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RFID Helps Promote Healthy Pregnancies

In Dundee, Scotland, pregnant women blow into a device to verify they have not been smoking, then present an RFID card to record their success and receive a reward.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 12, 2008Although more than 1 million Scottish citizens currently carry a National Entitlement Card (NEC), the Scottish government would like to add a little excitement to the contactless card solution—intended to reduce the handling of cash and promote the use of certain services. The NEC is part of a national program intent on modernizing public services in Scotland. For the past two and a half years, Scottish residents—primarily students and the elderly—have been utilizing the cards to access public transit. But as Sid Bulloch, National Entitlement Card manager, says, "The program needs more punch to it."

That punch is coming in a quest for pilots being launched in the city of Dundee, focused on health improvement and easy cash payment solutions. In one case, pregnant women are using their NFC-enabled contactless cards to prove they don't smoke, and to earn free food. Another project, scheduled to launch at the end of this year, will enable cardholders to use their cards as a payment solution at participating stores.

Sid Bulloch, National Entitlement Card manager
The NEC program is reliant on Scotland's 32 local councils, which manage and oversee the projects with federal funding. Of these, Dundee City Council is leading the way in the development, delivery and management of the smart card, according to Jim Kinney, director of operational services at the Improvement Service, the Scottish agency overseeing the NEC program. Each card contains a contactless NXP Semiconductor Mifare Classic chip encoded with a unique ID number linked to relevant data regarding the card's user, such as his or her name, and services that person can receive in a back-end database managed by the agency.

In some cases, the chip's 4 kilobytes of memory are encoded with other information, such as the cardholder's birth date as proof of age. Multiple contactless cards are currently available, issued by various councils throughout the country for a variety of local services, but the council is developing a single Scotland-wide program it calls the Card Management Solution (CMS), using the NEC card—a service that all parts of the Scottish public sector will be able to use.

"The NEC is designed to support a number of national and local applications," Kinney says. "The biggest national application is transportation."

Scottish citizens over age 60, as well as disabled persons, can travel free by bus, while students pay a discounted rate. The NEC card can be read by NFC interrogators at such locations as on buses, and at schools for purchasing food, as well as for membership access to health clubs or golf courses. Once a user scans the card, that person is granted the appropriate discount. It also serves as proof of age for those entering clubs or purchasing alcohol or cigarettes. Local councils provide the cards—which can be loaded with services by local merchants and agencies, such as library membership—as well as paid services for which the cardholder is allowed a discount.

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