Verizon is now accepting ideas for the 2015 Powerful Answers Award
Expanding its ongoing commitment to innovation and social responsibility, we are currently accepting submissions for the chance to win up to $1,000,000 in prize money. Enter here by June 18th, 2015: verizon.com/powerfulanswers/award/.
Anyone who rides city buses knows the frustration of waiting in line to board while the passengers in front of you fumble for exact change or a magnetic-strip card to pay their fare. But what if riders could pay simply by boarding the bus, leaving their smartphones in their pockets or purses? A new app called HopOn, which recently won a 2014 Powerful Answers Award in the Transportation category, is already making this futuristic scenario possible in Israel.
HopOn was created in 2012 by Ofer Sinai and David
After that incident, Sinai and
"We found out [waiting for passengers to pay] takes a lot of time," says Sinai. "It can take up to four minutes per station to pick up ten or fifteen passengers," simply because riders had to pay on a one-by-one basis, which added up to many extra hours of idling and contributed to traffic and pollution across the system. "We found [payment] is one of the most crucial things that makes the system slower than it can be."
So the two friends set out to create a mobile payment system for public transit.
"We wanted to use mobile for simultaneous payment and ticketing, instead of the one-by-one payment process," Sinai explains. The two founders looked into several technologies, such as iBeacon and Bluetooth, before realizing they needed a unique technology that would work on every device, whether Bluetooth was enabled or not, and without hogging battery power. They settled on sound wave technology that uses the phone's microphone to communicate a sound, which is recognized by a beacon at the point of payment.
"Every telephone, it doesn't matter what kind, has a microphone," Sinai points out. The system then generates an electronic receipt that the passenger can show to inspectors later if necessary.
Once Sinai and
Passengers were also quick to adopt the technology in Israel when they realized how automatic the process was — after initially downloading the app and inputting their credit card information, riders simply open the app on their phones at the station and board the bus, without having to do anything — no swiping, no holding the phone up to a sensor. "They are amazed," Sinai says. "It's like magic."
After finding out about and entering Verizon's Powerful Answers Award competition "at the very last minute," Sinai and
"I was screaming," Sinai laughs. "When I showed the email to David, he started screaming too."
The HopOn team, which now has eight members, plans to use the $250,000 Powerful Answers Award prize and the support of Verizon help to develop partnerships with transit systems in other countries, especially the U.S.
After great success in Israel, Sinai is optimistic about HopOn's chances of adoption in other countries. "When they see how much time and money they can save, [transit authorities] are pushing this technology forward because it will bring so much value to the system."