Sam Sherwood-Hale, spoke to Philippe Vappereau, Chairman at Calypso Networks Association about developments in ticketing across the industry
Philippe Vappereau is the Chairman of open-source ticketing standards organisation Calypso Networks Association. CNA is a non-for-profit association established in Brussels in 2003 which manages the contactless electronic ticketing standard, Calypso.
CNA’s mission is to support the use of the open Calypso technology standard to enable transport and mobility operators to control and advance their contactless ticketing systems. This is achieved by:
- Promoting competition and lowering lifecycle management costs by encouraging open standards and avoiding vendor ‘lock-in.
- Sharing knowledge, experiences and expertise through education and networking.
- Supporting innovation by removing fragmentation and creating a technically secure ‘baseline’ on which stakeholders can build upon.
- Encouraging the use of open source software, which is accessible and usable by all.
- Advancing global standardisation through the development of interoperable systems and standards.
Your article ‘Are we entering the fourth era of public transport?’ focusses on the new normal and asks us to consider the technologies available to us to solve some of the challenges brought about by Covid control measures. What are these challenges and how do you define them?
I wrote the article because I felt that something was changing in the public transport area and bringing new challenges. I considered how ticketing can play a role in dealing with these challenges. Public transport is often mass transport and it is completely antinomic with these rules around social distancing. Operators now have to avoid having a mass of people in all areas and this includes the process of buying and validating the ticket. This is something we have actually been preparing for over the last few years as we develop contactless solutions which are quicker for validation and help to avoid queues at gates. We have also developed online ticketing purchasing which helps to avoid queues at the ticket booths.
Finances are another consideration as passenger levels are so low during the pandemic that we have to make sure the solutions are low cost and easy to implement.
Ridership numbers dropped to around five per cent year-on-year at the height of the lockdown and are slowly recovering. Do you think people’s perceptions are that buying and validating tickets involves more contact with surfaces and more queues than in reality?
In France we aren’t returning to total confinement and I believe that is the case in the UK at present as well. The process of regional lockdowns was what caused the numbers to dip so low and quite a few studies have shown that public transport is not a real cluster that contributes to the pandemic – it is far less than other types of gatherings. Going forward, it may be necessary to reassure people that they can buy tickets and enter the network with minimal physical interaction. It will help to get customers back. We have seen the loss of revenue from the total lockdown was huge and we cannot go back to that.
Presumably there is a wealth of data that can be accessed through these ticketing apps that will help authorities make informed decisions around public transport?
The situation does require more data. For example, with anonymous data, we can know the load of the trains by taking into account how many smartphones are active, how many people get on and get off, so it is easier to get a real view of the load of the train.
Do you believe that fears around the security of open networks on a mobile device and data safety are less prevalent, now that the risks inherent in physical contact are higher?
People remain very careful about their data privacy. For example, in France the Covid application was initially used by less than three per cent of people for data privacy reasons. We have to continue to respect GDPR rules and not believe that everything is allowed now.
Many of the developments around ticketing technology focus on the concept of ‘contactless’ with this form of payment being the norm in many countries throughout the world. Will it be necessary for development in this area to pivot or is the course they are already on headed in the right direction to handle pandemic situations?
There are two types of contactless. All contactless ticketing requires very fast and secure transactions and during this period we have seen applications put together very quickly using QR codes which are easy to set up and deploy. However, the ergonomic for the customer is poor and the security is also not as good. Now we have to standardise the solutions, the complexity should be for the developer to solve and then offer an easy and simple product for the user.
What is the main appeal of open standards?
Capacity to innovate, capacity to integrate and low cost. Here at CNA we are a group of operators and authorities with a goal of achieving interoperable, standardised solutions. Standardised means capacity of interoperability, because of course if you have two systems which are incompatible, it is impossible to introduce interoperability for the user between one system and the other. But open standards also means a decrease in cost because you are neutralising a lot of things – when you have propriety solutions they have always been developed by one manufacturer and each evolution can only be dealt with by them. With open standards, each stage of the life cycle has competition, and competition results in a decrease in cost.
This is all the more true when you have big networks like London and Paris. Ticketing is already costly as you require three technologies all working in synergy by allowing for traditional travel cards (Oyster in the case of London), open payment and magnetic ticketing.
At the start of the year Calypso Networks Association (CNA) and OSPT Alliance announced they would merge, with the goal of driving the global adoption of open ticketing standards. How did the merger come about?
CNA is an older association as we were created in 2003, and we are proud that our solutions are still innovative and remain up-to-date. OSPT has developed solutions since 2011 based on a similar philosophy. For CNA the voting power is at the operator end – the manufacturers participate but they don’t have voting power whereas OSPT is more industry-led.
We have three working groups to focus on each unique challenge. The first is the governance working group which will deal with the convergence of the two associations. The second is the technical group which will analyse the two solutions from each organisation and then take the best elements of each one. Thirdly, we have market outreach which will work on ways to educate the market on the work we are doing and explaining the advantages of this new arrangement. Our goal is to be ready by the end of 2021 and then be fully merged by 2022.
What do you think about concepts like Mobile ticketing or Biometric Tickets?
Biometric solutions can be seen as something quick and efficient but it depends because I am not sure everyone is ready for that in the area of public transport. With passports, most people accept the biometric passport with finger printing, but in France for example, it is very difficult to implement facial recognition for usage in public transport because it is strictly defined by the CNIL (Commission Nationale Informatique et Libertés). So, I am not sure that it will emerge so quickly and so easily. I have been in ticketing for 25 years and back then, the idea was that a passenger would enter the metro without doing anything and the gate would open in front of you – the technology existed but the question was about the contract.
People forget that ticketing is not only a payment but it is also a contract between the customer and the operator. For any contract, you need a voluntary gesture from the customer. If there is no gesture when you enter the network, have you made a contract with the operator?
Regarding mobile ticketing, there are two ways to consider this. Contactless ticketing like Oyster and mobile solutions are compatible, so mobile ticketing can mean a method for topping up your card. This is where you take your contactless card and put it against your smartphone. That means you are not using your smartphone to validate the ticket but you are using it as vending equipment. This is one solution because the infrastructure already exists, as soon as you download the application you can take advantage of the service.
The second way is to use your smartphone directly to validate your ticket at the entry point of the train, metro or bus.
How does CNA work with industry to develop these solutions?
CNA mediates between the needs of the operators and the industry, so for mobile ticketing we can organise working groups to learn the needs of the customers and the capabilities of the smartphone manufacturers. For example, in Paris, Samsung S7 phones are equipped with the technology to use their phones to buy and validate their tickets. This came about from a direct relationship with Samsung which integrates our own application in the secure element of their phones. This work comes from the fact that CNA has the capacity to speak with everybody because we have no industrial interest, we represent those who want to develop solutions for customers.