mobile Award at todays event, beating a stellar line up with his presentation on the success of Masabis railway ticketing app. 

We caught up with Biggiero in the immediate aftermath of his companys win to find out what makes Masabi such a success. 

The company has focused on railway ticketing payments, and Biggiero says that this industry is perfectly suited to incorporating mobile ticketing. “We specialise in mobile ticketing solutions in the rail industry,” he says. “Weve been working in the transport industry for a while. Weve essentially noticed that, unlike the airline industry, where most passengers buy their tickets online, rail passengers are actually buying their tickets at the train station through vending machines and ticket windows. We thought this was a good use case for mobile, for people who want something a bit more on the move, and a bit more last-minute.” 

The Masabi system transforms the mobile phone into the vending machine, and makes your phone the actual ticket, says Biggiero, and he believes it is an application of technology that could take mobile payment mainstream. “This could be the first mCommerce transaction for the regular user, because were actually solving a problem,” he says. 

The mobile ticketing system currently uses a barcode system. Users can buy tickets on their mobile phone, and a barcode displays on the screen. This is then scanned on machines at the station. The company has set up a scheme at Marylebone Station in London that is using the technology with Chiltern Railways. Visual barcode scanners have been installed, and customers can buy their tickets on the mobile phone and then show the device to the ticket barriers to get through them. “The entire experience is on the mobile phone,” says Biggiero.  

“Weve currently got live products out with, Chiltern Railways, and Virgin Trains. And weve got signed contracts to expand that – well more than double it this year.”

And Biggiero says that Masabis solution can be scaled to incorporate other technologies such as NFC. “I dont think NFC is going to compete with us at all, I think the two things are complementary. Were very keen to see NFC being picked up. We want mobile manufacturers to pick that up because its another way to deliver the ticket.”

Masabis achievement in the railway industry makes it good value for its award today. In an sector not known for its rapid adoption of change, Masabi has pushed through a new standard for ticketing across the UK, and encouraged train operators to embrace the technology. Communicating the benefits to the operators was key. “Theres convenience for the user but theres also demand from the operator side,” he says. “Shifting users onto the mobile channel means they can reduce their cost of sales, its an additional retail channel, and theres no operating costs either.”

Apart from conviinceing the train companies that mCommerce could be a positive step, Biggiero says that the other main challenge was making the solution cross platform. “Its more a mobile solution than an iPhone app,” he says. “Were running on iOS, but were also on Android, BlackBerry, and some of the older Nokias, Sony Ericssons, Samsungs. So we have developed a cross-platform mobile payment solution.” 

And while the company is specialising in transport for the time being, Biggiero says that there are plenty of applications for his companys products. “Transport is the bastion of mCommerce because its solving a real-world problem,” he says. “Once we establish the user base, we can start seeing what else we can do with the application. There are further monetisation opportunities with that, so were talking about ancillary sales, onward travel, targeted messaging, and that kind of thing … Its all about exploring whats out there; there are no limits.”