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New transportation application streamlines ticketing, planning, traveling

Swiss mobile users can now use their Windows Phone 7 handsets to pay for metro tickets, as well as plan the details of trips.

Commissioned by SBB, a government-sponsored metro transport company based in Germany, recently tapped application and interface developer IdentityMine to create the new application for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 for Swiss metro travelers.

“SBB has a comprehensive online and mobile offering for their timetable information and eticketing system,” said Laurent Bugnion, senior user experience integrator at IdentityMine, Zurich, Switzerland. “SBB wanted this timetable and eticketing service to be widely available to the connected population, so it was important to develop a WP7 application in time for the WP7 launch.

“In the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in the use of advanced technology to plan trips and purchase tickets,” he said. “This is demonstrated by the increased use of automatic ticketing machines in railway stations, as well as Web-based ticket printing.

“The greater trend is towards paperless ticketing combined with using a smartphone to plan trips and buy tickets. Paperless tickets have not outpaced traditional tickets in Switzerland yet, but the belief is that paperless ticketing and the use smartphones for travel planning will continue this strong upward trend.”

The new WP7 application:

* Allows users to view train schedules, buy and use paperless tickets and plan trips

* Is released in Switzerland and supports Italian, French, German, U.S. and British English language use

* Showcases an excelerometer to make traveling easier—when users shake the phone, it automatically pulls up the most recent ticket purchase 

Other new features of the SBB WP7 application include faster and more efficient connections with SBB’s data and Web services and integration with Bing maps to provide comprehensive trip planning.

In addition, paperless ticketing is enabled by generating a custom bar code that can be scanned by ticket inspectors.

The application can also support advertising images in the loading pages, enabling SBB to monetize the application.

Mobile Commerce Daily’s Dan Butcher interviewed IdentityMine’s Mr. Bugnion. Here is what he had to say:

What is SBB’s strategy behind the launch of the travel application for Windows Phone 7?
SBB has a comprehensive online and mobile offering for their timetable information and e-ticketing system.

SBB wanted this timetable and e-ticketing service to be widely available to the connected population, so it was important to develop a WP7 application in time for the WP7 launch.

In the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in the use of advanced technology to plan trips and purchase tickets.

This is demonstrated by the increased use of automatic ticketing machines in railway stations, as well as Web-based ticket printing.

The greater trend is towards paperless ticketing combined with using a smartphone to plan trips and buy tickets.

Paperless tickets have not outpaced traditional tickets in Switzerland yet, but the belief is that paperless ticketing and the use smartphones for travel planning will continue this strong upward trend.  

What is the target demographic?
Everyone with a phone, really. People in Switzerland travel a lot by train.

Note also that the application is great for tourists, as it provides timetables for trains in whole of Europe, as well as covering not just trains, but almost every public transportation in Switzerland, including boats, cablecars and cableways.

It has a mapping feature that allows users to explore information about their destination via the application.

How are SBB and IdentityMine getting the word out about the app (i.e. marketing tactics)? Will there be any ads across the mobile Web or within other apps to drive downloads?
 IdentityMine is proud of the application and the work we’ve done with SBB, so we are sharing information about the app on our mobile site at www.identitymine.com/mobile.

Further, IdentityMine has demoed the application in various conferences, as well as for publications reporting on Windows Phone 7.

We think that this is a very innovative application that fully demonstrates the power of smartphones.

SBB has advertising pointing to their page at http://www.sbb-mobileworld.ch/.

When going to this page on a Windows Phone 7, users can download the application. In addition, the Windows Phone 7 application is mentioned in the main SBB page under the “timetable” section.

What is the price point of the app?
The app is free. SBB is considering the possibility of including ads in selected sections of the app.

Having access to an app that is as sophisticated and useful as the SBB ticketing application at no cost is a great service to consumers. 

Which brands are sponsoring/advertising within the app? What ad units are they running?
At this time, there is no advertising within the application. If SBB decides to incorporate advertising in the future, the ads would be exclusively for products by SBB.

What is the in-app payment mechanism(s)?
Users enter their credit card information on the secure website, which is possible directly from the device, through the mobile web browser with a page specially designed for mobile.

Up to two credit cards are can be stored for each user—for example, one for business and one for pleasure.

When purchasing a ticket, the user enters their username and password, which are transmitted securely to the server.

The user can then select one of the credit cards or enter new payment information. The credit card information is obfuscated.

Once the credit card is selected, it gets charged automatically.

In summary, the only authentication needed to purchase a ticket is username and password.

Once on the train, metro or bus, the user needs to provide photo ID, in addition to the mobile ticket. Information about the user’s identity is also encoded into the eticket (Secutix system) and can be decoded by the conductor’s reader device.

The timetable information is completely free of charge, and also ad-free.

What challenges does IdentityMine address for SBB?
In spite of SBB’s experience with mobile devices—the iPhone app is developed in house by SBB—the main challenge was that they are new to Silverlight and Windows Phone 7.

IdentityMine was able to develop an app matching nearly all of the features of the iPhone app on an abbreviated time schedule, in time for the WP7 launch.

We also added a few features that take advantage of the Windows Phone 7 in a way that the iPhone cannot fully reproduce.

Our design expertise was useful in working with SBB to marry their branding with the Metro style requirements—we developed a design based on Metro, but with a distinct SBB corporate identity look and feel.

Eventually, IdentityMine will transfer the knowledge to SBB and assist them during the transition, as well as for new versions of the app.

Final Take
Retail services