TFL Trials Contactless Mobile Phone Payments

Encourages us all to take out our mobile phones at bus stops...

Many of us met Transport for London’s (TFL) Oyster payment system with scepticism, but we were won over. Now I meet its latest innovation with similar levels of doubt and pray for the same conversion…

According to The Guardian, London Underground is currently testing a scheme in conjunction with O2 and Nokia which will let users pay for their fares via their mobile phones.

Just like the existing Oyster card ‘contactless’ system, all a user will have to do is swipe their compatible handset over the same barrier sensor and the journey cost will be deducted either via a top-up account or added onto the user’s mobile phone monthly bill. The magic behind it uses radio frequency identification and has been running for years in Japan where almost half of all handsets sold over there contain the tech.

If successful, the system will be used not just on the Underground, but also buses, trams and overland trains.

So what are my doubts? Well, I’m just not sure it is a good idea to encourage a queuing system where everyone has to take out their mobile phones – it creates a thieves’ nirvana. Sure, it may work in a controlled space like the Underground system but while getting on a bus at night… I’m not so sure.

Of course, the counter argument is that today many place Oyster cards inside their wallets and take them out every time they travel on public transport, but at least that is their prerogative – not an obligation.

Yes, I’m prepared for you all to call me a fuddy duddy when the system proves incredibly popular in a few years time. Just don’t come crying to me when some hoodie wearing, Chlamydia infected yob runs off with your 3rd gen, 32GB, HSDPA, GPS totting iPhone…

Guardian Story

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