Austrian mobile and rail operators develop VDV-based NFC ticketing

Mobilkom Austria and ÖBB, the federal railways group, are to field test an NFC system based on Germany’s VDV contactless ticketing standard.

NEW GENERATION: NFC tickets beat text messages because they can't be deleted by accident, still work when the phone's battery is dead and can be read even during a phone call
NEW GENERATION: NFC tickets beat text messages because they can't be deleted by accident, still work when the phone's battery is dead and can be read even during a phone call

Mobilkom Austria and ÖBB, the Austrian Federal Railways Group, have announced the development of an NFC mobile ticketing solution, based on Germany’s VDV-KA contactless ticketing standard.

“This new generation NFC mobile ticketing solution offers enhanced user-friendliness and convenience for both passengers and ticket collectors when buying and managing train tickets,” the companies say.

“With Mobilkom Austria’s new, worldwide first chip-based NFC mobile ticketing solution, train tickets are no longer sent via text messages to the customer’s handset but are saved in the so-called ‘secure element’ of NFC-enabled mobile phones and can be validated by a simple touch,” said Mobilkom’s Hannes Ametsreiter.

“Moreover, train tickets will not get lost, even if the SMS inbox of a mobile phone is purged by mistake, and they are always available, even when the phone battery has run out,” he added, since the new system enables tickets to be validated with a simple touch of the passengers’ and the conductor’s NFC enabled mobile phones.

“In addition, tickets can be managed and validated while the customer is having a phone conversation,” explained ÖBB’s Gabriele Lutter.

A three month pilot project involving 100 test customers and 100 ticket collectors on the Vienna-Krems and Vienna-Gmund routes is to take place, with each participant being equipped with a Nokia 6212 Classic NFC handset. “In the initial stage,” the official announcement explains however, “the Nokia 6212 Classic will not be equipped with the new chip-based NFC application developed by Mobilkom Austria as this solution is still in a trial phase.”

In future, the announcement continues, “information such as mobile tickets will not be stored on a chip in the mobile handset but on the chip embedded in the SIM card. This will facilitate the switch from one NFC handset to another… The long-term objective is to develop an interoperable system allowing customers to use transport facilities of different providers across countries with one single NFC ticket.”

Mobilkom Austria has pioneered a wide range of NFC-based applications from transport ticketing, access cards and micro m-payment solutions supporting, among other things, an NFC trial at the University Campus of Hagenberg in 2006.

The new system is based on the VDV (Verband Deutscher Verkehrsunternehmen or Association of German Transport Undertakings) standard and has been integrated into the Mobilkom Austria mobile ticketing platform.

The development of the VDV standard was driven by the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs to ensure electronic tickets in a range of formats such as smart cards, bank cards and mobile devices would be fully interoperable for use within public transport schemes throughout the country and internationally.

Eight million contactless cards conforming to the VDV standard are to be issued across Germany by 2012 and, last week, VDV Kernapplikations chose Cardag to manufacture the cards using NXP’s SmartMX chips.

“Our vision is to provide passengers with a convenient and secure electronic ticket that can be used on any public transport scheme across Germany,” explained Jozef (Sjef) A L Janssen, general manager of VDV Kernapplikations and the man in charge of the implementation of the new standard.

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