Manila's metro rail adopts SMS ticketing

Mobile ticketing system aims to cut long queues at Manila's main public transportation line which serves 200 million passengers a year.
Written by Joel D. Pinaroc, Contributor

PHILIPPINES--Commuters on Manila's Metro Rail Transit System, also known as the MRT3 or Metrostar, will soon be able to use their cellular phones to pay for their tickets.

In a statement last week, Gavitec AG-mobile digit, a Germany-based technology company, said it has implemented a mobile ticketing system for the metro rail line traversing EDSA, one of the busiest thoroughfares in the Metro Manila area. Gavitec signed a three-year contract worth more than US$1.3 million.

Three of Philippines' largest cellular phone companies--Smart Communications, Globe Telecoms and Sun Cellular--have given their support, said Gavitec.

The system enables passengers to use their cellular phones to purchase MRT3 "passes". Passengers receive their passes via text messaging, in the form of a two-dimensional barcode. Each code is read and validated by scanners from the passenger's mobile phone, allowing a cashless mobile transaction.

The data is secure, Gavitec said, adding that scanners automatically validate the information against a database via GPRS.

The government-owned MRT3 serves nearly 200 million passengers a year, according to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) which operates the MRT. The new system is expected to ease the long queues during peak hours which see the MRT3 carrying as many as 30,000 passengers.

Gavitec and its partner Omniprime Marketing, a Philippine-based mobile marketing company, said they have tested the system extensively, taking into consideration the sheer volume of information that the system will have to handle.

The system can also be utilized for mobile sales and advertising services, the companies said.

Joel D. Pinaroc is a freelance IT journalist based in the Philippines.

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