We live in a society where everything is transitioning over to 0s and 1s. People are ditching Sky to watch TV online through services such as BBC’s iPlayer and we are consuming more mobile data over 3G networks than ever before.
Despite this, certain industries are finding it more difficult than others to make the transition over to the digital age. As I write this, I’m sat in a railway station waiting to catch the last train home, because I missed my earlier one by 30 seconds. Why? Partially due to my horrendously bad planning skills and partially due to the fact that I had to print my pre-ordered tickets as I entered the station.
If you aren’t familiar with this, it isn’t the quickest process in the world. You have to select the ‘collect’ option on the screen, insert the card with which you originally bought the tickets and then proceed to enter your reference number in to the machine using the on-screen QWERTY keyboard. Oh, and then you have to wait for half a dozen tickets to print, most of which are receipts that you don’t need, and don’t keep.
There’s a fundamental flaw in the way that online train bookings are managed, simply because it’s a half-hearted attempt. You can visit sites such as thetrainline.com (or the new ‘Red Spotted Hanky’ if that’s more your thing) and purchase the tickets that you require weeks in advance. That’s where the digital part of your road trip stops though, because then you have to use physical tickets which are waiting for you at the station, or which you can have delivered to your home (again, bad planning on my part; I would have probably been able to catch the train had I taken a second to get them delivered, but we’re not here to discuss my lack of common sense, so I’ll move on).
So I suppose the question I’m sat here asking myself is “how fucking difficult can it be to make a decent, digital system whereby you can purchase tickets on your phone, and use the same system to actually display the tickets?”.
Theoretically, it’s most definitely possible. In a world full of barcode scanners and QR codes, how difficult can it be to devise a useable system? I know, I know, we have a bad track record when it comes to technology – who doesn’t? – but if other countries can implement similar systems then we sure as hell can, too.
Existing apps such as The Train Line already have to access a central database to search for and process train times and prices, so it certainly wouldn’t be a stretch to allow you to maintain a digital ticket within that app. Rather than take the time to print tickets, you would simply be able to get on a train with your phone, knowing that you can flash your screen to the conductor and be on your way.
Quite frankly, living in the digital age that we do (it’s 2011 people, let’s get with it, shall we?), it’s amazing that we don’t already have such systems in place. We even have the infrastructure right now; people already own smartphones that are capable of performing such tasks with ease, so utilise the technology that’s out there!
I could quite easily go on, but I wouldn’t want to bore you, and I have a very late train to catch in a few minutes. As always, feel free to rattle off your thoughts in the comments.