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With The HopOn App, There’s No Need To Stand In Line For Public Transit

Instead of swiping a card or paying a driver, this app lets bus passengers pay with their phones.

Imagine riding a bus or a train and never having to buy a ticket, swipe or tap a smart card, or line up at the door or gate. Wouldn’t that be nice?

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With HopOn, a new mobile ticketing app from Israel, it’s possible. You just open the app on your phone and walk to your seat (assuming there is one).

The app was developed by David Mezuman and Ofer Sinai, two accountants who used to ride the bus together in Tel Aviv and wonder why it was so complicated. Passengers would line up at the front of a bus to pay the driver, and there were always delays as people looked for their card or some change, Mezuman says. One person could hold up the whole service.

Passengers link HopOn to a payment card or electronic wallet, and the app automatically validates admission when they come onboard. A beacon sends out an inaudible (“ultrasonic”) sound signal telling the app which line is being used. The phone then communicates with a central server to verify the payment. People can come in any door and all at once–the system handles as many passengers as necessary.

HopOn is installed on 1,200 buses in Tel Aviv, as well as on a bike share. It’s also being piloted in Monaco; Marseille, France; Poland; and the Czech Republic.

Mezuman says the startup chose ultrasonic technology over NFC and Bluetooth because the communication distance is easier to limit (you wouldn’t want someone outside the bus validating by mistake) and because those other methods aren’t universal. Ultrasonic signals can be picked up by relatively dumb phones with microphones, which brings less-developed markets into play.

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Aside from greater convenience for customers, he says the HopOn system is cheaper than existing technology. Ticket machines and electronic gates are expensive and proprietary, while the beacons are replaceable commodities. Effectively a mobile-based system transfers a lot of the necessary technology to users, making maintenance easier.

In the future, public transit is likely to be a lot less cluttered. Instead of hefty gates and validation machines, we’ll just carry our phones to do the work.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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