TECHNOLOGY

The smartphone app you can use on transport systems round the globe

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 April, 2015, 2:42am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 April, 2015, 11:48am

Imagine travelling anywhere in the world and being able to use your smartphone to pay for the train or bus just as easily as you would your Octopus card at home.

It might seem like a dream, but that is exactly what technology company Xerox is trying to introduce - and for passengers, it would simply involve downloading an app.

Now the American technology giant - still best known for its photocopiers - is hoping to persuade transport operators around the world to harness so-called near-field communication technology.

Operators would have to subscribe to the service and install mouse-sized tags at entrances.

"In public transport, we started with coins in the fare box. Then we moved to magnetic tickets. Then we moved to contactless cards. I really believe this is the next step," said Eric Jean, senior vice-president of Xerox's international transportation and government division.

Jean believes the service will make life easier for travellers, who would no longer have to stand in line to buy tickets. But he admitted it might not prove as popular with operators, as the fares would be processed by the company and distributed to the operators later.

"They [transport operators] are very unwilling today to give away the only way they have to get money," Jean said

Although transport companies subscribing to the service would have to pay "a small amount of fees", Jean insisted that there were benefits they could enjoy.

"They don't have to buy expensive ticket vending machines, or a lot less," he said, adding that the tags were much cheaper than existing card readers with screens.

The technology will be pioneered on the metro and bus system of a "well-known" but unnamed Italian city in June.

In Hong Kong, Octopus is working with mobile operator CSL to offer mobile sim cards that also function as a mobile payment card.

Jean said he had discussed the possibility of introducing such technology with the MTR Corporation, though he noted it was difficult for the local railway giant to change since it was co-owner of Octopus Cards.

Octopus has emerged as a world leader in cash-free payment since its introduction in 1997 and itself exports its technology for use in countries such as the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates.

In response, the MTR said it had no plans to use Xerox's technology at present.

"MTR is committed to continuously enhancing railway assets and customer service, and always keeps abreast of the latest technology introduced to the market," a spokesman said.