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Sound Waves, Beacons and the Cloud - HopOn's Recipe for a Truly Seamless Mobile Payment Solution for Public Transportation Featured

Clock 10 March 2015
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Sound Waves, Beacons and the Cloud - HopOn's Recipe for a Truly Seamless Mobile Payment Solution for Public Transportation Image Credit: HopOn

HopOn, the winner of the Verizon Wireless 2014 Powerful Answers Award  for the transportation category brings a solution that meets a very universal need. It enables users of public transportation to pay for their transport charges without using cash, coins, bank cards or even magnetic-stripe transport cards. The solution obviates the need for users to rummage through their handbags and wallets for money and cards, and takes away the long boarding queues created by the time taken by each person to swipe their cards, or find enough coins/notes to be slotted into the coin machine or paid to the conductor. 

The solution leverages mobile devices and the HopOn App which connects to the HopOn beacons placed on the public transportation vehicles and also to the Cloud, from where information regarding the location, charges, offers etc are retrieved from. As soon as HopOn users board a public transportation vehicle, the information relating to the ride appears on their screens and by selecting their journeys and confirming the charges, the users will automatically receive their tickets and charged with the fare. These tickets, which are stored in the HopOn application can be retrieved when needed, and the travel and payment history is always available if users want to check on their past journeys. 

The HopOn solution takes payments over mobile devices a notch higher as it does not require users to tap, wave or 'scan' their screens as what is typically required by existing technologies such as the Near Frequency Communications (NFC), unless a pre-boarding check-in or check-out is required (such as the check-in gates at train stations). For trams and public buses for example, where payment is made as the user boards the transport, users with the HopOn App can leave their mobile devices in their pockets or handbags, and 'pay' for the ride when they are comfortably seated as the HopOn beacon takes care of producing the details on where and when they started the journey.

According to Verizon Wireless, Ofer Sinai and David Mezuman, founders of the HopOn App who started the company in 2012, began looking for an alternative for payments in public transportation system after realizing the inconveniences and wastage that was taking place from the conventional ticketing, fare collection and payment methods. Verizon quoted one of the co-founder, Ofer, as saying that "We found out [waiting for passengers to pay] takes a lot of time. It can take up to four minutes per station to pick up ten or fifteen passengers simply because riders had to pay on a one-by-one basis, which added up to many extra hours of idling and contributed to traffic and pollution across the system. We found [payment] is one of the most crucial things that makes the system slower than it can be." 

Verizon added that the situation resulted in Ofer and David exploring various payment technologies, including iBeacon and Bluetooth, before realizing that the solution must be device agnostic and is independent of whether the Bluetooth is enabled or not and is light in terms of battery consumption. This is where, said Verizon, the sound wave technology that uses the phone's microphone, whose sound can be 'read' by a beacon at the point of payment came out on top as the most suitable solution. Leveraging on the fact that every smartphone has a microphone, the solution sees the strategically placed HopOn beacons communicating with any smartphone that is turned on and that has the HopOn app installed, and working seamlessly without requiring any other add-on application or hardware. Combining the sound wave communication with the HopOn App that provides all the ticket details and generates an electronic receipt as prove of payment, a complete transport payment solution is now put in place.

The solution, which leverages HopOn beacons which are essentially M2M end-nodes that collect and transmit data to/from each HopOn account registered via the HopOn Apps, brings the public transportation closer to a truly seamless, 'just-walk-in-and-travel' system. Apart from receiving Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award 2014, HopOn recently received the New York City award as the “Most relevant transit app” for the city, and took the 1st place in the Amazon AWS Tel Aviv summit 2014. According to HopOn, the solution is already widely used in Israel, in more than 2000 vehicles including buses, trains, BRT, LRT and bike-rental stations, and the company is gearing towards expanding to other regions across the globe. 

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