As of February 2004, transit passengers in Germany's Vogtland region will be able to purchase their tickets via their mobile phones. The Vogtland Public Transit Association (Zweckverband Oeffentlicher Personennahverkehr Vogtland) has commissioned Siemens Business Services to devise a pilot solution for electronic ticketing. The association expects this model project for a "pocket-sized ticket machine," the first of its kind in Germany, to lead to lower costs, increased revenue and improved customer loyalty. Since passengers in the Vogtland and the so-called EgroNet region frequently cross the border between Germany and the Czech Republic, the European Union is supporting the project to the tune of almost one million euros.
Until April, 350 selected persons will test the process. Following registration by telephone, they will have access not only to traditional paper tickets, but also to two mobile alternatives for travel in the triangle between the Czech Republic and the German states of Thuringia, Bavaria and Saxony.
Alternative 1: After downloading the appropriate software to his Java-enabled phone, the passenger keys in his ticket order via the menu. He enters the number of passengers, the route and the type of tele-ticket required -- everything from single tickets to annual tickets is available. Once he has entered all the necessary information, confirmation of the order appears on the display. The virtual ticket itself is located on a server to which only the ticket inspector has access.
Alternative 2: The passenger orders his ticket with a phone call. The automated call center operates with new special voice recognition software that was developed in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute. This software is able to pick out the relevant order elements from complete spoken sentences. Long voice menus are thus no longer necessary.
In the pilot project, the actual payment is still handled by bank draft, but later versions will also include payment options via phone bill, credit cards or prepaid cards. On top of this, the mobile phone portal offers a range of additional services, such as timetables.
The solution will also help to further improve customer satisfaction and service. For example, the ticket orders provide information about passengers' routes and travel times (after all personal data has been stripped) that can be used to streamline bus and train services. The Public Transit Association is therefore confident that this solution will increase its revenue stream over the long term. In addition, long lines in front of the ticket machines or the lack of small change will in future no longer keep mobile phone owners from using buses or trains.
The market potential for solutions of this type is huge. In Germany alone there are 400 local transit companies, including 75 medium-sized and large transit networks. "The demand for innovative solutions is enormous, when one considers that the competition for satisfied customers will increase dramatically. This in turn increases the providers' need to set themselves apart from the competition," forecasts Winfried Holz, head of the Global Business Unit Solutions at Siemens Business Services.