Passengers riding Boston's trains will, by the autumn, be able to pay for and download tickets with their mobile phone – even if it's not particularly smart.
The system will be trialled over the summer, before network-wide deployment by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in the autumn. That deployment will allow passengers using phones of all flavours to buy and download tickets through the use of London-based Masabi's platform, which, in the UK, uses MMS and even SMS to deliver tickets to all kinds of mobile handsets.
In the UK one can already buy Masabi-based train tickets from almost a dozen providers including Virgin Trains, Chiltern Railways and thetrainline.com, and London station ticket gates increasingly feature a scanner capable of reading an on-screen barcode from a mobile phone.
The Boston deployment won't include such gates, as the network isn't based on platform barriers, but on-train staff will use a smartphone of their own to scan the codes on customer handsets confirming the validity of downloaded tickets.
All this should be done with NFC of course; ticketing is seen as a natural application for short-range radio. So compelling is the application that the NFC Forum even extended the standard to encompass the proximity tickets already in use, making every NFC handset (potentially) an Oyster card.
Masabi argues that NFC is very nice and all, but on-screen barcodes are here now, so why wait? It's an argument which seems to have found favour in Boston at least. ®