ABOUT TRANSPORT FOR NSW
Transport for NSW (TfNSW) is responsible for improving the customer experience, planning, program administration, policy, regulation, and procurement of transport services, infrastructure and freight in NSW.
The Opal card is an easy, convenient way of paying for travel on trains, ferries, buses and light rail across Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Hunter, Illawarra and Southern Highlands. Instead of buying a paper ticket, users load value onto their Opal card.
When boarding public transport services, users will tap on at a card reader at the start of their journey and tap off at the end. The electronic ticketing system will automatically calculate the fare and deduct it from the value stored on the Opal card.
There are different Opal cards for specific customer groups – Adult; Child/Youth; Concession and Senior/Pensioner that offer either full or discounted fare travel. There are corresponding eligibility controls to obtain an Opal card offering discounted fares.
TfNSW commissioned Outware Mobile to design and develop the Opal Revenue Protection App (ORPA), which allows Transport Officers to check Opal card eligibility and fare compliance amongst public transport users. The app uses near field communication (NFC) technology on Android smartphones to check free read data as well as encrypted content stored on the card. This replaces the need for the read-only portable readers that meant Transport Officers had to carry an additional device.
Key to the brief was a staged approach to delivering the project, designed to help mitigate risks in the project by confirming the solution concept design in three distinct phases:
- Phase 1: Release of a prototype of ORPA, utilising the free read data on the Opal card
- Phase 2: Production deployment of ORPA, accessing the encrypted data on the Opal card
- Phase 3: Production deployment of ORPA, utilising back office services
The Opal card uses NFC technology that allows users to tap on and off at card readers at public transport terminals. ORPA is designed to take advantage of this same technology available on Android smartphones to read the data on Opal cards, the same way card readers at transport terminals do.
To begin the process, Outware Mobile worked closely with TfNSW to understand the project objectives and requirements. From these requirements, detailed wireframes and user stories were created that served as the documentation for the features in the app.
In designing this app, the aim was to make it as simple and quick to use as possible. Transport Officers are always on the move and there were strict requirements around performance of the app in terms of speed and usability. Transport Officers need to be able to quickly and easily set their location, the type of transport that were inspecting and commence checking Opal cards with minimal friction. Complex business rules were built into the app to assist the Transport Officer as a decision support tool in order for them to determine fare compliance, which catered to bus, train, light rail and ferry fares across the different types of Opal cards.
User testing was also key to the success of this project. Our user experience (UX) designers, quality assurance (QA) analysts and project team went out into the field with transport officers on duty to watch and assess the app being used in a real world setting. User testing was conducted at the end of both Phase 1 and 2. Feedback and results were then fed back into the design and development process to make improvements to the app.
Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the project were delivered successfully, with a live version of the Android app made available to 150 Transport Officers in April 2015. Since then, the number of transport officers using the app continues to grow.
Outware Mobile and TfNSW have received very positive feedback on the usability of the app from Transport Officers using it out in the field. The NSW government gazette has also defined an NFC enabled device with the Opal Revenue Protection App (ORPA) as a smart card reader, making it a legal device to check Opal cards in NSW.
Phase 3 is currently still in progress.