UK’s Dept for Transport reports on 18-month NFC ticketing project

The UK’s Department for Transport has published an in-depth report on the findings from an 18-month research project investigating the potential of NFC in transport ticketing.

The focus of the project was on how near field communication could be integrated into the UK’s ITSO ticketing standard but, although many of the conclusions have an ITSO focus, many of the findings can be applied equally to public transport services elsewhere.

The project, conducted for the Department for Transport by Consult Hyperion, included a six month pilot trial and had three main objectives:

  • Demonstrate the viability of using NFC devices as virtual ITSO tickets
  • Demonstrate the viability of using an NFC device as a ticketing machine, able to read, validate and update ITSO tickets
  • Identify and develop any changes that would need to be made to the ITSO specification to enable NFC technology to be implemented

Key findings from the project included:

  • Read range is a key factor in the reliability of a contactless ticket, particularly in a high throughput, ‘touch and go’ environment such as transit
  • The six-month trial clearly demonstrated the potential for NFC devices as “an alternative housing for ITSO customer media. The technology worked, thus fulfilling the first project objective. The majority of users were extremely positive.”
  • Bench tests proved that it was definitely possible for NFC devices to be used as ITSO-standard ticketing machines, but found that there are issues that remain to be resolved regarding transaction speeds. “As occasional ticket inspection devices, personal terminals, or lower volume terminals (e.g. bus depot ticket offices) however, NFC provides the potential for considerably cheaper hardware alternatives for ITSO POST applications,” the report explains.

Readers can download the full 52-page report on the project, ‘The use of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in mobile phones for public transport ticketing‘, free of charge from the Department for Transport’s website.

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