Since Apple announced the iPhone X Face ID function, people have been speculating over the future applications of this technology. The company behind TfL’s Oyster card, Cubic, have been looking into utilising this biometric technology to accelerate throughput in the London Underground. Though we don’t have Oyster Face Readers or Palm Vein Scanners just yet, TfL have recently taken a step forward in digitalising its service.
Launched in September, the TfL Oyster app has quickly risen to #1 in the Travel category and received over 100,000 downloads in it’s first few days. This app enables Londoners to effortlessly top up Oyster cards and buy travelcards directly from their smartphone. Furthermore, the app provides an 8 week overview of the user’s journey history and provides notifications when balances fall below £10 or if a travelcard is about to expire.
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, opened the Wired Live Event on November 2nd and spoke about continuing London’s journey towards becoming a leading ‘smart city’. Speaking on the new app, Khan said “London continues to lead the way using new technology to improve our transport network and I’m delighted that our new app will make topping up your Oyster card much easier and more convenient. Being able to add money quickly using your phone will make a real difference to busy commuters”.
This app has taken London by storm, so we wanted to enquire further into the creation process and what the future possibilities are. We spoke to Andrew Anderson from Transport for London, who worked on the development of the app.
Q1. What was the vision for the use of this application?
Our focus when creating this app was to make it easier for customers with an Oyster card to purchase tickets and ‘top-up’ without needing to queue at a station or visit an Oyster Ticket Stop. This has the benefit of reducing queues. In order to make the app easy to use, we first made changes to improve our online purchasing systems - making it possible for the first time to collect purchases at any station or London bus after 30 minutes from placing the order. Already, the app has been downloaded more than 250,000 times, with purchases totally over £3m, helping customers travel more conveniently across London.
Q2. What future developments are you working on for the application?
Since the app launched in September 2017, we’ve been closely monitoring customer feedback to address any issues as well as understand what their key [requests] for future functionality are. We are already working on integrating contactless payment cards into the app, so that you can see your journey history and get appropriate notifications when you use a contactless card for travel. We also plan to make the app available to concessionary card holders (e.g. 18+ students) in future as well.
Q3. Could there be a possibility of integrating the application with a journey planner?
Based on comments on the app stores, it’s clear that people would welcome some form of Journey Planner being integrated into the app. We already provide data to allow apps to offer journey planning through our open data API, which has led to more than 600 apps now being powered specifically using TfL's open data feeds, used by 42 per cent of Londoners. While we have no firm plans at the moment, we continue to think about how we might be able to provide more options for customers to better plan their journey or be aware of any service delays (the app currently provides a direct link to the TfL Journey Planning webpage). However, we also recognise that there are already some very good apps which provide journey planning using our open data.
TfL Oyster is available on iOS and Android for free download right now and is certainly a must have for all Londoners.