Government-owned railroad service Amtrak is set to use Apple’s iPhone and a new app as an electronic ticket scanner.
The New York Times reported that train conductors have been training to use the tech during select routes since November. The addition allows passengers to load a specific bar code on their smartphone screens that the conductor can scan for tracking purposes. Of course, passengers can still print their tickets per usual for Amtrak’s iPhones to scan.
Amtrak said 1,700 conductors would use the iPhone on routes across the country by late summer. The iOS device will come with a case containing an extra battery and a bar-code scanner. It will also come equipped with an app for scanning and indicating special conditions, such as whether passengers are disabled— and when and where they are departing— for coordinating a wheelchair lift. The app will even enable conductors to report the train’s mechanical failures.
The NYT article does not mention it, but 9to5Mac discovered mobile and emerging technologies developer Übermind claims to be the brain child behind the app’s shiny, new features. It’s website provided a few images (below) that depict what Amtrak described when detailing the iPhone’s case, battery, and app:
“Paper tickets are so 19th century. We ushered Amtrak’s conductors into the 21st century with our workforce automation solution. The bottom line for Amtrak: better customer service, better labor relations, and real-time business intelligence. Riders, taking the train just got fun again. [..] We worked with Amtrak to design and implement the engaging Digital Passport feature within Amtrak’s passenger iPhone app. With the personalized passport, riders can earn stamps for travel, share achievements to social networks, and view a map overlay of personal ridership stats. Train Masters, wanted.”
The iPhone app features a few perks for passengers too: It will allow passengers to change train times online, whereas the old process only allotted options for ticket refunds and subsequent repurchase at a machine or help booth.
“All aspects of the app, from the customizable font size and expanded touch areas to the task-focused architecture, makes conductors faster, happier, and more accurate. Amtrak’s conductors can view real-time schedule updates and ridership stat visualizations, as well as instant fraud validation,” Übermind further explained.
The iPhone-powered system will further help Amtrak better manager when passengers board or depart at different times—all while monitoring real-time check-ins. The previous system was slow and methodical: Tickets were punched, collected, and then sent to a location for traditional scanning and keying into a database. The lengthy process clearly presented a delay that hindered Amtrak from keeping a proper headcount.
The transition is costing Amtrak $7.5 million for software and hardware development. The corporation admitted it is also working on an Android version of the system due for a fall release.
Amtrak is just the latest business to use an Apple product for improving daily functions. Late last year, 9to5Mac reported how another transportation agency, American Airlines, approved iPads to replace flight manuals.