Spanish bus drivers to check tickets using NFC host card emulation

“HCE is a game-changing technology for NFC,” says technology provider Aditium’s Ibai Iturricha. “With HCE we have the chance to develop the whole solution without having to rely on any other party… With the entry of HCE we are free.”

Madrid-based private bus operator Jiménez Dorado is to introduce a new cloud-based NFC ticketing solution that enables Nexus 5 NFC phones to be used as contactless ticketing readers at a “fraction of the cost of traditional contactless reader infrastructures”.

Nexus 5 smartphone with Ticktrack NFC ticket reader

Ticktrack, developed by Spanish startup Aditium, uses host card emulation (HCE) — a new approach to NFC service provision that is supported in Android 4.4 KitKat and can be used to replace a physical secure element on an NFC phone with a cloud-based alternative — and is due to go live in March.

Jimenez Dorado operates private bus services for 10,000 local employees of Banco Santander, Coritel, Fnac, Maersk, Microsoft, Orange and Symantec among others.

With Ticktrack, commuters will touch an employer-issued contactless travel pass to the driver’s smartphone as they board, to register their trip. A remote server then enables a system administrator to track the number of passengers in real-time and, optionally, send updates to drivers’ smartphones to inform them of traffic jams and other delays. Plans call for travel passes to be stored on passengers’ NFC phones in the future.

“We are very passionate about NFC; we saw it four years ago and knew it could be a very important technology in future. We love the idea of it,” Ibai Iturricha, co-founder and CTO of Aditium, told NFC World.

“The passengers carry a contactless card and they will continue to use the contactless card first, but what we want in the near future is to add these cards to phones that support HCE.

“From our point of view, we think that HCE is a game-changing technology for NFC because HCE will mean we, as a startup, and other small and medium enterprises will not have to rely on enterprises like MNOs, TSM providers and other third parties. Now, with HCE, we have the chance to develop the whole solution without having to rely on any other party.”

“With the entry of HCE we are free,” Iturricha added. “We think HCE is one of the most important technologies in the NFC world. It opens a very important door and we want to take advantage of that. Now it is possible to make things happen; it’s the moment of NFC.”

A video produced by Aditium shows off Ticktrack’s features:

“From the very beginning we saw the potential of NFC to solve our needs, directing a fleet of buses across the busy city of Madrid during rush hour with sometimes up to 800 passengers at each stop was a complex task,” says bus company boss Rafael Jimenez Dorado. “With Ticktrack our operators can make better decisions that improve the efficiency of our fleet and identify new ways to improve our services.”