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Near Field Communications Makes it Easier to Pay for London Buses

By Ed Silverstein December 14, 2012

Bus passengers using Transport for London (TfL) now have new ways to pay, thanks to Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.

Passengers on some 8,500 buses can now purchase tickets by swiping a credit, debit or charge card via an NFC reader.

Next year, similar technology will be put into use in the Tube (subway), Docklands Light Rail, London Overground and trams in the London region.

TfL has been using an Oyster smartcard, which works through radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. Its use started in 2003 at tube gates and bus doors.

Now, Oyster card readers have been upgraded to be compatible with NFC as well.

This means passengers can pay for bus rides using contactless credit, debit or charge cards, cash or Oyster cards. Credit, debit or charge cards that were issued in the United Kingdom and display an official contactless payment symbol can be used to pay for buses.

It is noteworthy, too, that fare via contactless payment cards is cheaper than paying with cash, TfL said. For example, a single fare is £1.35 ($2.18) instead of £2.30 ($3.71.)

The new options appear to be unfamiliar to many passengers on public transportation.

"There are now more than 23 million contactless cards in the U.K.," Windsor Holden, research director at Juniper Research, told the BBC. "But surveys that we've seen suggest … only a very small minority of card holders are aware that they have an NFC-enabled card.”

"Projects like this bus scheme are absolutely critical if the public is to be educated about the use of these cards as having them isn't enough – it's knowing how to use them, feeling confident about the security involved and then wanting to use them more," he added.

Eventually, passengers will be able to pay for bus fare via a swipe of their mobile phone.

"The system is set up to accept contactless payments through mobile phones, but we haven't seen phones on the market that have that yet," a TfL spokeswoman told ZDNet. "The phone has the capability but it hasn't quite linked up with the payments industry. That's where the gap is and that's not for TfL to lead. It's got to be led by the mobile phone industry."

Scotland’s Stagecoach passengers will get to pay by smartphone instead of bus and train tickets if a trial in Cambridge is successful, IoTevolutionworld reported earlier this year.

The smartphone trial could lead to a rollout across select bus and rail services in 2013.




Edited by Braden Becker

IoTevolutionworld Contributor

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