Ticketing goes mobile – By Alan Goode, Senior Analyst, Juniper Research

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There are 2bn mobile phone users in the world and many use a ticket most days to travel, to watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster and to cheer on their favourite sports team.

Ticketing is suited to the characteristics of a mobile device. It is an object that is usually with its owner, has storage capacity, is relatively secure, has a display, is connected to a wireless network and is linked to its owner via an ID (the IMEI and the phone number). These characteristics have enabled technology and product marketers to develop efficient ticketing schemes that are providing real revenue for the operators, software developers and system integrators.

There are big benefits to using a mobile to purchase tickets over traditional means. One is that the ticket, once purchased, can be sent to and stored on the mobile device, eliminating the need to visit a ticket office or agency to purchase and/or collect the ticket. This is convenient for users and offers cost savings for the ticketing operator as there is no ticket to print or issue.

M-ticketing services are in operation virtually everywhere tickets are issued. Some businesses are more suited to m-ticketing then others – public transport, parking and events (cinema, theatre, music and sport). M-ticket providers are innovative in their use of mobile phone technology, using SMS, barcodes and RFID or NFC technology.

SMS m-ticketing

M-ticketing using SMS is a quick and easy way to get tickets issued to mobile users, although security surrounding the redemption of the ticket can be an issue. SMS was used in the world’s first m-ticketing system to sell, deliver and redeem a ticket to an event using only wireless technology. UK-based mTicket was involved in the world’s first m-ticketing system when ‘mTickets’ were sold to the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London. Tickets are delivered as an SMS and redeemed without the need to post a paper ticket to the consumer.

In the UK the largest inter-city bus service, National Express, has launched an SMS m-ticketing initiative to customers. The service is aimed at customers who are unable to get to an internet connection or who are too close to the date of travel to receive tickets in the post.

Barcode m-ticketing

Barcodes, either 1D or 2D, offer a distinct security advantage over a ticket contained in an SMS. M-ticketing service specialists like Mobiqa, have developed ‘mobi-ticket’, bar coded tickets sent to mobiles. The mobi-ticket is redeemed at the venue by simply scanning the phone display with a standard barcode scanner.

Mobiqa and mobile operator O2 teamed up to issue mobi-tickets for the autumn 2005 England rugby internationals in London. The tickets are issued using either SMS or MMS, and do not require any specialist software to be installed on the phone.

The airline industry is considering the use of mobile barcodes for airline tickets and boarding passes. IATA, the airline governing body, has called for all airlines to stop distributing paper tickets by end-2007 and has calculated that this will save the airlines $9 per customer. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that e-ticketing will move to m-ticketing for the airline industry when it sees how successful other industries are in using this technology.

“IATA is driving the industry initiative to implement 100% electronic ticketing to enhance passenger convenience and save the industry $3bn in annual costs,” says Bryan Wilson, project director, e-ticketing, IATA. “As a mobile phone is a message receiving device, much as a home computer with e-mail, IATA’s e-ticketing initiative effectively enables m-ticketing. There is no reason why a customer today should not be able buy an e-ticket from a browser-enabled mobile phone including payment processes from an airline or travel agent website.”

For airlines, security is a major concern but these concerns can be met by m-ticketing using barcodes. Mobiqa’s basic mobi-ticket is more secure than pap