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Toronto Expands RFID-Enabled Bike-Sharing Program

Bike Share Toronto has contracted with PBSC Urban Solutions to supply new bicycles and stations, using Syrma's HF RFID tags and readers.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 07, 2016

In April 2016, the Toronto Parking Authority (TPA) announced that it had selected Montreal-based bike-sharing solutions company PBSC Urban Solutions as the new supplier for its Bike Share Toronto network. This year, the TPA will purchase 1,000 new RFID-enabled bicycles and 120 new stations from PBSC. This acquisition more than doubles the number of bikes in TPA's bicycle-sharing program. Meanwhile, Chicago's Divvy program, which has comprised 476 PBSC stations and 4,760 PBSC bikes since 2013, has begun expanding its network by adding 99 stations and 1,000 bikes.

PBSC was launched in 2008 to provide a bike-sharing system to its home city of Montreal. The BIXI-Montreal network now has 5,200 bikes and 460 stations. To date, PBSC has provided its solution to approximately 20 cities worldwide, as well as to several colleges. PBSC provides and operates the bicycle-sharing program for its clients, using passive high-frequency (HF) RFID tags supplied by Syrma Technology and PBSC's own readers, made by a third-party manufacturer. The use of RFID accomplishes two things, the organization reports: identifying a user in order to provide him or her with access to a bike, and identifying the bicycle itself once it is docked at a station and locked in place.

To identify each PBSC bicycle, a Syrma passive RFID tag is embedded in the triangular lock mount installed on the front of the bike.
Since its launching, PBSC has used a half-million 13.56 MHz Syrma RFID tags compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, and 45,000 of its bicycles are currently in use within about 20 cities. An RFID tag is embedded in each of PBSC's bicycles, in the triangle-shaped lock mount attached to the front of the bike, just beneath the handlebars.

The cities and colleges that are PBSC's customers can provide the bikes to riders in two different scenarios, says Jean-Paul Paloux, PBSC's operations and R&D director. In the case of tourists or one-time local users, a renter proceeds to a kiosk installed near a bike station (or uses PBSC's mobile app), then inputs credit-card information and retrieves a five-digit code. The individual can use that code to release the locking mechanism at the docking point of a particular bike, which is then associated with that customer.

Upon returning the bicycle to that same docking station, or to another station elsewhere in the city, the user pushes the front of the bike into the docking space. A Syrma HF reader captures the tag ID on the bike's triangular lock mount, via the reader antenna installed at that docking space, and forwards that information to the PBSC software on its own hosted server, indicating that the bike has been returned. This can be accomplished via a cabled or cellular connection. The tag is then linked to that location, where it continues to be read until another individual borrows it.

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