e-Liberty, the world leader in transactional systems for ski resorts is based in Neuchâtel. During the 2017/2018 ski season, more than 300 million euros of turnover passed through the e-Liberty platforms. Its latest product, the "smartcard", was nominated for the Mountain Digital Awards 2018. Insight into a success story with e-Liberty CEO Christian Mars.
So it all began in 2004 for e-liberty ?
That’s right, when Téléverbier asked us to come up with a solution to sell ski passes on the internet. The idea was based on a simple observation: ski lifts "sell" transport, but by cable. As a result, the customer experience must be as smooth as for a motorway toll or the purchase of an airline ticket.
Why did you set up your company in Neuchâtel ?
The microelectronics culture that exists in the canton - and especially at the Microcity innovation hub - is essential for making new products such as the smartcard. e-Liberty benefits in particular from the skills of Professor Alexis Boegli, PhD in electronics, scientific partner at the Centre for Artificial Muscle (CAM) run by Yves Perriard, and a member of the teaching staff at HE-Arc engineering. However, we lack "software" skills in Neuchâtel, which is why the French company e-Liberty, owned by the Swiss company, was created. It employs many developers based at Bourget du Lac in Savoie. In fact, I chose to take the best from each country and the Swiss site became the centre of e-liberty's R&D.
Why was the smartcard nominated for the Digital Mountain Awards ?
The smartcard is an innovation that will revolutionise the customer experience at ski resorts. e-Liberty has already got rid of queues. With the smartcard, the customer not only has the option to buy their lift pass online, where and when they want, but also, in time, it will do away with the need for barriers - currently the only method of fraud prevention.
Ultimately, e-liberty has 5 objectives with this smartcard:
- Positioning users in real time on the ski slope/area: if the resort knows who you are and where you are, it can sell you the most suitable product at the best time.For example, it will know if you are a sports skier or beginner, with whom you ski, how much time you spend out on the slopes each day, etc.
- Micro-payment and access unlocking to improve the user experience: no more queuing.
- Compatibility with existing systems, Skidata and Kudeslski turnstiles. But clearly, over time, our aim is that these turnstiles become a thing of the past.
- Ability to detect fraudsters in an unobstructed user passage (the turnstile is to be replaced by a high barrier, second patent, pending) - through recognition by electromagnetic fields. To make this idea a reality, we are looking to submit an Innosuisse project.
- Find skiers trapped under avalanches (third patent, pending).
It is important to mention that all data is collected in a CRM system. The institution that adopts the smartcard system owns its data, which is not administered by e-liberty, unlike proprietary systems such as Skidata or Kudelski.
To avoid being permanently monitored, the customer can opt to switch off the card with a button. Also, a motion sensor will switch the card off when it has been immobile for some time.
How do you see the "smartcard" in the future ?
Historically, our market has been ski resorts. But in the future, we are targeting regions and towns and cities. Thanks to this card, citizens will be able to open doors and pay for services or leisure activities such as the cinema, car parks, public transport, festivals, theatres, and more!
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