A centuries-old method of transportation is getting a modern day makeover. On Monday, Amtrak announced that it had started using iPhones to scan passengers’ tickets, shelving the familiar hole-puncher. The company has been training conductors on how to use the new gadgets for several months and are rolling out the service in the Boston to Portland, Me., and San Jose, Calif., to Sacramento routes.
The New York Times notes that ticketing is ripe for disruption.
A digitized check-in process for trains seems long overdue in a world of online concert tickets and flight reservations. But the industry faces a particular challenge in that passengers hop on and off at different platforms at different times, unlike at an airport, where people check in at one gateway to board a flight, and then stay there until the flight arrives.
The old manual ticketing process — punching a hole in the ticket, putting it in a pouch and then sending it to a central location, where it is eventually scanned and entered into a database — was not very good at tracking passengers on board because of the delay between when the ticket was checked and when it was processed.
With the new iPhone-powered system, conductors can monitor passenger check-ins in real time. That will help them manage seating: if there are passengers who don’t show up, for example, it will be easier to fill empty seats with other passengers.
Add this to the list of mobile workers using iPhones (or other devices) to streamline their lives at work. Whether it’s pilots using iPad for flight manuals, or taxi drivers using Square for payments, smart mobile devices are burrowing further and further in to our every day lives. While this is bad news for hole punch manufacturers, it’s good news for the rest of us.