Mobile ticketing is the process whereby customers can order, pay for, obtain and/or validate tickets using mobile phones, without the need of a physical ticket. A mobile ticket contains a unique ticket verification (QR code). Mobile tickets reduce the production and distribution costs connected with traditional paper-based ticketing channels and increase customer convenience by providing new and simple ways to purchase tickets. People will not worry about losing a ticket or realizing left tickets at home when arrive at the venue. Mobile tickets are also a way to combat scalping and ticket fraud that has been a big problem for the entertainment industry.
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Mobile tickets should not be confused with E-Tickets (electronic tickets) which are used by airlines since 1994, they can be sent by e-mail, printed and shown at the check-in desk at the airport to obtain a boarding pass.
The first mobile ticketing deployment for a public transport operator in the UK was for Chiltern Railways in 2007. The first transit agency in the US to deploy mobile ticketing was in 2012 with Boston's MBTA and the first agency in Australia was in 2017 with Adelaide Metro.
Philips and Sony developed near field communication (NFC) in 2002. It is build on the same basis as common contactless smartcards. Philips published an early paper on NFC in 2004. In 2004, the NFC Forum was established. NFC incorporated in a mobile phone allows all kind of novel contactless applications, mobile ticketing being an important one of them. Mobile Tickets can be purchased via internet and will be downloaded in a few seconds to the mobile phone, be it in an sms with a 2-D barcode or to the connected NFC chip. In case of NFC at entrance the phone just has to be touched to the scanning device (in fact it makes contact within 10 cm). The GSM Association, GSMA, published a whitepaper on M-Ticketing in 2011. It describes extensively the use and advantages of M-Ticketing, principally the use of NFC technology. They state that NFC is the best technology but "it is expected however that M-Ticketing services using SMS and Bar Code implementations will be prevalent until the point that a critical mass of NFC enabled handsets is available."
Barcode and visual validation is still the accepted way to enable mobile ticketing with proven adoption thanks to the fact that tickets work across all smartphones. In 2018 the MBTA app was selling over 50% of available tickets, with 66% adoption for bus operator Bustang after 10 months.
- "How to Use QR Codes on Tickets - QR Code Generator". Retrieved 2019-03-06.
- "IATA Press Release No.: 25, Date: 31 May 2008".
- "Nokia, Philips And Sony Establish The Near Field Communication (NFC) Forum".
- "Near Field Communication, Philips, 2004" (PDF).
- "GSMS M-Ticketing Whitepaper" (PDF).