The Wellingtonista visits Snapper

by Robyn on June 22, 2009

Some of us at the Wellingtonista are rather fond of the old Snapper card. We worked through its teething troubles and are now happily tagging on and off as we bus about the city.

So when Miki Szikszai, CEO of Snapper, asked us if we’d like to visit Snapper HQ and learn a bit about what’s new in the world of the magical talking fish box, we (well, Alan and I) jumped at the chance.

After the jump – what we found at Snapper.

First observation

Entering Snapper HQ does not involve tagging on. Their door is opened using an ordinary proximity key. This is slightly disappointing.

Over yonder in the valley

Snapper has just launched on all 130 Valley Flyer buses. Passengers had previously been using an older type of smart card, and (as of Friday) 11,300 of those old cards had already been swapped for Snapper cards. And now 43% of trips are paid for with a Snapper. We welcome residents of the Hutt to the 21st century.

Fares and fees

With Valley Flyer now joining Go Wellington, there are small differences between the two bus companies’ pricing. For example, on a VF bus, you can transfer free to another bus within 30 minutes of your first trip. But GW don’t offer that. Is this fair? Snapper don’t control the pricing deals like this – it’s decided by the individual bus companies, with influence from the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

New stuff

Coming soon will be a card that can only be used for transport. I like to think of this as the anti-pie device. Parents want to make sure their kids don’t buy pies with their school bus money, and employers want their employees to be able to travel on public transport for work and not buy pies.

Monthly passes are on their way. Replacing the old Gold Pass, you’ll be able to pay for 30 days in advance. And it won’t be stuck to a calendar month. The Snapper readers, once upgraded, will tell you how many days you have left on the monthly pass. Clever!

Cool geeky stuff

Snapper like the idea of opening up the Snapper data. They have a retail SDK (Software Developer’s kit), which would allow people to build other applications that, once authorised – presumably – by Snapper, could be allowed to debit value from the card. It would ultimately help give Snapper the kind of ubiquity they need.

The libnfc project is building RFID card drivers, and now works with Snapper. This is an important building block for developers to get to work on Mac and Linux drivers. The Snapper technology originally comes from Korea, which is a very Windows-centric country. So it’s up to Snapper to get stuff working with Macs and Linux PCs. 30 Snapper readers have been sent to some keen geeks in Canada to come up with ideas.

Please don’t forget to tag off! Card value low!

You know how the vocal warning messages are kind of annoying, especially in the morning before you’ve had a coffee, and how when the voice says "Card value low", it sounds kind of disappointed in you? Yeah.

Well, plans are afoot to speed up the tagging-on and -off process. Snapper are looking at ways of redesigning the card readers so they give you more useful, relevant information on the display, and they’re also having a bit of a think about what sort of vocal messages are needed and when. For example, wouldn’t be more useful to be reminded to tag off when you’re about to get off the bus?

Another idea: instead of your card being debited twice – once when you get on, and the balance when you get off, what about getting debited just once when you alight?

The website

The Snapper website sucks. "It’s horrible – and you can quote me on that," said Miki. But you won’t have to suffer its Flash-addled horrors much longer. The site is being redesigned, with lots of user input to make sure that it will be a site that Snapper customers will find really useful.

Actually, it’s not too terrible once you get through to the content. There’s an informative blog and comments are welcomed and will get responses from Snapper people.

Snapper are right into Twitter too, and it’s worth following @TeamSnapper if you’re interested in Snapper.

Chur. Thanks, Snapper!

Photo credit: yann.co.nz at Flickr

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