How do contactless smart transit cards work and are they secure?

Throughout the world, public transportation is “smart,” and getting smarter. From contact and contactless smart cards to pay for fares, to buying and using tickets on your mobile phone, there are many exciting new advances in the transport world. All of these advances make the way you travel more convenient, fast and secure.


How do Contactless Smart Transport Cards Work? Are They Secure?

One of the biggest trends in public transportation is the implementation of smart transport cards. These cards contain a smart card chip, a tiny computer that can store the card’s value, and more, depending on how they are implemented. These cards are being rolled out globally, largely in Europe, Asia, and the United States. China, the United Kingdom and Japan have successfully deployed millions of these cards with contactless functionality, called Octopus, Oyster, and Suica cards, respectively.

Contactless smart transport cards are very simple to use.  The card’s smart card chip is a tiny computer that works with the fare payment system to keep track of your remaining ticketing value.  The “contactless” functionality of your card allows it to make a wireless connection with a reader.  You simply hold your card up to a reader, your fare is paid, and you can go on your way.  It is faster, easier and more convenient.

Contactless smart transport cards, together with the fare payment network behind them, deliver very high levels of security for you.  Your transport card is, in most cases, anonymous, so no one can glean any information about you from the card. In addition, because contactless smart transport cards contain many layers of security, it would be nearly impossible for someone to counterfeit and use it.


Smart Transport Cards with Contactless Services: More Advances

Hong Kong, China’s Octopus card has been the trailblazer for smart transport cards, as they have been in use since 1997. Over the years, the Octopus has become much more than a smart transport card and they are used for much more than public transportation. Citizens can use the Octopus card to pay electronically in shops, restaurants, parking lots, and more. More than 1,000 merchants in Hong Kong accept the Octopus card, including 7-Eleven, Starbucks and McDonald’s. Some offices, apartment buildings and schools even accept the card for access control citizens simply present the card to a reader for access to the buildings.

The United Kingdom’s Oyster card, used widely across London, is another example of a contactless smart transport card program that has been very successful. Public transport riders use the Oyster card for access to the London Underground and buses. It doesn’t have multiple uses like the Octopus card, but it makes traveling a lot more efficient for citizens. You can add funds either online or at terminals. This means you do not have to deal with paper tickets,or cash, and it is faster when boarding a train or bus.

Japan’s contactless smart transport card is called Suica. Suica stands for “Super Urban Intelligent Card.” Citizens use Suica cards for trains, subways and buses. Like Octopus card, the Suica is starting to be used for purchases other than transportation. Some stores in airports and train stations accept the card, as well as some taxis.

Avery cutting-edge use for the Suica card is called Mobile Suica. This is essentially a Suica card inside of a mobile phone, allowing you to simply hold their mobile phone close to a reader to make transactions wherever Suica is accepted. Another cutting-edge Suica feature – SuiPo, or Suica Poster. With SuiPo, you hold your Suica card, or Mobile Suica phone, close to a Suica-enabled advertising poster and additional details on the product or offer are sent to your email address.


What is mobile ticketing?

Another advance in public transportation that is making your travel life easier is mobile ticketing-using your contactless smart bank card directly to pay for fares. With mobile ticketing, you can purchase your ticket online and receive it on your mobile phone. Your mobile phone receives a message that includes a bar code, which acts as your quot;ticket” when you board the mode of transportation. Heathrow Express in London uses this type of mobile ticketing for its trains.

Germany is also making good use of mobile phones with its easy.GO solution. The mobile application gives users up to the minute information on public transportation, and a unique ticketing solution. You can buy your tickets anonymously and securely; simply provide your phone number, and the cost of the ticket is added to your phone bill.

In the city of Kahramanmaras in southeast Turkey, payment solution provider VeriFone has partnered with the Turkish Bank Asya to roll out a fare collection system for buses using MasterCard PayPass contactless cards. Instead of having to buy a separate contactless smart transport card, you can use your MasterCard PayPass contactless credit or debit card directly to pay for fares. This is becoming a popular idea in the United States, too, where transport authorities in New York and Utah are conducting similar pilots.


What is coming next?

But what if you could just pay using your cell phone in place of a card to pay for your transport ticket? New technology called NFC (Near Field Communication) would make that possible, and it is expected to be the next hot trend in payments. NFC technology is the wireless connectivity standard endorsed by the industry for short range data transfer – including payment information – from your mobile phone to something right next to it, such as a transport turnstile.  With this technology, you can store your payment information in your mobile phone, and use it to pay instead of a card. This is called “NFC mobile payments” or sometimes just “mobile payments.”


To sum up:

1.  One of the biggest trends in public transportation is the implementation of smart transport cards.

2.  Contactless functionality makes transport faster, easier and more convenient.

3.  The smart technologies developing for transports are safe for your personal data.

4.  With mobile ticketing, you can purchase your ticket online and receive it on your mobile phone.

5.  Other services are increasingly associated to smart transport cards or mobile ticketing: mobile and contactless payment services are expected to keep growing.