Applications – Public Transportation/Ticketing

November 28, 2011 by David Mahdi     No Comments

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Consumerization & NFC

Public Transportation & Ticketing

Impact: High
Timeframe to mainstream: 2-5 years (with differing adoption rates regionally)

In the above video, you can see the user purchase a ticket by tapping on a map. In many cities, ticket pricing is based on regions or sections (i.e., the further you have to go, the more you have to pay). In this case, she simply tapped on the section of the map where her destination is, and she paid for and received the ticket. She then uses her phone to tap a turnstile to gain access to the train stop. And, finally, on the train she taps her phone against a transport agent’s phone to validate her ticket. Later on in the video you see a similar procedure, except with buses instead of trains.


The simple act of tapping to receive tickets, validate tickets, and so on can be applied to many other “ticketing “applications. Such as:

  • Concert tickets: Buy a ticket online, have it stored in your phone, tap for entry
  • Parking meters: Tap your phone to pay
  • Events/trade shows: Tap your phone for entry; within the event, tap your phone for marketing materials, etc.
  • Theme parks

Overall, these types of transactions are similar to the mobile payments. A payment and a proof of identity are needed to conduct these transactions. Again, the secure element plays a major role here.

Unlike mobile payments, the back-end infrastructure may not be in place. Some cities/jurisdictions may still be using punch cards, etc. Meanwhile, other cities, such as Hong Kong, have the infrastructure in place. Since they are using smartcard-based systems today that are similar to today’s credit card infrastructure, the smartcards can be “ported” over to the phone (similar to mobile payments).

In Hong Kong, the cards used are branded Octopus. Not only can this card be used for public transportation (e.g., buses, subway, etc.), they also can be used to:

  • Purchase items at many stores in Hong Kong (e.g., 7-Eleven)
  • Access cinemas, gyms, clubs, theme parks
  • Physical access control at some participating businesses; this is in lieu of a corporate-issued ID badge
  • Parking, retail, fitness facilities and more

Octopus in Action

Now, it wouldn’t be too difficult for Hong Kong to extend this technology and make it available on mobile devices. I know this one will make my life easier — fewer tickets or paper-based documentation to manage, store and organize.


Entrust senior product manager David Mahdi specializes in Entrust’s mobile and cloud security solutions. He is an experienced IT security professional with more than 10 years in IT security, software engineering and product management. David played a key role in shaping Entrust’s mobile strategy, which included mobile authentication, strong mobile identity, mobile device management and mobile devices in the national ID/ePassport space. David spends most of his time conducting research on the mobile and cloud market, as well as conducting seminars on IT security. Prior to Entrust, David was a product strategist at Sophos, where he led efforts to increase Sophos' presence in the gateway security space. He is a well-versed information security professional for PKI, SSL, mobile, cloud, NFC, PACS/LACS, gateway security (Web/Email), malware, encryption and network security.

Add to the Conversation