Making sense of the ITSO puzzle
Jeremy Meal of MVA Consultancy explains the latest challenges facing the ITSO scheme
The Integrated Smart Card Organisation is engaged with the future structure of the organisation and recently invoked an EGM to resolve it. Irrespective of the outcome, focus needs to move to the bigger and more detailed questions of ensuring the environment, and not just the specification, is configured to deliver what it set out to do 10 years ago – full interoperability.
Over the past few years MVA has been at the forefront of work with many of the UK’s smart card schemes. Most of these are at the stage of delivering equipment and systems. They are facing the practical dilemma of ‘does it do what it said on the tin?’ All too frequently the answer to this question from suppliers used to translate as ‘no, and if you want all that it will not only be later but it will cost more’. By accepting solutions that are partial, schemes risk leaving themselves in a position whereby they only just meet the ITSO specification for immediate needs and are in a developmental cul-de-sac, unable to interoperate with neighbours through ‘cross-boundary’ scheme products.
But what constitutes a ‘complete’ scheme? Achieving this is now simpler than is at first apparent, as a result of MVA’s endeavours shaping industry outcomes. A changed approach has helped clients, and through tender requirements the suppliers, to appreciate the need for providing some configuration software tools for editing business rules - at the outset as part of the delivered platform. This is across the range of the different concessionary, stored-value, period pass and carnet ticketing smart card templates (IPEs in ITSO speak) and for mobile ETMs, used on bus or by conductors. This means that scheme-administrators - authorities, operators etc, can use these tools to ‘switch on’ or change any ITSO ticket IPE. This is provided it has been included in the ITSO security device, the iSAM, or is added through the updating mechanisms of ITSO. These tools are usually an extension of that provided by ETM suppliers anyway for their paper-ticket products. Costly and expensive upgrades can be avoided through fully-functional generic ETM software, which is easier to maintain for suppliers; potentially gone are the days of bespoke software for every different operator.
This potential breakthrough brings more, but healthy, pressure on ITSO itself to manage the process by which equipment is certified and compatibility is maintained. Backwards compatibility in an interoperable world is particularly key, where not all schemes could increment software versions on the same day. Failure to achieve this will result in either significant costs to ensure interoperability or more likely a delay of several years until equipment is refreshed - because of exhausted budgets.
MVA Consultancy is employed by clients who recognise the need for expertise in not only ensuring that systems are properly specified at the outset but that the system delivered meets those requirements and is truly interoperable.