Smartphone's the ticket to go paperless

Singapore-based ticketing company, Sistic, launches mobile ticket collection service that lets patrons enter show venue after scanning 2D barcodes sent to their phones.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Sistic has unveiled its M-Ticket collection service which delivers tickets directly to a customer's mobile phone via SMS, hence, eliminating the hassle of queuing up to collect tickets and the anxious scramble to find misplaced stubs.

At a media briefing here Wednesday, Sistic CEO Kenneth Tan said the new collection channel was designed to provide a seamless, paperless and cashless ticketing experience for customers.

At present, this option is only available to users who purchase their tickets online or through the Sistic hotline, and carries an additional S$0.70 fee, including SMS charges, per transaction.

Upon making their purchase, customers will receive an SMS message--seven days before the scheduled event--to download the mobile ticket which contains a 2D matrix barcode. This image will be scanned by an usher for validation at the event venue before the customer gains entry.

According to Tan, Sistic decided to adopt the industry standard 2D matrix barcodes instead of MMS (multimedia messaging) or OCR (optical character recognition) due to its cost benefits. In the long run, this option will involve lower costs in terms of technology implementation and service maintenance because barcode scanners can be procured from various vendors, he explained. There is also no propriety ownership associated with the 2D barcode, he added.

In addition, he noted that the barcode is also harder to emulate and copy, thus, providing better security and authentication.

M-Ticket functions on a per-transaction basis so the 2D barcode will represent the total number of tickets bought in that one transaction, Tan told ZDNet Asia at the sidelines of the launch. This means only one SMS need to be sent regardless of the number of tickets purchased, which reduces data cost for customers.

M-Ticket also allows for partial entry, allowing individuals within a group of friends to enter the venue at different times, he explained, noting that the 2D barcode can be forwarded to the other ticketholders to be scanned when they arrive later at the venue. To facilitate this, upon first scanning the mobile barcode, the usher will take note of the total number of tickets tagged to the transaction and verify this number against subsequent barcode scans upon the arrival of the remaining ticketholders.

Adoption to be slow
An M-Ticket SMS contains a link that will prompt the user to access the Internet to download the mobile ticket, so customers will need to have a Web-enabled phone to access the service.

Asked if this would limit its reach, Tan said: "Five years ago, if you asked me that, the answer would be yes. But today, the penetration rate of data plans is getting higher and all the telcos are bundling mobile subscriptions with data plans. Everyone will have a data plan within the next two years."

He acknowledged, however, that in spite of ballooning smartphone ownership and increasingly mobile-savvy consumers, initial adoption of mobile ticketing will be slow primarily because customers feel more secure holding onto a physical ticket. He added that this "mindset will not be overcome overnight".

Nonetheless, Tan said survey findings Sistic conducted had indicated a pool of early adopters who regarded a ticket as merely a means of entry.

He said the main driver behind the launch of M-Ticket was the convenience it would provide ticket buyers, and not simply a way for the ticketing company to reduce printing costs.

He added: "As customers get more sophisticated, so do [their] demands. By providing this service, even though it doesn't reduce cost directly, it heightens Sistic's profile and image as [a service provider] that is forward-looking and customer-centric."

Tan said the adoption of mobile ticketing services will grow in the future, noting that the "mobile space is one which all service providers should monitor closely".

In September, Sistic launched a mobile app through iNets that allows users to buy tickets via their smartphones. To access the service, users can download the app from the iNets Web site while Apple iPhone users can do likewise from the App Store.

According to Tan, M-Ticket is part of Sistic's mobile strategy and the company is pumping "significant" resources to explore other mobile services that are suitable for its business. He revealed that a Sistic-specific mobile app is planned for release sometime next year.

Mobile ticketing services are not new in Singapore. Cinema operator Golden Village, for instance, offers a mobile ticketing app iGV that offers movie information, trailers and ticket reservation. The app is available on Apple, Nokia, Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices.

Golden Village last month also launched its GV Mobile Ticket delivery service, which sends movie tickets directly to the mobile phone of a customer who then scans the ticket code at the Mobile Ticket Kiosk to gain entry into the theater.

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