Sunday, 18 December 2011 21:28

APAC leads the world in contactless transport card use

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Public transport users in cities throughout the Asia Pacific region are big users of smart cards - or radio frequency contactless cards - and now lead the world in using the cards to pay for their travel.


Hong Kong was the first region to employ an RFID smart card system in 1997 called the Octopus, and 95 percent of the population with 11 million transactions across metro, buses, ferries and, even with more than 10,000 retail outlets in the city.

A report on the use of the cards throughout the Asia Pacific by CARTES Network, a leading international and regional exhibitions and conferences organisation devoted to smart technologies, says that many Asia Pacific cities and regions now use similar cards to those used in Hong Kong, and New Zealand is currently working with Octupus to develop a transport card for 2012. Major cities in Japan use lots of different types of transport cards, Beijing and Shanghai commuters use the Yikatong, Singaporeans use the EZ-Link smart card, Taiwan has the EasyCard and most recently New Delhi's government launched a 'Common Mobility Card' called More.

According to Isabelle Alfano, director of CARTES events, Comexposium, 'major cities across Asia Pacific are 'way ahead of many countries around the world in terms of using smart cards.'

Alfano says that as RFID technology expands across the region into the smaller towns and cities it will bring many opportunities for suppliers of the technology. But, she says, at the same time, with advances in near field (NFC) communication, it might mean that mobile payments could be the next step with the general public using their mobile phones to pay for their transport and groceries as well as many other utilities.

'With a mature contactless acceptance infrastructure already existing, mass transit ticketing has always been considered as the killer app in market development of NFC before it can be extended to other multi-application uses,' Alfano adds.

Alfano is supported by many experts who believe that 'tech savvy' APAC region could be the first adopters of NFC enabled mobile payment technology for their next mobility solutions.

With advances in NFC technology and an increasingly strong support from the government, CARTES says it expects that NFC mobile phone payments may replace smart cards across major cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore in the future due to the fact that these cities have:

'¢    A technology savvy urban population with more than 100% mobile phone penetration

'¢    Governments strongly advocating the use of technology, including NFC, to manage transport

'¢     An agreement between all local transport companies - bus, metro, ferry boat, taxi, etc. to take on transport/NFC projects co-ordinated by central government.

The next CARTES APAC regional exhibition will showcase both RFID and NFC technologies at AsiaWorld-Expo, Hong Kong, on 28 and 29 March next year.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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