In any city in the world, we have all had the experience of catching a bus, subway or train only to find we don’t the right change or the right card that needs to be refilled at some Kafka-esque office we’re never going to find. An Israeli startup is stepping in and solving this problem by collecting fares automatically.
HopOn, based in Tel Aviv, is a company of 12 people who plan to change the way people use public transport by offering a smart mobile payment and ticketing platform.
In Israel, HopOn has inserted beacons in 2,000 buses and soon at bike stations and other transportation hubs. Some 10,000 users have installed the app, allowing them to hop on a bus or bike without worrying about how to pay.
For bus operators, this means no more collecting fees person by person, freeing up drivers’ hands and minds to focus on the road. For riders, it means no more line-ups to pay, and more freedom to use the services meant to help us move through cities.
Company CEO Ofer Sinai tells ISRAEL21c that existing automated payment technologies are tethered to hardware and customers need to tap a device with a smart card, which runs on NFC (near field communication).
The hardware is expensive, he says, and you have to check in one by one. Plus, you have to obtain the card. Using HopOn, users’ tickets are validated automatically through a smartphone once they get onto their ride –– through the front door or back. No lines necessary.
In Tel Aviv, the company is working intensively with regulators and with the public bus operator Dan to ensure that customers get a secure and satisfactory experience whether on the bus or through the Tel-O-Fun pay-as-you-go public bike system.
HopOn’s small beacons connect to your smartphone via ultrasound from the vehicle’s GPS system, effortlessly pairing the passenger with a location-based fee.
“We have pay-as-you-go options or pre-paid tickets,” says Sinai. “This is our added value. Even if you didn’t buy the right tickets –– don’t worry, you won’t be charged for what you didn’t use.”
Bus drivers who are part of the HopOn system, indicated to riders with a HopOn logo outside the vehicle, are trained on how to accept this novel form of payment. For now the drivers inspect a “secret code” image provided to them via the HopOn screen on the rider’s mobile device.
For people concerned about privacy, you can’t pay with Bitcoin just yet, but PayPal is an option and certain profile information can be kept anonymous.
A bus ticket to Monaco?
After Israel, the firm plans to take on the French market through a business lead in Monaco. HopOn has a local contact in New Jersey and is negotiating to start something in the United States, but the next market seems to be closer in Europe, Sinai tells ISRAEL21c.
HopOn was founded in 2013 and has raised $700,000 to date from a strategic investor. It is currently in a negotiating cycle with several venture capital firms with the aim of raising $5 million.
The next step for HopOn in Israel is to ramp up use –– to reach a bigger number of the country’s million and a half public-transport passengers every day.
It is also collaborating with other public transport app companies like Moovit. This popular Israeli app is like Waze for public transportation.
HopOn also plans on connecting to trip planners to help people get from Point A to Point B as quickly and easily as possible.
Sinai came onto the idea, with his partner David Mezuman, after many years of commuting between the cities of Tel Aviv and Petah Tikva in Israel. They felt it was ridiculous to have to fish for small change in order to get home. In true Israeli spirit, they didn’t just complain about a problem but resolved to do something about it for the sake of so many other commuters.
This article first appeared on ISRAEL21c – www.israel21c.org