Bus commuters in the German city of Hanau, near Frankfurt, can now use their mobile phones as electronic wallets to purchase tickets, following a successful trial of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.
The public transportation authority Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV) launched on Wednesday one of the world's first commercial wireless ticketing services based on NFC technology, in collaboration with its technology partners Nokia, Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV and Vodafone Group PLC.
The commercial service follows a several month trial during which 160 Hanau residents tested the service on city buses. More than 90 percent of them said they would like to continue using the service after the trial, the Hanau city government said.
NFC has evolved from a combination of RFID (radio frequency identification) and interconnection technologies. It enables any two devices to connect and exchange information or access content and services simply by bringing them together over a distance of a few centimeters. Operating in the 13.56 MHz range, NFC is also designed to work on other protocols, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, allowing devices to communicate at longer ranges or transfer data at higher rates.
The NFC service in Hanau requires customers to use the Nokia 3220 clamshell phone with embedded NFC technology in its cover to buy, store and use bus tickets. The electronic ticketing application, which has been developed together with the Association of German Transport Operators, is stored in an integrated smart card in the phone. Users simply touch their phones against a contactless reader as they enter the bus.
At the end of each month customers receive an invoice from RMV listing all trips and costs.
Philips and Sony Corp. jointly developed NFC technology. The two companies also launched the NFC Forum, which promotes the standardization and implementation of this new short-range wireless technology. Additional information about the forum and NFC technology is available at their Web site.
Nokia and Philips are among a growing number of companies developing NFC systems and services, including NTT DoCoMo Inc., Motorola Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Sharp Corp.