Checking in and out on the bus with your phone: Convenient, but keep in control!

May 2, 2022

A new app is being tested on two bus lines. TU/e professors Wijnand IJsselsteijn and Lambèr Royakkers see the conveniences, but also warn of the dangers.

Photo: Mobyyou

Travelers on two Eindhoven bus lines can now use the bus without their public transportation card (ov-chipcard). A new phone app automatically checks them in and out. When all teething problems and bugs are smoothened the app will be rolled out nationally. “The app uses GPS and this is where privacy comes into play, says Wijnand IJsselsteijn, professor of Human-Technology Interaction. “Of course, you don't want other parties to have unauthorized access to the locations of travelers around the station. If that happens, companies can use this for commercial purposes. So app creators have to be entirely transparent about privacy."

That's one reason why professor of engineering and ethics Lambèr Royakkers doubts that travelers will want to use the app. Previous attempts to create an app have been made, he says, but discontinued again due to lack of enthusiasm. "There must be an added value to using the app. For example, you need to be able to see your balance, or access previous trips in the app. Privacy issues can also discourage people from installing the app. I myself have an anonymous chip card so I can travel without sharing data," says Royakkers.

Developer Mobyyou itself indicates that this data is well protected. "Every few minutes the app is re-encrypted so hackers would have less time to penetrate someone's phone, if at all."

Keep humans in control

In addition, IJsselsteijn believes it's important that traditional ways of checking in remain available in public transportation. "We need to keep humans in control. Some people don't have money for a smartphone or have little or no understanding of all the technological developments. Therefore, in order to not exclude anyone, the ov-chipcard and debit card payments in the bus should never disappear, I think."

According to IJsselsteijn, the traditional ways are also important when there are disruptions. "Aside from things like forgetting your phone, or not having it sufficiently charged, the digital system also introduces more systemic vulnerabilities. Over the past weekend we saw that things can go badly wrong in the digital systems of public transport. To prevent the whole of the Netherlands from coming to a standstill again when there is an app failure, the other options must also live."

This article is based on a news item of Omroep Brabant (in Dutch)