Automatic vending machines

The need

People transportation is a business. Public or private, there is always accountability. In othr words, nothing is free.  There are exceptions, in some countries, but the vast majority of transportation companies use a ticketing system. Pay first, get a ticket , and use it to get onto the bus. Historically, the ticketing system started  with real people selling them. The human-to-human interaction exists today, but with small exceptions, there is an automated machine next or close to the selling point. It is sad, but in the future, there will be a moment when all ticketing will be done by the machines. Not today, not tomorrow, but  that moment will come. The cost killers are just around the corner.

The machines

Most of the time, the automatic ticket vending machines (ATVMs) have a display and several buttons. Some very recent ATVMs have a touch display, without any other buttons. Efficiency is everywhere. The old models still have the green (Validate) and red (Cancel) buttons.  A typical machine has a vending cycle:

  • selection of the tickets (if there is more than one type/category);
  • payment of the tickets, cash or card;
  • release of the tickets, most often via local printing .



The tickets

There are three  very frequent types of tickets:

  • paper (carton) tickets;
  • electronic tickets (credit card size, NFC smart card);
  • self-printed ticket.

The first kind is the  least  expensive. Its size varies between 3 by 1 inches to the credit card size. It may have a magnetic strip. Recent cost-reduction procedures have led to low quality magnetic tracks in many paper tickets.  They are vulnerable to  (electro-)magnetic fields, such as the ones generated by the cell phones.

atvm-2The cost-reduction campaign has a byproduct : the electronic ticket. Often a credit card variant, it has a chip. Its life varies between 5 and 10 years. Very resistant to electromagnetic  fields, this type of ticket is best used as  monthly or annually pass, Unlike the paper ticket, the electronic support costs between $1 and $5 depending on the level  of security in the chip or on the price policy of the issuer.

The cheapestatvm-1 of the tickets is the one self-printed on a sheet of paper. The biggest issue is the security. As it an be printed by anyone, it has to have some builtin security, often a bar / QR code.

A new form of ticket has emerged a couple of years ago: the SMS ticket. It is build on the security of the mobile networks as the identity of people is often the same as the one of their cell phones. The author has yet to use such a ticket.


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