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Get into World Cup matches with a text

Why a paper ticket if an SMS will do?

Mobile phone ticketing technology could soon push paper-based tickets to the sidelines in many European football stadiums, ski resorts, trade shows and other large venues, according to an industry executive.

"Organisers of huge events such as soccer games and trade shows are looking for ways to reduce their ticketing costs while at the same time making the service faster and more convenient for customers," said Christian Ullmann, CEO of Smartmachine, in an interview yesterday. "We have developed mobile ticketing technology that can meet these demands far better than traditional paper tickets."

Smartmachine and its technology partner Skidata have developed a mobile ticketing system that allows customers to have a ticket sent to their mobile phone via SMS (Short Message Service) in the form of a 2D barcode. At the gate, they slide their mobile phone display showing the barcode through a barcode reader.

The technology, which has been tested by Southend United, will be installed at 10 of the 12 stadiums selected to host the Fifa World Cup football tournament this year, said Ullmann, speaking on the sidelines of a technology forum sponsored by Siemens at the new Allianz Arena stadium in Munich.

"Our technology won't be used at the World Cup games because of Fifa requirements for personalised data to be contained in tickets via barcode or RFID [Radio Frequency Identification], but it will be used later in these stadiums for tickets to German soccer matches," he said.

It has also been tested by China International Exhibition Center Group Corporation (CIEC).

To use the service, customers must first register at a web portal provided by the organiser. They can pay by either providing their bank account details for a direct debit or their credit card or setting up a virtual wallet into which they transfer money electronically.

In addition, users must have mobile phones supporting packet-based technologies, such as GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) or 3G, according to Ullmann.

This reporter tested the technology with his own 3G phone at a demo gate in the arena; the service was easy to use and appeared to work without any problems.

"Our service has a couple of big advantages over paper-based tickets," Ullmann said. "For users, it's quick, allowing them to book and receive a ticket on the fly. For organisers, in addition to speed, it's cost-efficient offering an alternative distribution channel to postal mail."

Skidata and Smartmachine also claim their technology offers a high level of security to avoid counterfeiting, stealing and repeated use of the same tickets, as often happens with conventional paper tickets.

Looking ahead, Ullmann expects Near Field Contact (NFC) to generate even greater demand for mobile ticketing services. NFC technology, which evolved from a combination of contactless identification and interconnection technologies, allows users to access content and services, make transactions with and store tickets on their smartphones, PDAs and other consumer electronic devices by simply holding NFC-enabled devices next to each other.

"We expect to see NFC-enabled phones in the market by the third quarter of this year," Ullmann said.


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