What would be considered brand-new in this field?
I am unsure what’s “brand-new.” Many municipal transit authorities are switching to passive high-frequency (HF) radio frequency technology. In some cases, a user purchases a paper ticket that is disposed of after a single trip. In Hong Kong and other cities, a rider can store a number of rides on a card for multiple trips.
Some cities have experimented with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. NFC is a form of passive HF RFID, but it has a few special characteristics. The reader has an “emulation mode” that allows it to behave like a tag. Smartphone manufacturers, such as Samsung, are putting NFC readers in their phones. This means that you could store your transit “ticket” on your phone and swipe it near a turnstile to be allowed aboard a train or bus.
Rhein-Main Verkehrsverbund (RMV), the mass-transit authority in Frankfurt, Germany, and the surrounding region, was one of the first to use NFC technology so passengers can utilize mobile phones to purchase and store tickets (see Frankfurt Widens Its NFC-Enabled Transit Network).
In 2009, a consortium of seven transit agencies, including Sound Transit—the Puget Sound’s regional transit authority, in the Seattle, Wash., area—launched a system for transit users to access ferries, buses and trains by tapping a single RFID ORCA card. ORCA (the name is an acronym derived from the phrase “One Regional Card for All”) features a card containing a 13.56 MHz passive RFID tag that complies with the NFC specifications and enables passengers to load funds onto an account, from which they can then draw every time they ride a bus, train or ferry in Seattle, or within neighboring counties (see ORCA Puts Ferries, Buses and Trains on One Ticket).
Smartphone manufacturers, carriers and transit operators need to address some business issues, such as which of the three owns the transaction data. There are also technology issues that still need to be addressed, mostly regarding security. But I believe that NFC-enabled phones will become the way in which people pay for transit in the future.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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