Four Questions With JRE’s Satoshi Shibata-san About MaaS, Comfortable Cities And The Nintendo Wii

NFC Forum member JR East’s (JRE) NFC-enabled Suica for railway transportation was introduced almost two decades ago in Japan. Advanced for its time, JRE is still on the cutting edge of mobility and transportation with a number of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) offerings currently in use or planned that expand the use of Suica. The goal is to develop a “Mobility Linkage Platform (MLP)”, which is the MaaS platform of JRE, to provide customers with an all-in-one solution to help reduce total movement time and create stress-free movement in Tokyo and beyond making cities “more comfortable to live in.”

Helping to lead JRE’s MaaS initiatives as a founding member of JRE’s MaaS project called “Ringo Pass” is Satoshi Shibata-san. Ringo Pass is one of JRE’s MaaS projects running on MLP along with other projects including a route search app. Many know Shibata-san from his work in the NFC Forum’s Mobility, Identity and Transportation Special Interest Group. Today, we’re going to find out what he does for JRE.

What is your role and responsibilities at JRE?

My responsibility is for standardization and start-up projects regarding Suica, which is JRE’s smartcard, along with an NFC-based smartphone app used mainly for transit. There are a variety of start-up projects using NFC ongoing. One project is close to launch and another requires standardization work. I’m spending some time on the first project aligning the many stakeholders to expand the project gradually. My other main project is focused on standardization activities by bringing technical implementations and business frameworks to the NFC Forum and sharing experiences and knowledge.

Can you share with us some of the work you’ve been doing involving MaaS?

I’m a founding member of JRE’s MaaS project “Ringo Pass”, which is a smartphone app designed for implementing MaaS services in a city, I’m leading the project to provide additional Suica functions for the “Ringo Pass”. For example, an implementation of an authentication function using Suica on the Ringo Pass app and technical verification in the MaaS field using NFC reader/writer mode and NFC tags are recent projects of mine. This makes sense for Japan, especially in Tokyo, as the railway is the most popular transport mode with 17 million passenger trips a day on JRE. Railway payment and access are heavily based on NFC technology. I think NFC technology will have an important, strategic role in MaaS solutions not just in Japan but around the world.

JRE’s plan is to “make cities more comfortable.”  What is this strategic effort all about?

We have been preparing for enabling Suica to work in a variety of situations under the concept of “Suica as a shared infrastructure”. Originally, Suica was developed as a transit smartcard. Now, by dividing its functions of authentication and payment it allows us to offer a Suica authentication service which can be used to add other Suica services enabled by NFC. For example, the Ringo Pass is an “all-in-one” smartphone app that allows users to search for taxis or shared bikes and unlock the bikes or pay for the taxi through the same single app.

Have you read a good book lately that made a big impression on you?

“How To Design The Experiences Users Unconsciously Take” by Shinichiro Tamaki made a great impression on me. He developed the Nintendo Wii. In the book he explains how a video game player’s unconscious user interface is triggered by the intuitive design of a video game. According to Tamaki, good intuitive design leads a videogame user to unconsciously making the onscreen character move in the right direction. I believe the same can be said of NFC. It is intuitively designed for our lives as it only requires just a “touch”. I think it will eventually be a major trigger for many of our user experiences in the world.