22 October 2007
Mobile phone news
Rob Fisher

I recently learnt a couple of things about mobile phones by reading the backs of other people’s newspapers on the train.  (I don’t read my own newspapers as a rule because I like to maintain a cheerful, optimistic outlook.)

The first thing is that a system is being trialled that will allow a mobile phone to be used as a train ticket.  The newspaper story contains almost no details about how this will work, but Chiltern Railways provide more information.  It’s actually quite clever:

Passengers receive their ticket in the form of a barcode sent directly to their mobile phone by an SMS text message. Staff on board the train and at London Marylebone station will be able to check the ‘mobile ticket’ with special barcode scanners.

The second thing is that airlines are gearing up to allow the use of mobile phones on aeroplanes.  Previously airlines and the FAA have maintained that this is far too dangerous, what with the radio waves and sensitive equipment on board.  Certainly any interference problem would be exacerbated by the fact that, unable to see a nearby base station, a phone ramps up its power.  The system planned by airlines including Ryanair works by putting a base station repeater on the plane, enabling phones to work at very low power levels.

The Metro article does not go into much detail, but a very well referenced Wikipedia page comes to the rescue, with information on these developments and the issue in general.

Feedback

  1. I didn’t know mobile phones could display barcodes.  Certainly not my steam-driven number.

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on  26 October 2007 at 11:07 am

  2. I think it must work by MMS message (a multimedia version of SMS).  It looks like the barcode is just to speed things up:  they can SMS a number instead.  The number needs many digits so that it can contain some kind of checksum that prevents people from faking their own numbers.  It would take the ticket inspector a long time to type the number, hence the barcode.

    Now I’m wondering whether a typical mobile phone has the resolution to display an ordinary barcode—perhaps some fancy 2D barcode is used instead.

    Posted by Rob Fisher on  26 October 2007 at 12:40 pm

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