Unicard News
Product spotlight: HOPS
The Unicard HOPS has been chosen to handle some of the UK’s most demanding smart ticketing schemes
June 2nd 2023 by Unicard

The Unicard AMS-HOPS is recognised as industry-leading. It was chosen to deliver the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) Central Back Office service for ITSO ticketing, and their service is considered to have the widest-ranging and most technically demanding requirements in existence for a HOPS.

Our system also supports both the largest single concessionary travel scheme (Transport Scotland) and the largest ITSO-based commercial scheme (Transport for West Midlands’ Swift) in the UK.

With over 15 years of active development, our HOPS is the foundational element of the Unicard ticketing platform and is deeply integrated with the rest of our product suite, including real-time integration with our Smart Office customer management system (CMS). We currently have more live HOPS deployments than any other supplier, and approximately 35,000 pieces of ITSO equipment under management – and this figure is growing every week.

Working closely with ITSO, RDG and Amazon Web Services (AWS), we delivered an industry first, becoming the first and only HOPS supplier to offer a HOPS system running in a public cloud environment (AWS). As well as offering cost, scalability, efficiency and security benefits, this development has confirmed our commitment to innovation within the ITSO standard and has futureproofed our hosting environments for years to come.

Using AWS means:

  • Our system benefits from Amazon’s ongoing development and investment into cloud tools, such as enterprise-quality reporting using Amazon QuickSight, and simpler data integration, extract, transform and load with services such as Amazon Glue.
  • It reduces the carbon footprint of the HOPS by up to 72%, compared with dedicated datacentre hosting.
  • Local authorities can take advantage of the One Government Value Agreement between Amazon and the Crown Commercial Service, and potentially receive a discount on hosting costs.

The HOPS can be set up as a multi-tenanted solution and has full OID-based portioning options for data access. Each user, whether shell owner, retailer or product owner, can be given their own rules-based access to functions and data. Each HOPS can support multiple OIDs at setup or added over time. OIDS can also be transferred away from the HOPS during the lifespan of the system with minimal disruption.

The Unicard HOPS GUI has been developed to be as easy to use as possible, based on extensive user testing and feedback from real scheme administrators over many years. It is designed to allow access to rich technical information, without being overwhelming for the less technically capable user. The HOPS manages the processing and collation of Hotlists and Actionlists originating internally and from third-party sources. It has a complete Asset Management Tool for managing HSAMs and ISAMs.

As with our Smart Office CMS, our HOPS has a powerful suite of APIs that allow near real-time data exchange with a wide variety of third-party systems – unlike traditional/legacy integration, which is based on daily batch data dumps. Integrations include HOPS-to-HOPS communications, CMS, Retail Portals and Apps, Part 11 Remote POSTs, Perso POSTs, POSTs, TVMs, Ferry, Tram and Rail Gates and Validators, Handhelds, IVRs and other retail/inspection/validation. It is also RSPS3002-certified for seamless integration with the UK rail network.

Each customer is provided with comprehensive documentation to share with third-party developers/systems integrators, as well as a dedicated staging environment to test connections and to ensure smooth integration and ongoing management. We are pleased to facilitate the development of new applications for the HOPS data that we hold, as well as presenting many opportunities for automation and system efficiencies.

Real-time access eliminates the need to replicate HOPS data in other systems such as the CMS, as it can be queried directly from the source. This also means other systems, e.g. web portals, can integrate directly with the HOPS, rather than going via the CMS – giving you more flexibility with your system architecture and technical solutions.

Based on our wealth of experience, Unicard ensure that handling data remains core to our system design ethos, which aims to deliver a completely secure, unified and integrated platform. We work hard to ensure that privacy is integral to our model, and the proper controls are in place to ensure that our systems are secure, with users only allowed to access data when they have permission to do so.

As members of the ITSO technical committee and an ITSO supplier since 2008, Unicard are fully conversant with the ITSO environment and meet all requirements and obligations of ITSO. Indeed, when ITSO (as Yotra) required a HOPS of their own for the ITSO on Mobile initiative, Unicard were the preferred supplier after a competitive tender process.

An open and interoperable solution for public transport built on the ITSO standard remains central to our vision as it is a key enabler for an inclusive, safe and accessible transport system. As an active voice in the ITSO supplier community, we push for new standards/specifications to be guided towards futureproofing customer systems, and we ensure the customer and passenger benefits we already deliver are shared throughout the transport community.

We believe that ITSO has a role for more than just smartcards, so we continue to explore opportunities outside of smartcard travel, such as securing and verifying machine-to-machine communications.

Our “ITSO Plus” team develops extensions to the ITSO format for our systems whilst remaining ITSO-compliant, continuing to improve the standard and address any shortcomings that could impede the delivery of the best customer solution.

Unicard’s methodologies and partnership approach have delivered vast benefits for our extensive HOPS customer base. Collaboration is the cornerstone of our investment and development roadmap, and whilst we promote the benefits of a single, unified Unicard platform, we recognise the value of choice and flexibility.