Handheld electronic ticket-issuing machines (ETMs) are machines of a size and weight suitable for ticket issuing by roving conductors.
The objective of handheld ETMs is to provide an effective ticket issuing capability for roving conductors, comparable to the functionality of fixed ETMs as used by drivers.
Handheld ETMs consist of the following elements, packaged into a compact unit:
- display (single or multi-line)
- thermal printer
- data transfer port
The ETM is ergonomically designed to hold the unit in one hand and enter keystrokes with the other. For situations of intense use, where many tickets are issued daily, the battery may be a separate unit on a belt worn by the conductor.
Handheld ETMs are usually designed to issue the full range of ticket types and values which the conductor or driver may sell on the vehicle. The information about ticket types and values is stored in the ETM memory, often in the form of fare tables. This requires preparation of the data and their downloading to the ETMs. This can be done at the depot, or in some cases by wireless communication direct to the ETMs.
For larger organizations, handheld ETMs require an administrative structure for downloading transaction data and managing the audit and reconciliation. Nonetheless, an individual operator could use a portable ETM without such support, and the end-of-shift waybills produced by the ETM could be sufficient for purpose.
Benefits of handheld electronic ticket-issuing machines are:
- Provides an effective ticket issuing capacity for urban, regional and inter-urban bus services.
- Contains the full range of ticket types and fare values.
- Can select and issue tickets quickly, using one or two keystrokes – fast when used by an experienced operator.
- Low cost of consumables (paper rolls, ink) which are easily procured.
- Robust technology.
- Does not require advanced skills by either the conductor/driver or the supporting personnel.
- Relatively low cost, affordable even in developing countries.
- Relatively secure against personnel fraud.
- Generates electronic data which can be transferred directly to the corporate IT systems.
Cautions with regard to handheld electronic ticket-issuing machines are:
- Requires back-office support to generate ticket information and fare tables.
- Need to establish an effective maintenance regime, especially when used by independent operators in locations away from the major cities.