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Washington State's Toll Collector Trials RFID-enabled Phone Tag, App

GeoToll's new tag attaches to a commuter's NFC-enabled phone and uses the phone's HF NFC signal to power that tag's UHF transponder.
By Claire Swedberg

For the prototype being tested by the WSDOT, however, the company built-an RFID tag into a rubber phone case. The tag includes electronic circuitry enabling it to receive and process an NFC transmission from the phone. It also comes with a passive UHF RFID chip compliant with the ISO 18000-6C standard, as well as an omnidirectional antenna.

Throughout the trial, several interns at WSDOT are driving through tollgates with Samsung Galaxy S3 phones equipped with the RFID-enabled phone cover, mounted to the dashboard at a variety of angles and positions. However, they next intend to test the technology with the phones located in other areas of the car.

GeoToll developed a phone application that users can download from GeoToll's server to allow their phone to use its built-in NFC reader to transmit power and toll-related data to the GeoToll RFID tag—which, in turn, will convert that transmission into a UHF signal compliant with the ISO 18000-6C standard and OmniAir Certification Services "6C-for-Tolling" specifications. The user can then utilize the app to set up an account with GeoToll, from which toll payments will be deducted.

A reader installed over the roadway captures the tag's RFID number and forwards that data to the GeoToll server, where the tag's ID number is matched with account information regarding that phone's user, and deducts the necessary funds. The software can send a text message or e-mail to the user's phone, indicating the amount deducted, and the driver can later review the message when not driving.

At the HOT lanes, drivers are not expected to stop their vehicles, so the mobile phone tags must be readable while vehicles are moving at full speed along the highway. To date, Patterson says, the technology is working well at high speeds. Currently, drivers lacking Good to Go! transponders must make a phone call prior to driving, and report that they plan to travel in the HOT lane and should be billed accordingly. Otherwise, photographs of their license plates will be used to determine HOT lane payments (drivers with one or more passengers use the HOT lanes for free, while solo drivers pay a toll, based on traffic congestion). With GeoToll, he notes, that would be unnecessary.

By using mobile phones, McGuckin explains, the GeoToll technology provides a variety of functions. In the future, for example, a user will be able to take his or her phone to another location also employing the GeoToll solution—or use it while operating another vehicle, such as a rental car—and be automatically billed at each toll-collection point passed. What's more, individuals can set up a carpool and use the GeoToll app to input the IDs of all members, which the software can then read at tolling gates and thereby deduct portions of the total charge from each carpool member's account.

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