7/18/2022 - Technology and Innovation

Escape of cards SUBE: Historical opportunity?

By Lucas Revale

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Today Argentina faces a problem, besides all that has, very serious to my way of understanding life: zero or very low card supply SUBBE. This is of vital importance and requires urgent attention, because in my view transport is an indirect mode of production, if people cannot travel, usually cannot go to study, can not go to work and finally can not produce.

Poster in kiosks of the City of Buenos Aires.

In the last year, there were notes in the main media: " The odyssey of getting a SUBE: why they lack and where to get them”, “‘There is no SUBE’: Why it became a headache to get the cards”, “‘Father, I lost the SUBE card. How do I get back from school?’”, among the most highlighted. This undoubtedly caught my attention and invited me to reflect.

What's the matter?

This problem has two verticals: problems for importing plastics and pandemic. As plastic cannot be issued at the pace in which demand grows, we enter a situation of scarcity and something similar occurs with driving licenses and with DNI cards. On the other hand, if a survey on the public data of the SUBE cards, you can see that it decreases the level of activity during quarantine, but in the following years there appears a shock of uncontrolled demand that was not possible to supply (up to four times as normal rhythm) and generates a snowball of demand for cards. In some of the notes, it is estimated that it is a problem that will take years to cover, so you have to do something to mitigate it.

Today the functioning of the SUBE card consists of a closed system that only supports the payment of public transport via a plastic card by NFC (Near Field Communication) technology. The alternative that happens to me to face this problem is by complementing the current system with one that admits payment with QR technology, via a mobile application. That is, replacing plastic cards with virtual cards. The reason for this is trivial: almost no one can acquire a card, but everyone has a mobile with the ability to show a QR code. This can be innovative, but in most countries of the world (specifically in Asia, Europe and the United States) has been regulating for many years. It is a matter of copying and adapting the solutions that work.

The idea is to complement both systems to not leave anyone out, in which I believe that little by little could completely change a virtual system. From my point of view, it is a fully adaptable and accepted technology by society, to such a point that it is used in everyday life. Besides, how many times have you lost a plastic card and how many times your mobile phone?

Today the SUBE card has 12 million active users throughout the country (not in all municipalities) and very connected to the level of income. 70% approximately focuses on AMBA. It has a rate of adoption of cards of 150,000 cards per month on average and normal conditions.

What other benefits could bring this idea?

The benefits that would bring this idea are many. The State only costs the issue of a 90-weight card, as I could find out. But you also have to distribute them. Taking into account the tariffs of the Argentine Mail, the concentration of consumption and the pace of adoption of cards, the State could save about 460 million pesos per year (approximate model based on the data obtained). But that's not the only one, solving the problem of everyone who wants to travel and can't by not having a card, has no price. And as if it were little, the SUBE card is a universal card and like all of them, weigh about 5 grams of plastic: that the state ceases to issue 150,000 cards a month is equivalent to cease to issue 9 tons of plastic a year.

The solution application costs are associated with QR and NFC reader devices, so it investigated about 100 dollars and there are about 30,000 public transportation units across the country. About the cost of development, hosteo and application maintenance, there is already a team dedicated to the development of technology and the SUBE network, which is passing through, insurance have similar projects in portfolio to be able to cope with this situation.

When we think of an idea, we think not as an end, but as a means to do something better, more efficient and constantly evolving. When I thought about the scalability that could have, I almost automatically thought of: What value adds to validate a sube load once is made? I understand none. When eliminating an activity that does not add value in a process, it ends by adding value because it makes it more efficient. So why not open the SUBE payment system, to pay directly from any digital medium, thus avoiding the old-fashioned method of recharge?

Historically, the times of scarcity have brought wonderful and creative ideas to face the problems that man has in his everyday life and this is one more of them. Technology is the greatest ally that has the human being in this kind of issues and the resistance against it generates great loss of opportunities. You don't recreate her for fun, but to solve problems.

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lucas revale

Lucas Revale

Hello! I'm Lucas Revale, an industrial engineering student at ITBA. Currently completing the last year of the race.
In addition, I find myself in a professional training process in MasterCard in the area of business development in the Argentine and Uruguayan market.
From professional and personal experiences I have developed a great interest in the world of data analysis and business intelligence.


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