E-ticketing: Italy is among the largest users | equensWorldline
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E-ticketing: Italy is among the largest users

E-ticketing: Italy is among the largest users

Elena Di Simone

Communications Consultant

27 May 2015

E-ticketing: Italy is among the largest users


Buying an e-ticket for the bus or the metro is becoming a well-established habit for an increasing number of Italian citizens. Services that make it possible to buy a ticket by simply sending a text message to a designated number or using the transport company’s App, even just a few seconds before climbing on board, are increasingly common in this country.

The electronic ticket is also received by text message or by App. It contains all the necessary information and must be shown to the conductor if he/she asks to see it. Depending on the service, payment may be made using a credit card or directly out of the cellphone’s credit. And this second option is increasingly popular in Italy, thanks to the services launched by local public transport companies in collaboration with the main telephone service providers.

The first city to make this service available was Florence: it was 2012 and the service was promoted by ATAF in collaboration with TIM, Vodafone, Wind, and 3 Italia. After the excellent response from the citizens (more than 2 million tickets sold at the end of 2013), the same service was implemented in other cities, in collaboration with their own public transport companies: Savona, Bari, Genoa, Treviso, Mantua, La Spezia, Pisa, Prato, Brescia, Pistoia, Vicenza and Padua. The latter, as of last summer, has also extended the service to suburban and extra-urban vehicles.

At the end of 2014, Milan and Turin introduced the first contactless payment system for rides on public transport vehicles. The system – limited, however, only to those who have an Android smartphone with the new PosteMobile NFC SIM and a specific contract with Poste Italiane – makes it possible to use the smartphone in lace of a ticket by simply swiping it near the device at the turnstiles at the entrance of the stations.

As of the end of March, ATM (Azienda Trasporti Milanesi – the public transport company in Milan) allows users to use their cellphone (not necessarily a smartphone) to send a text message and purchase a ticket for surface vehicles and for the metro within the urban area – without having to register.

In preparation for EXPO, ATM has taken another step forward, filling the small gap that still remained: as of 1 May, the system sends users a QR code that makes it possible to pass the barriers to the mezzanine area by simply holding the smartphone’s display near the designated reader, exactly the way it already works in airports, where one can access the gate by scanning the bar code on the digital boarding pass. On the network of four metro lines in Milan there are 370 turnstiles already available for the service (activated by means of a software developed by the public transport company itself), which is combined with the NFC platform by which it was already possible for PosteMobile clients to access the trains in contactless mode.

The advantage of the e-ticketing mechanism created by ATM is in the possibility of purchasing a ticket without the need to create an account or to sign a subscription, nor (in the case of the text messages) to use a credit card. This was the only way to do it, since more than 20 million visitors are expected during the months of the Universal Exposition!

The e-ticketing services are proving to be enormously successful among Italians and the registered numbers confirm it. Among the reasons for this success is the fact that the services are simple, intuitive, available to anyone who has even the oldest cellphone models and they respond to the need to avoid wasting time looking for a retailer or a machine to buy the ticket from.

According to the study called Mobile & online ticketing: Transport, events & Nfc 2015-2019, carried out by the Californian company Juniper Research, by 2019 one in every two tickets worldwide will be digital and, more precisely, will be shown on the display of a mobile device. Ticketing for public transport represents the ideal operation for developing mobile payment because it has large volumes, high frequency of use and a low price. And, also thanks to the high level of distribution of smartphones, Italy is among the countries in which this phenomenon has been most successful!

Also according to the Juniper Research study, just as ticketing has driven the use of smartphones at the turnstiles of the metro or at the gates in the airport, in the same way it will play a leading role in the distribution of wearable devices, starting with the NFC smartwatches, which are still battling to find their place in the mobile device economy. Integrating new wearable devices should therefore be a strategic move for all players in the e-ticketing sector.