WA travel smartcard to hide in gadgets

New Zealand may follow suit

West Australians could pay for public transport travel using smartcard-like microchips embedded into personal devices like pendants and watches.

Such devices are part of future plans for the state's SmartRider electronic ticketing system which facilitates prepaid travel on buses, trains and ferries via a smartcard with an embedded aerial.

More than 600,000 cards are in use throughout the state, almost six years after the $35 million project was inked, operating in some 1100 buses and on 70 train stations.

Government agencies, clubs and schools will also be able to use the smartcard for identification, according to former SmartRider project director for the WA Public Transport Authority, Michael Somerville-Brown.

"Our focus at the moment is on the core functionality, but other groups can embed their own data into the smartcards if it fits with us," Somerville-Brown said.

"West Australians could pay for public transport travel using smartcard-like microchips embedded into personal devices like pendants and watches.

"The project worked because we weren't set to unrealistic deadlines. We divided work between 12 contractors and had full ministerial support."

Current SmartRider technology that requires contact between the card and reader may be replaced with near field communication to reduce public transport queues.

It takes an average of four seconds for users to pass train station gates using SmartRider.

The government also plans to introduce smartcard tourist, special event and distance travel passes modelled off the SmartRider card.

Passenger travel data is sent from card readers to a central database for use in future projects, including new fare systems based on GPS that charge per zone, or flag fall rates to standardise fares.

A fully redundant database supports the system in case of failure and transit officers carry mobile devices linked into central server to verify tickets.

Users can add credit to the smartcard online, with direct debit, or via the network of automatic prepaid terminals throughout the state.

The project was launched through an 18 month phased deployment involving several user trials of up to 500 people.

New Zealand's Auckland Integrated Fares System (AFIS) has been modelled off the SmartRider system and its program director, Greg Ellis, said the integration model for train, bus and ferries into SmartRider was one of the world's best.

"We looked at smartcard transport models all over the world [and] Perth's system had very few complaints and brilliant cooperation between all involved [agencies]," Ellis said.

Engineering and manufacturing giant Downer EDI was awarded the contract to design, build and operate the system for 10 years, with an option for a further 10 years.

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Darren Pauli

Computerworld
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