[Dave Birch] As we have often discussed, transit is turning out to be the key battleground for mobile, contactless and mobile contactless technologies. In a city such as London, where several million people use contactless cards every day, the relationship between transit and payments is actually shaping the evolution of payment products. I read today, for example, that London continues to be in the vanguard of the transport revolution and next year people will be able use bicycles. OK, so bicycles were invented some time ago, but these will be bicycles with smart cards (hence of interest to yours truly).

By May 2010, Londoners will be using contactless smart cards to access a new public bicycle sharing program. The project will include 431 bicycle docking stations installed in nine of London’s boroughs and parks.

[From ContactlessNews | London to adopt bicycle sharing program in spring]

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use any of the contactless cards that you already have (eg, your Oyster card or your EMV card) because in the great British tradition of transport-related foresight and interoperability, the system is going have its own new contactless scheme. However, the London interoperability news is far from bleak, because Transport for London have already said that their new gates, to be introduced in 2011, will read EMV cards as well as Oyster cards and both Visa and MasterCard are working on extensions to the EMV specification so that terminals can write small amounts of service provider data back to cards (I imagine other retailers will want to take advantage of this in the future, not only transit operators). Their joint (and rather appealing vision) is that when visitors come to London in the future then they can use their bank cards to ride on the tube and the buses instead of having to get an Oyster card. If only TfL were to extend Oyster in the other direction as well, so that you could use your Oyster card in shops…

Where there is more direct competition between transit payment products and bank payment products, one might expect to see more competition and more innovation. I think an interesting case study right now is Singapore, where the government helped to co-ordinate the development of a common electronic money standard to be used by all sectors (the Common Electronic Purse Specification for Singapore, or CEPSS) and consumers can now use either card in any terminals.

COMMUTERS will now have two payment cards to choose from to use on buses and trains, to pay for road tolls and carparks, and to make purchases from stores, eateries and entertainment outlets. On Friday, Nets (the Network For Electronic Transfers) launched its long-awaited multi-purpose contactless card, the first to break EZ-Link’s longtime stranglehold on the $1.3 billion transit market. Like ez-link [which has 4.6m cards], the Nets Flashpay card has multiple uses, giving consumers wider modes of payment at a greater range of outlets. In November, local banks UOB and OCBC will come on board, followed by DBS next March, to offer bank debit cards that also double as Flashpay cards. This means customers can top up their cards directly from their bank accounts.

[From Nets, more uses than one]

Meanwhile, in a related tale, imagine my shock when I got on the bus this morning and discovered that it is making the transition directly from the 19th century to the 21st: you can’t use cards, but now you can use mobile! Hurrah! The bus is my bellwether for cash replacement, and I particularly hate having to scrabble round the house in the morning trying to find change on the days when I am riding the bus into town. I’d prefer it if I could use my Oyster card, frankly, because then all of incidental travel would be going on to one card, but no matter: the future has arrived!

Customers across Arriva’s regional bus businesses in England, Scotland and Wales, will be able to buy daily, weekly and four-weekly tickets via their mobile phones following the national launch of Arriva’s m-ticketing service on Tuesday, 17 November.

[From ARRIVA – Bus users get mobile with Arriva m-ticketing launch – News – Arriva buses]

I asked the bus driver if this technological revolution were exant, or if it existed only on someone’s Powerpoint somewhere, and he told me that yes, indeed, you could now use your mobile phone to get to Woking Station. He did point out that he might not let me on the bus, though, because he wasn’t told by the company what “colour each day was”. I had no idea what he was talking about. But it turns out that it’s something to do with the barcodes that are displayed on the phone by the ticketing application.

Anyway, when I got home I rushed to sign up and… found out that the mobile ticketing system doesn’t work with my iPhone. Oh well.

I’m looking forward to getting an update on all aspects of this topic at the Transport Ticketing 2010 at the Hilton Waldorf in London on 26th-28th January 2010. I’ll be speaking on the Thursday afternoon, talking about the latest lessons being learned from mobile, contactless and NFC schemes from around the world and trying to draw out some of the key points relevant to strategy in the transport sector.

In an action of magnificent generosity, the splendid people at Clarion have not only offered a 15% discount to readers of this blog (e-mail me for the discount code) but they have also given me a delegate pass for the event — worth an unbelievable ONE THOUSAND BRITISH POUNDS plus VAT — to give away on this blog as a competition prize. So if you are going to be in London on those dates and you’d like to come along to hear some of the leaders in the field discussing the latest developments in the world of transport ticketing, all you have to do is be the first person to respond to this post with the transport-related topic of the philosopher John Stuart Mill’s last ever address to the House of Commons on 25th July 1868.

In the traditional fashion, this competition is open to all except for employees of Consult Hyperion and members of my immediate family, is void where prohibited and is virtually fat-free. The prize must be claimed within three months. Oh, and no-one can win more than one of the Digital Money Blog prizes per calendar year.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


  1. He though it would be sensible to put a smokers cabin towards the rear of the train but that people should have the common descency to ask those around them if it is ok to smoke….
    I wonder what he would have thought of todays more pressing train related discurtosy issues – namely the quite cabin … (following his logic we need a, and quite topical, designated mobile phone cabin… and another one for those tasty but very smelly west corwall pasties

  2. We have a winner! Send me your contact details Alex and I will arrange your complimentary delegate place. It is truly bizarre to note that Parliament legislated to force train companies to include smoking carriages — including on the Underground!.

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