Hey sports fans: Paperless tickets via wireless

Visitors to soccer games and other stadium events could soon be able to order tickets online and receive them instantly via their mobile phones, thanks to a new system developed by two Austrian companies.

A user will pay for tickets via the Internet and, a few seconds later, receive a graphic image via mobile phone containing an encrypted entry code. By passing the phone display over a scanner, similar to a supermarket checkout system, the user will gain access to the event.

The paperless ticketing system allows customers to make last-minute online ticket purchases, eliminating the three-day minimum usually required when a paper ticket has to be printed and mailed, said Thomas Reiter, a spokesman for mobile Internet applications company Universal Communication Platform AG (UCP), which is developing the technology along with ticketing and access control specialist n-tree solutions Ticketsysteme GmbH.

The system is designed to send images via the popular text messaging standard SMS (Short Message System), he continued, and takes into account the various handset manufacturers' sometimes incompatible standards for picture delivery. Users will enter their phone model name in the form when placing orders.

"Of course this works with the Nokia (Corp.) standard, but as well with EMS (Enhanced Messaging Service), which is actually a standard that is supported by most of the handset makers," he said. "And for those which support neither, we have developed a solution that works by WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), and as of now more or less all handsets are supporting WAP. We are also open to future standards like MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service). We can say that 95 percent of all existing handsets are able to use our system."

Although WAP has been slow to catch on among many wireless users, Reiter said the project's target consumers, the under-30 set, are more likely to have tried it.

"It's a learning process. All the mobile users will get used to these new technologies," he said.

The partners made their first public demonstration of the ticketing system Wednesday at the Football Expo 2002 in Cannes, said Reiter. An Austrian nightclub event organizer has also inquired about implementing the system at an upcoming event for some 6,000 young people, he added, though he declined to give details.

"At the initial stage we're trying to get all the big football stadiums that might want to implement this mobile ticketing solution," he said, adding that the developers are hoping to target the World Cup 2006 soccer tournament in Germany. "The first response that I've heard from Cannes is very, very positive."

A ticketing system consisting of hardware and software will be priced at around 7,000 euros (US$6,250) per entry unit, Reiter said. Initially the companies are focusing on European markets, but potentially could expand to other areas with GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) wireless service, such as North America and Asia, he added.

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