Mobile technologies are easing travel in Dubai. They have been integrated into the buses, Dubai Metro and into the water taxis something which has propelled Dubai into the status of the first Middle Eastern city to allow people to access public transportation with the use of their handsets.
In 2013, the Nol smart service was launched which has given passengers the ability to open ticket barriers. Simply, the passengers tap their mobile phones against the reader and they have open access. Originally the transport credit was stored on the card but now the service makes it possible for the passenger to store the credit on their phone in a virtual fare card that is in their sim card.
The service is installed with a wireless technology that works in short range (Near Field Communications – NFC) that enables a connection with the mobile phone to validate the virtual Nol account of the passenger. An NFC-enabled mobile device can be used in the check-in and checkout of water taxis, buses, and metro. It prompts the deduction of the fare from their credit.
The technology is both interactive and convenient. It has enabled passengers not to need to carry the physical card with them on their travels.
At present, there are over 6 million cards that are in use and the service reduces this number and thereby reducing the costs for the RTA and the environmental effects because there would be no more need for the production of the plastic card.
The service fits into the futuristic, high-tech view of Dubai which encourages the government to be involved in the implementation of the service.
Consumers can now manage easily their accounts being able to keep track of their use as they please and to make the necessary arrangements before they are stranded. There are a number of options that the passenger can use to access their account including as sim toolkit menu or the Du app, either way; they can see their recent travel history, whether they have gotten to the daily fare amount, the expiry date of their service and their ID tag. The tag ID is necessary when accessing the RTA call services.
To top up the virtual card, the customer can do so at the Nol website online or at RTA terminals.
The future of the service is in the use of mobile subscription for topping up the account.
If your battery dies when you are in the metro, you can buy an exit ticket and the procedure is the same as that of acquiring one on a lost physical card. For a lost phone, you report to your mobile operator, the local police, and the RTA. The operator blocks the Sim card and every other feature that could endanger your data and the RTA sees to it that the thief cannot access the Nol service.
The innovation has been able to overcome many implementation challenges to bring into place a system that is unprecedented in the UAE in not just how it operates but how it meets the needs of the customers.