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Mobilkom Austria Bundles NFC-enabled Phone and Tags

The tags enable consumers to use the phones to gain quick access to ring tones, traffic reports and other services.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
But the tag that delivers the biggest bang is one that enables users to order and store tickets for ÖBB, which provides train service throughout Austria. What makes this application unique is that once a consumer uses the tag to call up ÖBB's online ticket application and purchase a ticket, that information is stored directly on the phone and can be accessed by a train conductor carrying a phone containing a mobile NFC reader—even if the passenger's phone is turned off or its battery is exhausted.

One of the tags lets consumer call up an online application, and purchase and store tickets for trains operated by Austrian railroad ÖBB.
The ticket is validated after a train conductor holds her NFC mobile phone up to that of the passenger. The conductor's phone functions in this case as an RFID interrogator, whereas the NFC module in the passenger's phone acts as a tag. This works even when the user is engaged in a phone call, Mobilkom Austria notes. (For a short video—in German—showing how the system functions, click here.)

The ticket-issuing system was tested successfully during a two-month pilot program with ÖBB commuters that began in January 2009, prompting the cell phone service provider to make the ticket application part of its Nokia NFC package. In time, the company may begin offering additional pre-programmed tags as well.

Purchasing transit tickets is one of the most widely deployed NFC applications, offered in a number of markets, including London (see O2 Subscribers Use Phones to Make Purchases, Access Info) and Frankfurt (see Frankfurt Widens Its NFC-Enabled Transit Network) for commuters carrying NFC phones.

In the United States, a number of cities' transit systems, including San Francisco's BART system (see SF's Transit System Offers Commuters Fast Access to Subways and Sandwiches) are beginning to offer transit fare payments using NFC phones. In North America, however, phones with NFC capability are still difficult to come by. A phone-and-tag package similar to that offered by Mobilkom Austria, which provides not only the phones but also methods for consumers to immediately begin employing the NFC capabilities, would likely help encourage wider adoption of the technology within the United States.

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