The late 20th Century saw an unparalleled rise in accessibility of computer devices. As such, many companies started to talk about a ‘paperless revolution’ – the idea that offices could one day eradicate their reliance on physical documents and instead count on electronic versions instead.

It’s a concept that has far from disappeared in the intervening decades. In fact, it’s extended beyond the confines of the workplace to impact a number of industries and their respective consumers; the focus has shifting from PDF reports and web-based forms to electronic tickets and emailed receipts. So what do these new tech-driven conveniences have to offer and will they ever completely replace their conventional paper predecessors?

Smartphones rooted in convenience

The smartphone has changed the world, and this shift to all things mobile has been driven largely by convenience. Many of the tasks that people face on a daily basis can now be completed with the help of the five-inch device that most have in their pocket. From basic calculations and online banking to social media posts and photo opportunities – everything is covered.

App developers have delved further than this as well. The software available in the biggest operating systems’ application stores can even be used for such things as supporting important medical work, among others. With all of this in mind, the idea of using a physical paper ticket to take a bus journey or gain access to a concert seems a little archaic, doesn’t it? This is precisely why circumstances are changing with the rise of electronic ticketing.

It could be argued that transport firms are leading the way with the e-ticketing revolution. Many of those who use public transport tend to do so on a daily basis, and are likely to feel the impact of such a shift towards technology more than most. The rise is affecting a number of industries, however, and there’s little to suggest that moving in this direction would be a poor decision.

The basic benefits of a mobile culture

First, there’s the reduced risk of loss. Seeing as most smartphone owners tend to take pretty good care of their devices – not least because some can cost around £500 – there’s already little chance that a ticket will go missing. Add to this the fact that most tickets will be stored electronically on the provider’s computer system and it becomes near-impossible. This is handy in an everyday bus journey situation, but the advantages are even more significant for air travellers.

For orders which require advance booking, e-ticketing can also make the process much simpler, more sustainable and, in many cases, cheaper. The ability to send documents via text or email all but eliminates the distribution stage, with suppliers not required to manually fulfil and post orders for customers. This means that high postage charges no longer apply and buyers can receive their tickets within minutes. Everybody wins.

Solving problems using mobile devices

With the intention of capitalising on many of the benefits mentioned above, the events sector has also embraced the arrival of electronic ticketing. Music fans, for example, can book places at their favourite bands’ shows without having to wait for tickets to arrive in the post. Theoretically, booking fees should also be reduced, meaning customers can save money. Some fans and industry figures, though, are hoping that this latest innovation can go some way to solving a few major problems.

Most e-tickets – whether for music or sporting events – contain unique barcodes which, once scanned, become unusable. This gives promoters the ability to manage tickets more effectively, and should go some way to combating fraud – a problem which cost consumers around £3.7 million in 2013 alone.

There’s also hope that e-tickets can help to stamp out touting, a problem which has riled fans for years. Electronic systems allow venues and vendors to maintain control of who is buying tickets and then using them. In many situations, attendees are required to prove who they are by presenting identification and a payment method that matches the order details – something that isn’t possible with a generic printed ticket.

Obstacles to overcome for business

As with most promising technological innovations, there are challenges that must be considered. One of the biggest is rooted in one of the few limitations of the smartphone. The latest mobile devices, while expensive, are capable of doing so much. Most, however, would struggle to last more than two days on a single charge, and this can be a problem when it comes to e-ticketing.

Put simply, a paper ticket cannot run out of battery, but after a five-hour journey of film-watching and game-playing, a smartphone probably will. This means there’s always a chance that tickets won’t be readily available when they’re needed most.

The good news is that technology is improving, and as things continue to get better, the very small pool of e-ticketing downsides will become even smaller. Even with the much-touted smartphone battery issue, new developments are coming through to keep them lasting much longer between charges.

Put simply, there’s too much convenience on offer for electronic ticketing not to take off. It may well take some time for it to completely replace the alternatives that have been in place for so long, but it seems apparent that the transition will eventually be completed.

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