Key Takeaway: Should the NFC Forum Work To Improve Service Level Solutions in Bus Operations?

I recently spoke at a private seminar held for members of the Common IC Card for Bus Operations Association in Tokyo, Japan in my role as Chairman of the NFC Forum. About 40 people attended, most of whom were bus operators. This audience uses contactless cards in their operations so they were familiar with NFC. My role at this seminar was to provide the bus operators an even deeper, more complete understanding of NFC and how the technology can help their business. The ensuring and lively discussion sparked some new ideas. I’ll share one idea with you below as my “Key Takeaway” from the seminar.

Highlights of the Presentation

My presentation was supported by a 42-slide PowerPoint presentation in Japanese. The presentation highlighted three key areas for this audience including:

  • A through discussion around the mandatory requirement for an NFC device is to perform the three modes (CE, RW and P2P) and support all five tag types.
  • An overview of NFC use cases enabled through NFC Forum specifications.
  • A discussion regarding bus-specific use case ideas including, but not limited to, fare collection.

Key Takeaway

In the Q&A after the presentation there was an interesting question about bus fare collection which created much discussion.
For bus fare collection, automatic or manual, an online top-up is important for plastic cards and mobile NFC implementations. The very nature of bus transportation makes implementing online top-up challenging. This is because top-up kiosks cannot be placed aboard the bus, nor could they be placed at each and every bus stop.

More interestingly, the current automatic, or online top-up, deducts the top-up amount from the credit card that is registered to the fare card or NFC app. This system does not cover the entire spectrum of bus passengers, as there are passenger segments that sometimes are not eligible to apply for a credit card, e.g., kids, senior citizens, those on public assistance. The various challenges of top-ups and ticket purchases for bus transportation are universal. A through discussion of this topic and results are contained in the NFC Forum’s Irish National Transport Authority Case Study.

The question this raised for me is: Should the NFC Forum work on alternative ways to enable automatic or on-line top-up that could support these passenger segments?

I realize some may say that this is an issue at the service layer and not within our scope. But, it is a speed bump for NFC deployments, and therefore, I think it is worth bringing the issue up at transport-related discussions in Las Vegas at the Member Meeting this month and beyond. Another good source of public transportation information is the NFC Forum’s NFC-enabled e-Ticketing in Public Transport: Clearing the Route to Interoperability White Paper.

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What Do You Think?

Please share your thoughts with me at Koichi.Tagawa@sony.com.   Is your company working on this issue? Is there a solution in the marketplace you know of? I’d welcome a dialogue with the experts we have at many of the NFC Forum member companies on this topic.

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