London Oyster Card creators developing ticketing system that uses commuters' sense of smell to reduce congestion

The creators of London’s Oyster card could have commuters smelling their way to an easier commute with new technology.

Researchers from Cubic are looking to ease congestion in some of London’s busiest stations – and are experimenting with using smell, vibrating floor tiles and coloured lights - writes

Strategy Manager at Cubic, Dave Roat, said research suggests the number of passengers who get stuck queueing at ticket barriers could grow in the coming years, as the number of people living in big cities, like London, grows.

To ease this congestion, the company are considering installing points where customers can tap in or out earlier in the station, to save everyone gathering at one point.

Technology, he said, could be introduced where a person would be prompted to show their ticket before they reach the gates.

This reminder could come from smelling a familiar scent in the station, or from seeing other prompts like colours, he said.

He said: “We thought how do you remind people to do that? We can’t imagine someone [a rail worker] shouting at you is going to help. We thought about how you could use vibrations or smell, we thought about what triggers memory.”

What this scent could be, has not been decided just yet, however.

Mr Roat added: “The number of predicted passengers is said to get worse. We did a research and development project right here in London looking at just that. We said what are the conditions that we can think about?

He said that often, the reason there is such congestion at ticket gates can be because people are looking for their ticket, Oyster Card, or contactless card.

“And we thought, why don’t we look at other ticket media,” he added.

It is said the technology could be introduced as part of a trial by the end of the year and it is hoped it could be something used worldwide.

The prompts, Mr Roat added, would not be used specifically for people to use their phone or Oyster Card, and could be for all ticketing options.

When asked if this could be the future of traveling around London, Mr Roat said: “We have to imagine that some of these things that we’re describing get to be made real.”

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