Your face could be your ticket in the London Underground of the future

Soon you may not need a ticket to travel on the London Underground.

Your face could be your ticket in the London Underground of the future

The company behind London’s Oyster card technology, Cubic Transportation Systems, is developing a new way to identify its passengers, and spot those who are dodging fares.

Instead of scanning an Oyster card, in the future London’s tube passengers could use the veins in their hands or even their face to get to a train, Wired has reported. This technology is aimed at cutting down queueing times as the number of passengers on the London Underground continues to rise.

“How do we deal with the growth in capacity and help enable passenger flow through stations?” said Dave Roat, strategy manager at Cubic Transportation Systems.

The company is working on a prototype of a ‘validator’ that will accept Oyster cards and contactless, but also a variety of other options. It will have an infrared scanner that can read the unique vein print of your hand if you place it on the scanner, and facial recognition. Each customer will have linked their own scans to their Oyster card account.

The vein scanner would likely be similar technology to that used by Sthaler, in the UK’s first supermarket that lets customers pay with their hands.

The futuristic validator machine will also have a Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE) detector that will pick up signals sent out from your phone, without you having to actually scan it.

After a customer has been validated, they then pass through a corridor instead of a gate. A light will turn green if they have paid and red if they have not.


The gateless system could come to London within a year, but it will first come to stations without gates as a way to remind people to tap in or out. The company says it will not be able to stop people dodging fares, but it will be a useful way to see where the most fare-dodging occurs.

This is not the first time Transport for London has considered using facial recognition technology. In 2003 software analysis of CCTV footage was tested at Liverpool Street station, to look for unattended bags. At the time, however, the software proved to be slower than security control assistants at spotting the bags.

14 years later, it is clear technology has advanced enough for facial recognition to become a viable option for companies like TfL. Apple’s new iPhone X uses facial recognition in its Face ID for users to unlock the phone, instead of Touch ID.

However, Roat said facial recognition is still not accurate enough yet to be used for the purposes of identifying passengers. He also confirmed that these options would never replace the classic ticket or Oyster card, they will just be there for those who choose to share their biometric information.

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