Cubic Transportation System (CTS), the US Company behind London’s Oyster card technology, is developing a new ticketing system that uses facial recognition, palm vein scanning, and object tracking in an attempt to reduce queues. This comes in light of the news that users of London’s public transport are due to grow. “How do we deal with the growth in capacity and help enable passenger flow through stations?” says Dave Roat, strategy manager at Cubic.
According to reports, Cubic’s biometric ticketing system would alleviate congestion at ticket gates by removing the gates altogether. The company’s prototype for the gateless system, know as “FasTrack”, uses a next-generation validator, which accepts Oyster cards and contactless cards, but also works with alternative payment methods. These include Bluetooth LTE – which could identify passengers by their phone as they pass without needing to hold it to the scanner-, palm vein scan and facial recognition. The new system also uses an object tracking system to track passengers as they walk through.
How would the system work?
The palm vein scanner uses infrared sensors to capture the pattern of blood vessels in user’s hand. However, before use, commuters would have to register their palm print and link it to their payment account, allowing the scanner to recognise their palm and charge their account. Therefore functioning similarly to Fingopay’s finger view scanner.
Roat claims that this is a better biometric method to use in this scenario as it scans beneath the skin, whilst fingerprint scanners can easily get dirty or oily. “With this, without having to touch anything we can get an accurate reading,” Roat stated.
With the facial recognition system, users would also be required to register their face as their ticket, which would allow cameras and infrared sensors to detect commuters when they pass through the gate and charge their account. The company also claims that the system’s use of infrared sensors prevents it from being duped by a 2D image, increasing security.
Lastly, the object tracking system would be able to recognise when a person validates their ticket, whatever method was chosen, then tracks them as they walk through the corridor. A corridor is used instead of a single gate line, to give people more space.
In the prototype, lights in the tunnel turn green if a person has paid and red if they haven’t. The company is currently experimenting with different types of feedback to see whether a sound, a voice or a vibrating floor tile would be most effective.
However, is this enough to stop fare-evaders?
At some London stations, passengers are required to present their payment card at an Oyster terminal before and after travelling but do not have to pass through gates. Passengers are charged the maximum fare if they forget to tap in or out. As a result, Cubic’s system could serve as a reminder to pay.
Although the system might not stop people trying to board without paying, it could inform operators of where and when most people are skipping fares, so they can deploy staff at hotspots.
The company aims to get the gateless tracking system at a UK station within the next year, however, Roat says that the system won’t be using facial recognition for a while as it’s not accurate enough.
They are also concerns about the security risks involved with the public giving their biometric data, which would require the transit authorities to implement strict security and privacy controls before providing the new system.
However, Roast suggests that customers’ attitudes may change as facial recognition is used more regularly; for example, the iPhone X is unlockable via facial recognition software.