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Frankfurt Widens Its NFC-Enabled Transit Network

The German city's transit authority is installing RFID tags at 700 bus, tram and train stops so passengers can use mobile phones to buy and store tickets, and to check schedules.
By Rhea Wessel
Nov 16, 2007Rhein-Main Verkehrsverbund (RMV), the mass-transit authority in Frankfurt, Germany, and the surrounding region, is expanding its use of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology so passengers can use mobile phones to purchase and store tickets, and to check schedules. By year's end, the authority plans to install NFC tags at 700 bus, tram and train stops, as well as at the city's airport, providing Frankfurt the widest NFC-enabled transit network in the country.

NFC technology allows a standard method for mobile electronic devices to communicate wirelessly. An NFC-compliant tag stores a unique ID and other data, then transmits that information in an encrypted format at 13.56 MHz. An NFC-enabled phone can act as an interrogator that reads tags based on the ISO 18092, ISO 14443 (A or B) and Sony FeliCa air-interface protocols, culling the data from the tags. It can also share encrypted payment data and other information with computer terminals.


Users can touch their Nokia 6131 phones to the ConTags, which are being installed at bus shelters or on ticket machines at bus and train stations.

The RMV system centers on ConTags (short for Contact Tags), which contain passive tags made by NXP Semiconductors, in tandem with Nokia 6131 phones. Users can touch their Nokia 6131 phones to the ConTags, which are being installed at bus shelters or on ticket machines at bus and train stations. Once the phone reads a ConTag, a software program previously downloaded to the user's phone over the Internet opens on the handset's display screen. Within three clicks, the traveler can download an electronic ticket onto the phone, then pay the bill using a credit or debit card at a later date.

The decision to expand the NFC application was made after 92 percent of the 300 people participating in an earlier test of the technology rated the application positively. During the test, which ran from mid-July until early November, some 60 stations and stops were outfitted with ConTags.

"We were very satisfied with the results of the test," says Peter Preuss, head of strategy and new business development for RMV. "They exceeded our expectations. There were no cases of vandalism, and the feedback was better than what we thought it would be."

The system will not only allow people to buy their tickets electronically, but also provide travelers with up-to-date scheduling information. During a recent strike of train personnel throughout Germany, for instance, many trains stopped running. But those travelers participating in the recent trial were able to determine when the next trains or buses were scheduled to depart by touching their phones to the ConTags.

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