Biometric payments in Tbilisi subway.

Global situation on transportation market

Until 2019 public transportation was at a crossroad around its development, but now, according to the UITP Public Transport Trends Report 2019, “Public transport is no longer at a turning point.” Mass public transportation will remain as the core for sustainable mobility and digitization solutions from which all segments of the population will benefit.

As an integral part of mass transportation, the underground has its significant advantages. Setting capacity is large in comparison with other means of transport. Rides are made in time due to an established and non-changeable schedule from early morning often till midnight. It is fast in reaching the short and long-distance destinations and traffic is not a problem. With increasing urbanization per year metro is the best solution for people who cannot afford their own vehicle.

Most often used payment methods for subway service

Each country has its own system of payments for underground rides. For example, in Barcelona, tickets are sold at station ticket booths and from machines. Tickets have no expiration date and could be used by travel companions as well. Simply by inserting it into the turnstile machine and waiting for it to pop out to enable passing through. 

There are no turnstiles in the Nuremberg U-Bahn, subway system run by VAG (Nuremberg Transport Corporation) in Germany. You don’t have to feed your ticket into a machine in order to get to your train. Instead, the person buys a ticket at the machine near the entrances to the subway and inserts it into a separate tube for validation. 

In Ukraine travel cards and tokens are in use. Before the entrances to underground cash desks and machines are placed to purchase tokens (more often) with card or in cash. One token equals one ride.

Original ways of transactions have its defects:
  • A passenger needs to have an additional unit by themselves during the ride - travel card, ticket, token;
  • Complexity with getting the right ticket and making it valid at the proper place;
  • Absence of one and the only system for making payment for the rides.
What payment method is available in Georgia?

When we talk about Georgia's subway system, the pass is paid from a Metromoney card which is available at any station and can be returned during one month. At first glance it is a convenient and safe method as well as for locals and foreigners. But in each system there are imperfections. 

First, locals offer tourists to use their Metromoney cards thus the last do not pay for their own. Second, regular card-recharge at the cash desk or machines. Third, money loses due to passengers slipping under one card. As a solution for these problems, innovative biometric technology gets involved. 

Biometric technology and Bank of Georgia
As Visa reports, “Contactless payments, where you simply tap to pay with a contactless card, payment-enabled mobile or wearable device at a contactless-enabled checkout terminal, are taking parts of the world by storm.” But it looks like it is evolving even further with the use of biometrics. Another report conducted by Visa proves the previous statement: almost 70% of Americans do not proceed with online purchase because they might have forgotten their password thus they cannot log in or get verified. “Password management frustration is encouraging the adoption of biometrics such as fingerprints and facial recognition authentication especially in banking.” Statistics from the Visa survey: top advantages provided by biometric technology include not having to remember passwords (42%), enhanced security (34%), and reduced chance to forget or lose an authentication method (33%).

Technology of the future which offers high security, increased speed among operations, ability to be integrated within various applications - from online services to corporations` infrastructures, is increasing in demand yearly. Moreover, the Riddletag got into the top 6 facial recognition startups from 1061 analyzed by Startus Insight company. No surprise the central figure of Georgia's financial world - Bank of Georgia - has decided to fix those problems within payments for the transportation service.

The Bank of Georgia - a leading banking business - was established back in 1903 and so to say re-established in 1994. Its main services are retail banking and payment services, corporate investment banking and wealth management operations and even banking operations in Belarus. Its network consists of 271 branches, a client network up to 2.5 million, over 7000 employees, 886 cash machines and 3,152 express pay terminals. Enormous machine which is providing only the best for their clients in cooperation with Visa supported implementation of facial recognition technology provided by Riddletag into the Tbilisi underground system. 

David Bezhiashvili - Head of Partners relationship Department
David Bezhiashvili - Head of Partners relationship Department

The final solution

While working on facial recognition options for implementation, a unique 3D biometric device has been created based on the Argo 3D kit. It consists of an Intel RealSense camera, Up Board computer and installed Riddletag Face Analysis software. The components are placed in a metal tube with a pass indicator and highlighting spot for recognition. 

Argo 3D Biometric device in work mood at Tbilisi subway

Device was embedded into a turnstile and integrated within the Facecard Cloud service to enable contactless and non-card access to the public transport. To make it work for everyone, Bank of Georgia developed new features in its mobile application - a function to add a selfie and credit card with the option to choose the valid one to pay for the passing through the turnstile. 

What consumers will take from such an experience in the long run?
  • Decreased tickets and travel cards use;
  • Fewer queues to buy a ticket or to put money on the travel card;
  • Prevent touching a contaminated surfaces (turnstile, ticket machine etc);
  • Security level will increase due to the biometric verification of passengers.

Advantages for the Bank of Georgia

As for the Bank of Georgia, it will reduce money losses from unauthorized access to public transportation. Additionally to the subway system, the Bank started using biometric authentication in other provided services, such as ATM, self-service etc. New offers with insert of biometrics will be available for its business partners.

Payment and loyalty systems in McDonalds, security measures in hotels and access control points at casinos will become up-to-date with facial recognition technology.

Argo 3D biometric device in a closer look (prototype)

To sum up

Regarding tough situations in relation to COVID-19 around the world, facial recognition becomes more and more relevant and is high in need. 

Similar cases have been launched in China, Russia and South Korea earlier and now Georgia has become the fourth country with biometric payments within public transportation.

After the successful start of the pilot project in Tbilisi metro it awaits for the expansion to cover all 23 stations with ready-to-use Argo 3D biometric devices based on Argo 3D kit to provide a safer and more convenient service to customers.