Ticketless by UrbanThings wins at The Billion Journey Project

We are thrilled to have won Cohort’s Choice at Go-Ahead’s The Billion Journey Project, Demo Day Awards, for our mobile-ticketing product Ticketless.

Back in July, UrbanThings joined Go-Ahead’s 8-week transport innovation programme, The Billion Journey Project. Operated by Go-Ahead, the project is the UK’s largest transport accelerator hub and has been developed to help scale-ups grow into the rail and bus industry. Consequently, these innovations can then be passed down to the passengers. Under the mentorship of the Go-Ahead team, UrbanThings completed the programme in early September. We’re excited to announce that we were awarded one of the two big prizes; the Cohorts Choice Award at the accelerators prestigious event at Huckletree, White City on September 19th..

After excellent presentations from the programme’s cohort of ten innovative transport companies, Go-Ahead also announced that they had selected a small number of these companies to work with their subsidiaries. As a result of being in the programme, we’re immensely proud that we’ve been chosen to continue working with GoAhead. UrbanThings will be partnering with Brighton & Hove Buses, and Ticketer to perform the UK’s first CiBo trial integrated with a ticket machine.

Go-Ahead Chief Executive, David Brown presents Carl Partridge, CEO UrbanThings with Cohort’s Choice Award

UrbanThing’s CEO Carl Partridge is pleased with the programme and the end result. “The Billion Journey Project has been a massive opportunity for us to build relationships with operators, innovators, and industry experts. We’re delighted for our product Ticketless to have been recognised by our peers in this way, and similarly wish them the best of success. UrbanThings is tremendously excited about the upcoming CiBo (Check-in, be-out) trial. We are very grateful for all the support we’ve received from the team and mentors at the Billion Journey Project.”

About Ticketless™

UrbanThings’ UK government-backed product Ticketless, is an innovative mobile-ticketing platform for public transport. It enables operators to lower their costs by removing on-vehicle hardware. The System will ultimately move from a CiBo model to full BiBo (Be-in Be-out) technology using Bluetooth beacons. The CiBo trial in partnership with Brighton & Hove buses and Ticketer will begin in March 2019.

DroidCon 2018: What our team learnt

Richard and Matt from our Android team were out and about last week visiting DroidCon London. They’ve been finding out all the latest news and advancements in the exciting world of Android Development.

DroidCon is the biggest Android Developers event in London, attracting delegates from across UK and Europe. We came to learn what’s new, and what might be worth pursuing in our own R&D; We were not disappointed.

DroidCon is a huge event. The Business Design Center in Islington is an excellent venue to showcase exhibiting companies and attend presentations and workshops. We attended the VIP Keynote by the always entertaining Chet Haase and Romain Guy from Google. They spoke about the evolution of garbage collection on Android. They showed how developers can spend more time focusing on good code and avoiding allocations – something we already do at UrbanThings.


What we learnt

In amongst all the networking, photo challenges and the drones whizzing about above our heads, there were some excellent presentations and panel discussions that are relevant our smart ticketing product, Ticketless™.

Our biggest takeaways this year included: a very interesting approach to state machines from Mounir Boudraa. It uses a small fledgling library called Flow, which takes advantage of Kotlin to makes a safer implementation that gains compiler support. Another noteworthy talk surrounded the whole JetPack suit as it stabilises and matures.

We also managed to catch a talk by Jake Wharton (Google) via the event “skillcast” recording service. I met him at DroidCon last year and got to find out about some of the exciting things coming up over a quick pint. Subsequently this year, it was great to hear how those projects have developed. He spoke on how Dagger can help lighten the issue of dependency management, and the functionality provided by libraries which are built on top of it. We’re looking forward to implementing these ideas ourselves.

There is a definite feel of community at DroidCon due to much of the event is supported by volunteers. It’s invaluable to developers such as myself and Matt to network and share ideas with people in the industry. As a result, I always leave DroidCon feeling inspired and excited about what I’ve learnt and how it can be implemented for Ticketless at UrbanThings.

Richard Green is the Android Technical Lead at UrbanThings.

Smart ticketing platform Ticketless™ launches in Germany

It’s a big day over here at UrbanThings! We’ve officially launched our smart ticketing platform Ticketless™ in the German city of Detmold. At the beginning of the year, we partnered with  IVU Traffic Technologies and German transport operator Stadtverkehr Detmold (SVD), and set our sights on delivering Ticketless into Germany. This week, we’re delivering on that vision and have released the city’s first smart ticketing app following a successful beta trial. 

What is our Smart ticketing solution Ticketless™?

UrbanThings’ UK government-backed product Ticketless, is an innovative mobile-ticketing platform for public transport. It allows passengers to purchase tickets and access real-time travel information all within a white-labelled app. Operators can lower their costs by removing on-vehicle hardware, and expensive paper tickets or smartcards. The real-time data provides operational insights so transport companies can subsequently save money by optimising their fleet.

“It’s so exciting that we can announce the public launch of our first customer” said Carl Partridge, CEO of UrbanThings. “It’s a huge step forward for the company and we are very grateful for the support from our partners. Their forward-thinking nature has been invaluable in facilitating the launch. We’re looking forward to taking the next step with them in smart ticketing.”

Wolfgang Janz, Managing Director of SVD said “The Ticketless app has proven to be a very attractive product for city traffic Detmold and is very well suited to offer a simple ticketing on a mobile phone. The app was quickly introduced  thanks to the professional and dedicated project management of UrbanThings and IVU. With the planned expansion, the app will quickly become the central component of the digital sales strategy of the city of Detmold

What’s next for Ticketless?

This is the first step for Ticketless using a check-in be-out (CiBo) model. The smart ticketing system will ultimately move from a CiBo model to using full BiBo (Be-in Be-out) technology with Bluetooth beacons. UrbanThings will be partnering with Ticketer and Brighton & Hove Buses to perform the UK’s first Bluetooth Beacon trial with an integrated ticket machine. The CiBo smart ticketing trial will begin in March 2019.

The Hex Tag

This week at a transport conference in Berlin, UrbanThings CEO Carl Partridge unveiled the Hex Tag to operators from Europe and further afield.

This represents the first public outing of a core technology innovation behind Ticketless.


A Hex Tag is a 3-in-1 combination of NFC, QR and Bluetooth used to uniquely identify a vehicle. By letting a passenger’s smartphone know the exact vehicle they’re travelling on, we can do something pretty exciting. We can flip tradition on its head and use your phone as a sole, trusted ticket validator. The result: a MaaS-ready, future-proof validation and fare collection system for 95% less capital investment than old-fashioned ticket machines.

Hex Tag, say hello to buses, trains, bikes, e-taxis, rental scooters, autonomous vehicles — the flexibility and low cost of the format means that it can sit within any mobility service. The Ticketless app uses them to track not only when you’ve entered a vehicle, but also when you get off. This new, innovative form of Be-In/Be-Out ticketing ensures that passengers pay the best price for the transport that they use.


More functionality, lower price. Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? It makes you wonder why something like this wasn’t done sooner.

The Hex Tag is the culmination of a lot of big advancements in mobile tech in recent years. It isn’t until now that all the pieces fit so perfectly together in the palms of passengers’ hands.

Widespread 4G data coverage, robust biometric security, cross-platform NFC, leaner smarter Bluetooth… For the first time, people are now carrying fully secure smart payment systems in their pockets. Hex Tags allow transport operators to harness that power without any of the overheads of traditional hardware solutions.

Ticketless and Hex Tags are more than just a way for operators to get low cost m-Ticketing. They’re a vision for the future. A future of smaller-occupancy on-demand transport vehicles which aren’t built to house bulky ticket machines. A future of sustainable cities with cycle share schemes. A future where people are free to design their own travel systems to suit their needs.

A flexible future needs a system that can be deployed in days, not months, and doesn’t price innovative new players out of the game.

One last thing. We’re not keeping Hex Tags to ourselves; we are releasing the format as an open specification for vehicle identification. These embedded vehicle IDs can integrate seamlessly and affordably with third party apps, unlock innovations in customer service, fault reporting, route optimisation, driver training… We can’t wait to see what the community comes up with.

We can’t wait to share with you some examples of Hex Tags in action. Stay tuned over the coming months to learn more!

Why Bluetooth Refuses to Die

And why we think it should live forever…


Bluetooth. Remembered fondly by many for its part in sharing polyphonic ringtones in the schoolyard. Or perhaps for making the headset an integral part of businessperson chic.

Bluetooth underwent a sort of gold rush between the tech hitting its first consumer devices in 2000 and its first billion 6 years later. MP3 players, digital cameras, mice and keyboard. No device category was safe.

It wasn’t long before the advertising industry caught wind. Because of how smartphones at the time interpreted Bluetooth broadcasts, it was possible for companies to send ads directly to your phone. Proximity Marketing. If you were unfortunate enough to find yourself nearby an unscrupulous advertiser, you may have been greeted by the following sight:

Thankfully, modern OSs put a stop to this


In the following years, the Bluetooth hype died down for a while. Exciting new tech like WiFi Direct, NFC, Miracast and AirPlay helped push it out of the limelight. But not to be deterred, Bluetooth is making a comeback.



Audio has been a huge player in the Bluetooth renaissance. Affordable wireless speakers and decisions made by a few courageous phone manufacturers mean more people are keeping the setting switched on on their devices. Not to mention your Xbox One or PS4 controller, applications of Bluetooth for accessibility, pathfinding and even ice cubes.

Because of this increased visibility, as well as some big updates to standard (Bluetooth Smart had big implications for use in the Internet of Things), we decided that it was time to bring Bluetooth to public transport. Our vision is one where passengers can use transport seamlessly, without wasteful paper tickets or expensive electronic ones, and beacons ensure that you always pay the best price. You can read more about Ticketless here.


Despite the good news for Bluetooth, there are some persistent myths that continue to plague public opinion. Let’s have a quick run-though and shed some light on them.

  • Bluetooth drains your battery

    Back in the days of Bluetooth 1.0, sending files or using a headset could be a real power hog. Sure, phones had smaller batteries and less efficient antennae back then, but to say that the tech has come a long way since then would be an understatement.The max power consumption of Bluetooth Smart is only 15mA, 10% of the power of old school Bluetooth. With modern day smartphone batteries, you could use it all day and it would barely make a dent.
  • You have to be right next to the device

    Gone are the days of touching phones together to try and send things faster (Although Hot Knot looks like keeping that alive for a while). The body that manages Bluetooth specifications mandates that all devices need a range of at least 10 meters.Version 5 of the tech, which first saw the light of day on the Galaxy S8, can handle more than four times that at no additional power cost. I’m sure many of you reading have opened the Bluetooth menu on your phones or computers in a public place to see a list of dozens of devices. And that’s only those which are discoverable.
  • Pairing is a pain

    0000 or 1234. Everyone’s favourite pairing passwords. Newer versions of Bluetooth support simple pairing, which means that devices without screens (headphones, mice, keyboards) can pair with just a few taps or by using NFC.For a seamless travel experience, that’s still too hands-on for us. Thankfully, Bluetooth beacons don’t need to pair to transfer data when a user has a compatible app installed. As long as you have the Ticketless app, you can walk onto a bus or train and your ticket will be validated with your phone still in your bag.


Bluetooth’s second wind is an exciting time and we can’t wait to see what other IoT innovations it will play a part in.

Thanks for reading and be sure to follow us for more on Ticketless, transport tech and more. Get in touch with us any time at http://urbanthings.co/contact-us/

The UrbanThings dashboard: Our in-house agile assistant

When working in a small team, sometimes there’s no getting around the fact that only so much can be done simultaneously. Having a single job can be a luxury, and quiet spells are few and far between.

In this kind of environment, it’s important to have key information available at a glance, and a number of tools exist to make that easier. There’s an ever-growing list of integrations with Slack and Microsoft Teams, not to mention Zapier and the classic IFTTT, which serve to surface relevant info in real-time. It’s a cinch to see updates to Zeplin screens in our #design Slack channel, or JIRA status changes via email.

For our purposes, we wanted something more centralised. Something that we could build internally using our abundance of developer talent. And to that end, we decided to lay down the framework for our very own solution.

Enter the UrbanThings dashboard. An Apple TV app that’s running on our office wall monitors and cycles through key info (with a few less vital bits, too).

The app itself is relatively simple. It’s an endless carousel of Angular web pages. The pages themselves are defined in a custom format that allows attributes such as display order and time to be embedded.

The Apple TV then plays these pages on a loop and you can use the remote to navigate, pause or restart the carousel.

Starting with one of the nice-to-haves, and advantage of building a tvOS app is that a lot of the code from our Bus Checker apps can be re-used in the dashboard. For example, we can see the UK’s buses moving around on a map!

App analytics at a glance
As you might expect, it’s the integrations that bring the app to life. Here are some examples of what we’ve hooked up so far:
  • Slack: We have a dedicated channel that lets us post messaged to the dashboard. Sort of like an office cork board!
  • Our Continuous Integration system
  • API monitoring: Our platforms team can keep an eye on server status.
  • Google Analytics: At-a-glance info on app users and session so that we can see real-time updates in response to social promo and ad campaigns
  • JIRA: Quick overviews of work done and tasks remaining in the current sprint
  • Play Store and App Store reviews: We can keep up to speed on customer sentiment with occasional Android and iOS reviews for our apps
  • Sonos: Now playing info for when you hear a song you like. And a preview of what’s on next, to exercise that emergency veto
  • Google Calendars: Upcoming important dates, staff holidays and company outings
  • The company blog: When you find yourself reading this, we’re probably seeing this blog post on the dashboard… on the dashboard. Meta.
  • Miscellaneous silliness: We’re not above the occasional xkcd comic

The beauty of an in-house system is how easy it is to add more functionality.

In a very exclusive peek behind the scenes, I can reveal that the next major feature will be a doorbell. Perfect for those trips to the shop when you just so happen to leave your door pass at your desk.

Transport for a Healthier Bristol

The lowdown from our last hackathon

Last weekend saw the latest in our series of Bristol API hackathons, hosted alongside Connecting Bristol.

We managed to round up a bunch of the area’s brightest minds and put them to work with the challenge of using open data to solve local issues in creative ways.

We kicked things off bright and early at our scenic riverside venue with a rundown of the Bristol API and its capabilities. After that, everyone found their teammates and it was down to work with lots of discussions and sketches.

If there’s one thing that was going to take tear these bright minds away from their projects, it was pizza. Initially worried we’d ordered way too much, we were very quickly proven wrong!

After lunch, with the finish line looming, it was heads down in the final sprint before presenting. Against all odds, we managed to get a full house of presentations ready to deliver at the end of the day.

Here’s a rundown of what everyone came up with:

The Projects

FitCity was a prototype app with the aim of encouraging sustainable transport and exercise.

Users would represent their local area and compete for the top spot on the leaderboard by ditching cars and cabs in favor of walking, cycling, and public transport. The greener the mode of transport, the more points a user would get.

Daily goals would encourage players to get off the bus one stop earlier or take a stroll through local scenery instead of jumping in a car.

The benefits of the app weren’t just for the players, though. Collecting data would allow the devs to identify fit and unfit areas and drill down into why people from certain areas are less likely to use sustainable modes of transport, which could affect policy going forward.

We then heard from Team Efficace, whose project involved crunching the numbers on vehicle emissions and determining whether buses were as clean compared to cars as they claim to be.

Buses allegedly spend most of their time empty or with very few passengers. It was calculated that for some journeys in Bristol, a Euro 3 standard bus can output 16 times more NOx than a diesel car.

While a claim that a car is greener than a bus in some circumstances might ruffle a few feathers in the SusTrans industry, it made a very good case for demand-responsive bus transport. It could definitely benefit the environment to adjust vehicle sizes depending on demand, instead of having large vehicles on loops throughout the day.

Up next, we had l’Art Bus. A prototype travel companion that showcased local art and music along a route. The team foresaw stale or empty advertising space on buses being repurposed to showcase local artists and taking people’s eyes off of their phones during bus journeys.

Studies have shown that taking time to appreciate art is great for mental relaxation. And with an estimated 1 in 4 people suffering from some form of mental illness, it’s difficult to overstate the potential for positive impact having art displays on public transport.

The team also saw the art as a potential conversation starter for bus passengers. Artists could also be supported by Bristol Pound donations, to support the local economy.

Last to take the stage were Two Men and a GIS Guy who presented a visualization of commuter patterns in the ward various wards of Bristol.

They determined how many people commuted by car into or through each ward in each cardinal direction, but the bulk of their focus was on what percentage of commuters drove to jobs within the same ward.

The primary aim of the study was to identify hotspots for short-distance (under 5km) commutes by car and theorize as to why more sustainable modes of transport aren’t used instead. Avonmouth stood out as an area where a large proportion of the population drives less than 500m to work.

The implication of this was that councils should dedicate more time to understanding potential transport-related issues in locations outside of the city center.The

The Results

The judges had their work cut out for them. All four projects applied novel approaches to unique issues and made good use of open data in their approaches. But in the end, a decision had to be made:

The day’s runners-up were l’Art Bus.

They made extensive use of the Bristol API and put it towards aiding a cause that was at the forefront of a lot of minds so close to Mental Health Awareness Day. There’s the potential for a lot of funding in the area, it would be great to see the project developed further.

We’re very pleased to announce that the first place prize of the day went to Two Men and a GIS Guy.

The trio put together a very detailed and well-thought-through presentation on how the information on commuter routes could be used by councils to improve sustainable transport links in out-of-town areas.

And with that, it’s time to call it a day on another successful hackathon. Look forward to seeing you at the next one in the new year!

UrbanThings at the Annual Ticketing Innovation Summit

I was fortunate enough to attend this year’s Annual Ticketing Innovation Summit in Lisbon, held in the luxurious surroundings of the Pestana Palace hotel.

It was a hugely interesting and informative couple of days for me, focused on the transportation sector. There was access to top-flight thought leadership and some of Europe’s largest transportation operators and suppliers such as Belgian Mobility Card, Czech Railways, Telesoftas and Calypso card networks. Not to mention a slightly crazy amphibious sight-seeing trip which was both entertaining and gave our company insurance policy a healthy stress test.

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Bus Checker: Now More Than Just Buses

We’re expanding Bus Checker to cover trains, trams, metro and more

6 years ago, London Bus Checker became London’s first live bus times app. Gone were the days of leaving to catch a bus and praying to the gods of traffic and timetables that you wouldn’t be out in the cold for too long.

3 million downloads later and it’s been a wild ride. Expanding from London to cover the whole of the UK, major cities in the US and even Santiago, Chile.

Starting today, we’re bringing users the ability to go beyond buses and see live times for rail, underground and more.

London users will be able to boot up the app and see their closest tube, overground and tram stops alongside the usual bus stops.

Naturally, you’ll be able to add the new stops and stations to your favourites to see them in the widget and get live times on your Apple Watch too.

We’re excited to bring this to all of you and we can’t wait for you to try it out. Now Bus Checker has you covered, no matter how you travel.

If you haven’t already, get your hands on it today:

UK Bus Checker: Android, iOS
London Bus Checker: Android, iOS