Tags: Nero, CMS, connector, Back Office, ITSO, Cube, Travel Money, Transaction Database, Transaction Validator, HOPS, SaaS, Reports, Reporting, Administration

Many TCAs and transport operators are sending information to their HOPS with no way of coherently analysing the data or even of being able to check whether data is being sent at all. Yorcard has developed Nero, a software solution that picks up where the HOPS leaves off; it provides the comprehensive “back office” support needed by smart card ticketing product owners and transport operators. Nero’s Service-orientated Architecture (SOA) and standards-based approach mean that it is flexible enough to fit into any operating environment.

Nero is particularly valuable where there are multiple transport operators with diverse ticketing equipment, which often (though ITSO compliant in theory) has varying capabilities and incompatible data formats. Nero is a key part of delivering an interoperable ticketing solution and ensuring quality throughout.

TCAs, transport operators and other product owners can use Nero  to manage and report on ticket usage, down to the individual card, service and fare stage level if required. At the same time Nero’s  security features allow access to be restricted to only those users who are authorised to see specific data - for example, it is impossible for one operator to see usage of another operator’s smart products.

An indispensable feature of Nero  is its support for Travel Money, one of the key components of integrated ticketing. As well as accounting for each journey paid for by Travel Money, it equitably allocates retail commissions and transaction fees among the participants in the Travel Money scheme.  Nero  produces net settlement reports on a periodic basis so that transport operators and scheme owners alike will see how much they owe each other. The reports make it possible for you to pay each party.

Nero is available on a Software as a Service (SaaS) basis, hosted by Yorcard. Under this arrangement, Yorcard will customise the  Nero HOPS Connector to your requirements and will monitor the health and availability of the system. All content management, access management, ISAM Management, Travel Money Management, Validation Rules and Alert Management are under your control. Using the Nero Universal CMS Connector your Cardholder Management System and Customer Relationship Management System is able to access journey data relating to individual passengers.

Access to the system is gained through a web browser, so there is no client-side software for you to manage. Yorcard will manage all your hosting requirements to ensure you receive a responsive service. The service includes archiving back-ups and disaster recovery.

Nero shows your data in a clear, easy to understand format, which allows you to monitor all the journey information submitted to and processed by your HOPS. Identification of incorrect and incomplete data is made available so you can make sure that the payment decisions you make - whether for ENCTS reimbursement, Travel Money Settlement or Multi-operator product apportionment - are based on complete and accurate information.

The key business components of Nero are:

1. Nero Transaction Database

The SQL Nero Transaction Database is the heart of Nero.  Data is downloaded into the Nero Transaction Database through the Nero HOPS Connector, and substantiated by the Nero Transaction Validator.

2. Nero Transaction Validator

The Nero Transaction Validator checks all your HOPS transactions correcting and reformatting where possible.  Nero will issue you with an alert through the administration screens when manual intervention is required.  Invalid data may arise because participants in the smart ticketing area have incorrectly set up their products or ticket machines. If this is the case Nero gives you the relevant information so you can be encourage the participants to improve their configuration.

3. Nero Administration

Nero includes a comprehensive and easy to use scheme administration system, which is presented to you through a number of clear and straightforward screens hiding the technical complexities required by the ITSO specification. The Nero Administration tool has deliberately been made simple to use, so that your administration costs can be kept to a minimum (Yorcard understands the need to save money wherever it can be saved!)

4. Nero Reports

Nero Reports offers a suite of predefined reports and Yorcard will develop additional reports if you require them. If you need to manipulate the data in your reports you have the option of using Nero to export data to an Excel Worksheet.

5. Nero Cube

Nero Cube is a Business Intelligence (BI) tool which gives you the reporting flexibility you require allowing you to set the fields you wish to report on. BI supports better business decision making and helps you to get meaningful answers from the vast amounts of data collected by your HOPS.  Nero Cube connects using Microsoft Excel's PowerPivot add-in compatible with Excel 2007 and above.  Most people are familiar with Excel which means there are no expensive training courses for bespoke software. 

6. Nero HOPS Connector

Yorcard will configure the Nero HOPS Connector to connect to your HOPS to gather data and process for reporting using Nero.  The Nero HOPS Connector  delivers data to Nero almost as soon as it has been processed by your HOPS.  Nero checks the HOPS every few minutes and will download new data immediately, meaning that, for continually connected POSTs, you can access the data in close to real time. Yorcard has already used the Nero HOPS Connector for connections with an ACT HOPS and will make all necessary modifications for your HOPS solution.

7. Nero Universal CMS Connector

Since the development of TfL’s Oyster, passengers are demanding more services such as being able to see their recent journeys and a transaction history of Travel Money usage. The Nero Universal CMS Connector uses web services to communicate with your CMS to link journeys to passengers. The Nero Universal CMS Connector will allow you to deliver journey information to passengers in travel shops, over the phone and through your CMS web portal. To connect your CMS may need some minor modifications as with any new CMS data field.

8. Nero Travel Money

Nero Travel Money is a simple, robust and complete solution for managing multi-operator pre-paid Travel Money.  Yorcard uses the standard ITSO STR facilities to provide Travel Money. Travel Money is attractive to passengers, local authorities and operators alike, as it requires no complex multi-operator travel organisation to administer - each operator gets paid for each journey taken at his normal single fare for the journey in question, less a transaction fee, which pays you for managing the travel money accounts and providing settlement services.

a) Administration

Administration of Travel Money is made easy with Nero.  Administrators can access comprehensive reports which show a detailed account of the different money flows.  Administrators can also see information regarding quantities of boarding transactions.

b) Account Management

You can give transport operators and Travel Money Retailers their own accounts so they can track sales of top ups, exchange of Travel Money value for travel products and much more. Using the Nero Universal CMS Connector account information can be passed to passengers who register their smartcards with you.

c) Reconciliation and Settlement

Nero makes reconciliation easy. It will provide you with a report for each operator detailing the amount of money taken on the bus, the value of Travel Money exchanged for travel products and any fees owed to give you a net settlement figure. Settlement can then be carried out with each operator based on the Nero  report.

Envisaged Developments

Nero is still evolving and following initial user feedback the following improvements and additions are envisaged:

  • Nero Journey Length Determination software (sometimes referred to as reverse journey matching) - to provide a more equitable method for Multi-operator Travel Card (MTC) revenue distribution.
  • Nero Capping - with the success of TfL's Oyster capping at the price of a day travel card Travel Money has become synonymous with capping.  In reality this is not the case and Travel Money can operate successfully without capping.  However, if you have agreement between all operators which accept Travel Money for capping arrangement Nero Capping can provide the tools to administer this for you.  Nero Capping will allow you to set the cap value and define the reimbursement rules for operators in your area.

How Nero can benefit you

Nero includes the tools for you to interpret technical information without requiring to know any technical jargon or encoding. It enables you to automate processes and when an error does occur you will be notified straight away so that a speedy resolution can be sought.  Nero puts you in control of smart ticketing in your area and completes ITSO smart ticketing’s missing link.