What is Near Field Communication (NFC)?
Many public transit patrons pay for their bus or train travel with an intelligent transportation card — a contactless card — that is flashed in front of a validating machine. In a similar but more robust manner, NFC technology enables short-range wireless communication between two devices that each transmits and receives information. Mobile tags or chips containing radio-frequency identification (RFID) capabilities, embedded in posters or other public transmission/reception devices, can automatically launch web-based materials in an NFC-supported device such as a mobile telephone.
The security and authentication involved in this innovative technology makes financial transactions, such as ticketing and service payments, popular applications for NFC technology. Consequently, telecommunications and credit card companies are seeing the NFC-enabled mobile phone as a popular payment mechanism. For users of public transit, NFC, in essence, incorporates the contactless card into the traveller’s mobile telephone and allows secure ticketing and payment by swiping the bank account-linked mobile phone near an NFC reader.
Public transit an ideal application for NFC
Public transportation has demonstrated considerable agility in implementing new technology in its payment, or ticketing, systems. Certainly, the rapid and pervasive implementation of contactless technology in public transit processes can be attributed in large part to the sector’s well-defined systems.
Travelers Benefits with NFC technology
The traveler who has downloaded the transit application to his or her mobile device has a user interface that will deliver multiple returns:
- Convenience. NFC-enabled phones are even more convenient than contactless cards, with no fumbling in a wallet for the right card and no waiting in lines in front of ticket boxes and vending machines.
- Virtual tickets better than paper tickets. Tickets stored virtually in phones are inherently more durable, less likely to be lost and are perceived to be more environmentally friendly than paper versions.
- Payment support. Devices can hold multiple payment applications, allowing the traveler to select which method to use — credit, debit, travel passes or prepaid tickets. The user can quickly access card data such as credit balance and expiration.
- Electronic transfers. The NFC-enabled phone serves as a secure, electronic purse that has the purchasing power of a credit card and can be remotely reloaded, from nearly any location, directly from a bank.
- Comprehensive information. Beyond the ticket payment, the NFC-enabled phone can be used with existing transit contactless readers and onsite smart posters, allowing travelers to quickly access up-to-date, pertinent information about the trip, transit schedules and connections, and waiting times; trip history, including most recent movements; special travel offers and promotions; emergency messages; destination highlights and more.
It is expected that mobile devices with built-in NFC technology will dramatically simplify how a traveler makes a secure transit payment. NFC technology will also provide the transit user with value-added functions that will provide them access to any future added value public services that city managers are planning on their journey to become smart cities.