The Dorset region has become a major hub for digital businesses and start-ups over the past decade. One pioneering software company based in Ferndown established itself nearly 20 years ago, well before the area became synonymous with technology. Unicard is a provider of smart ticketing and transport management software to the public transport sector, and to commercial operators. Its technology is used by Local Authorities and travel operators all over the UK to ensure that people get from ‘A to B’ whenever they use a smart travel card. Unicard’s software is predominantly used to support concessionary travel, ensuring elderly and disabled passengers can use local bus services without any disruption. Unicard currently supports over 2.5 million smart cardholders and its back-office solutions are powering 60+ Local Authorities throughout the UK.
According to Sean Dickinson – Unicard’s CEO, public transport is changing rapidly, and the company is well placed to support the rollout of more diverse and integrated public transport networks, particularly as we see the uptake of new modes of transport including bikes and electric vehicles supplementing our buses, train and tram services.
Sean explained, “Our technology is embedded nationally, across regional and local authority areas supporting and facilitating the changes in how people use public transport. New legislation and the introduction of Future Transport Zones, new environments for smart transport services, has led to new players and technologies entering the marketplace. The Solent region has been designated a Future Transport Zone, so we already have a hotbed of innovation on our doorstep.”
He added, “We’ve invested heavily in our business and our team to develop a suite of Smart Mobility solutions that help our customers take advantage of this opportunity. We’re now talking to customers about how they can onboard services to support everything from eScooter and bike rental schemes to smart parking services. We continue to develop products and services for all modes of transport, including buses and trains too. It’s a very exciting time”.
Unicard is a forward-looking business that’s definitely going places. From humble beginnings on the South coast to developing a growing organisation with a nationwide customer base and an outstanding and brilliant technical team based in Varna, Bulgaria.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to build an incredible business that operates in a vibrant and evolving sector, and every day we work with very smart and passionate people. We’re part of some of the largest smart transport deployments in the UK. Our software and solutions are behind the Swift card, a smart ticketing service available in the West Midlands that’s similar to the Oyster card used on public transport in London”, said Sean.
“Our back-office HOPS solution provides the essential backbone for concessionary services all over the UK. We were recently awarded a national HOPS contract by Transport Scotland to support concessionary travel throughout Scotland. That was a very proud moment for us and the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from our team”, he added.
Despite its success, Unicard has stayed faithful to its roots and still calls the Dorset region home.
“Our chairman and founder, Peter Verrept, started the business from scratch. BCP Council and Solent Council were among our very first customers using solutions developed by Peter and his team. We’re
still housed in the same building in Ferndown. The company has grown since then. We’re 80 strong now, and we’ve recently expanded the management team to add resilience and support our new direction”, he said.
Sean added, “The culture of the business hasn’t changed. We’ve always invested in people and we pride ourselves on the long-term relationships we have established with our customers – always trying to go the extra mile. We continue to invest in the local area and business community. We use local suppliers whenever we can, we support local business networks and communities, and last year we took on a placement student for the first time. She’s become an important and much valued member of the team and we hope to take on more undergraduates in future, forging better relations with local universities in the process”.
Unicard is firmly focused on developing its portfolio of smart transport products and solutions to help improve the public transport experience, making transport affordable and accessible. Millions of passengers rely on its technology to the extent that its now processing 500m smart transactions a year. While the business looks to expand its UK footprint, its feet are firmly planted on the ground here on the South coast.