Harnessing digital technology
Huaxia Express identified the shift towards mobile computing in China, and sought to harness this trend to digitalize and streamline ticketing processes in the highway passenger transportation industry. To do so, it needed an IT infrastructure built for the cognitive era.
“The trend toward mobile computing in China is irreversible, with more than 700,000,000 users on one mobile app alone,” comments Dr. Chen. “Passengers tend to use the most convenient methods available—and if a service provider isn’t convenient to use, customers will eventually weed it out.
“We saw an opportunity to modernize and improve ticketing systems in the long-distance bus industry, and we approached Sichuan Nanchong Dangdai Transport Industry Group about implementing a new e-ticketing solution at Luzhou Passenger Station as a pilot project.
“Dangdai Transport is the largest extra-long distance bus group in Sichuan province, and Luzhou Passenger Station is the biggest station in southwest China. Passenger volumes exceed 60,000 at peak times, with over 2,000 passenger cars departing from its 100 departure platforms each day—making it an ideal starting point for a solution with the potential for national expansion.”
Huaxia Express wanted to build its solution on a flexible open-source operating system in order to minimize costs and ensure sufficient support in long-term development.
Dr. Chen explains: “We decided to use Linux, but we wanted to operate the open technology on a genuine enterprise-class server so that it could scale to serve the passenger transportation market for an entire province. When IBM introduced IBM LinuxONE, we signed up without hesitation—we’d been waiting for this product for many years.
“The main advantage of IBM LinuxONE for us is its scalability—as a large cloud service provider, our customer base is increasing and we are looking to expand our e-ticketing solution on a national level. IBM LinuxONE can handle this growth within a compact and highly efficient form-factor, so we don’t need to worry about investing in new machines as we reach out to the millions of Chinese customers buying billions of tickets.
“We also needed a solution that can handle huge spikes in use without going down for even a second, as mass transit is a 24/7 industry—IBM LinuxONE offers exceptionally high reliability, availability and security. The fact that more than 90 percent of airline reservation systems run on IBM enterprise servers gave us confidence that LinuxONE was the right choice to meet our needs.
“IBM LinuxONE is both space- and energy-efficient—it provides the scale and power we need all in the space of a few refrigerators, where otherwise we would have had to find space for perhaps 4,000 separate x86 servers and all the associated networking. LinuxONE offers a very economical solution for running large numbers of Linux virtual servers, particularly for SaaS providers like us who need to run highly secure multi-tenant landscapes.”
IBM supported Huaxia Express in selecting, testing and installing their new solution.
“IBM gave us comprehensive help from the start, and ensured that we were soon up and running online rapidly and stably,” notes Dr. Chen.
With IBM LinuxONE in place, Huaxia Express developed its new digital ticketing system, which supports multi-channel ticket selling and a comprehensive range of payment methods. Customers can now purchase tickets through the company’s website, mobile app, and social media, while those who prefer to purchase tickets in-person can visit the thousands of new self-service ticket vending machines installed in the region. The new ticketing solution also offers customers a wide range of payment methods, from credit cards to digital payment solutions such as WeChat.
Dr. Chen adds: “Since entering into the service agreement with Dangdai Transport in 2014, we have successfully run the new ticketing system—providing our services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year as we evolve to serve millions of customers with convenience and confidence.”
Enhancing the customer experience
With IBM LinuxONE driving its new e-ticketing solution, Huaxia Express can focus on expansion without worrying about whether its systems can keep up.
“We’ve grown from serving three bus company customers to almost fifty customers in a year,” comments Dr. Chen. “Thanks to IBM LinuxONE, we haven’t had to spend time and effort enhancing our system as we’ve expanded.”
Dangdai Transport’s passengers have also benefited greatly from the mobile ticketing solution—rather than travelling to the station and waiting in long queues for up to 50 minutes, they have the option of purchasing tickets in a couple of minutes online from wherever they are based.
“The new system is especially convenient for young customers who are adept at using technology—and we offer them the option of buying tickets on their cell phones via apps such as WeChat,” notes Dr. Chen Shuang. “We have found that every user who buys a ticket on a cell phone never goes back to buying tickets at the ticket window, proving that customers have a better consumer experience on the digital system. As we continue to expand the solution across China, we expect to bring the benefits of e-ticketing to hundreds of millions of passengers. Choosing IBM LinuxONE as our strategic infrastructure platform gives us full confidence that we can scale economically to these incredibly large volumes of transactions.
“Customers who have always preferred buying tickets in person have also benefited, thanks to the self-service ticket machines, which dramatically reduce queue times at the station.”
Dangdai Transport’s ticket sales at Luzhou Passenger Station have increased since the new ticketing system was introduced, as Dr. Chen describes: “The volume of tickets booked on the network has increased significantly since our system went live, without the help of any promotions.”
He adds: “Dispensing tickets manually isn’t very time or cost efficient, which results in high operational costs. Based on the success of the project, Dangdai Transport is embracing an e-ticketing strategy—enabling it to drive significant cost savings.”
Looking to the future, the LinuxONE solution will enable Dangdai Transport to analyze data while processing transactions, allowing it to gather information about purchasing habits and engage more fully with customers—empowering the company to exceed customer expectations with immediate, personalized services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Huaxia Express further plans to expand the solution to leisure activities, so that it offers customers a wider range of benefits on a single, easy-to-use system. For example, Huaxia Express has already extended the solution to other personalized services based on transportation such as shopping.
Dr. Chen elaborates: “When booking their tickets, customers can view an online mall and reserve products they wish to receive along with the ticket. For example, if a customer leaves at 1:00 pm, we will deliver the goods directly to the station at 12:00 pm—the customer can come to the station, pick up their goods, and take them on their journey.
“What’s more, we are partnering with a local company to bring all the large cinemas, parks, and restaurants into our system. Passengers will not only use our system when they want to take a long-distance bus, but also when they want to eat, drink, play and have fun. With the help of IBM LinuxONE, we are building a comprehensive, personalized, and intelligent customer service.”