Near Field Communication Tech to facilitate Namma Metro Commuter to just flash their Mobiles to board a Train

Bangalore (SBC): Have a smartphone? BMRCL plans to introduce a unique entry system where you have to just flash your mobile to pass through the Metro gates.

This novel method is made possible through Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, said U A Vasanth Rao, General Manager (Finance) and chief public relations officer, BMRCL.

“The existing card readers at the gates already support NFC. So, no separate upgradation is required,” said Brajendra Kumar, deputy chief engineer (IT and Telecommunications), Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited. Any NFC-enabled phone behaves like the smart card presently being accepted at Metro stations.

“In the case of NFC, the physical smart card resides inside the phone as a ‘secure element’ either in the form of hardware or software,” he said. When it is hardware, it can be a special SIM (a slight variant of the ones used in mobile phones) or a memory card developed by companies which manufacture chip for smart cards. SIM-based technology has recently picked up in Hong Kong.

NFC-based systems are gaining popularity world over as the NFC Reader, which used to be a separate electronic device earlier and is now part of mobile phones.

“Metro has carried out the testing using special test SIMs provided by NXP, the company providing chip to its smart cards,” said Kumar. Software-based smart cards have still not proven to be a secure method of storing currency for transport applications, he added.

So, when can one expect to use a mobile phone for entry? “The launch for it depends on the commercial availability of special SIMs followed by comprehensive testing and acceptance by transport and telecom operators,” Kumar said.

Presently, 40 per cent of commuters use cards and 60 per cent use tokens. These two entry procedures, however, will continue.

Pradeep Singh Kharola, managing director, BMRCL, said, “We are working on this form of ticketing and other innovations.” However, he refused to give a specific date for introducing the novel system.

NFC is a wireless mobile technology that allows devices to communicate with each other over short distances. These devices can be 2 mobile phones, a mobile phone and payment terminal or rather they can be any two devices where NFC chip is installed. Data transfer between the devices occurs through one of two means: either a short wave or, as is more common, a touch or tap. Currently, NFC capability is available only in smart-phones category across brands such as Nokia, Samsung, BlackBerry, HTC, Google including several others. This service will enable Metro service providers to reduce hassle of long queues and other problems related with getting train tickets. NFC along with mobile money service would be best solution for these problems.

According to reports, the Chennai Metro Rail Ltd has earlier invited bids from various banks to participate in its tender for automatic fare collection system.  As part of the bid conditions, banks have to have tie ups with other banks to enable cashless transactions and also support NFC when it is introduced. The Delhi Metro Rail project is reportedly to have started pilots of NFC-based ticketing.

Another example of NFC implementation is the launch of SBI Transit Card, in collaboration with Bangalore Metro rail service. The contactless card has an electronic chip that records distance traveled by a commuter and deducts fare when the card is swiped.

NFC standards cover communications protocols and data exchange formats, which are based on existing Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) standards. The standards include ISO/IEC and those defined by the NFC Forum, which was founded in 2004 by Nokia, Philips and Sony.