Transit Tests Tap ’n Go Payment

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Commuters relying on San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) have been tapped to participate in a four-month test of payment by wireless phone. Equipped with a near-field communications (NFC) enabled Sprint wireless phone, the select group of 230 trial participants can pay for their ride by simply “tagging” their phone on a reader located on the BART fare gate.

Additionally, the specially equipped Sprint mobile phones will utilize the embedded NFC “smart chip” to facilitate information downloads from “smart advertisements” lining the walls of the BART station. For instance, Jack in the Box restaurants are also participating in this first-in-the nation test so commuters might download directions to one of the restaurants or discounts for food. At the restaurants, participants can use their phones to pay for their meal.

According to First Data Corp., Greenwood Village, Colo., provider of the end-to-end payment solution, this trial is the first to give participants the added benefit of automatically receiving discounts. Typically, discount offers are only provided to customers who have enrolled in a merchant’s loyalty program. Previous pay-by-mobile-phone trials have allowed customers to pay for goods and services using a credit card tied to the phone, and this typically prevented them from automatically receiving the discounts. However, the participants in this trial automatically receive special discounts, such as a 6.25% discount that BART provides to purchasers of high-value tickets.

Another automated feature of the phones is that the NFC technology will automatically reload the phone with $48 in BART rides when the account drops to $10. Participants can use their phones to check their balances.

Several companies have partnered to bring this solution to market, including Santa Clara, Calif.-based ViVOtech, which developed the NFC software for the mobile phones and the Over-the-Air (OTA) card provisioning servers that Sprint is using. Additional technology partners are software provider Acumen Transit, Oakland, Calif.; San Diego-based Cubic Transportation Systems, BART’s provider of automatic fare collection; consultant Booz Allen Hamilton, McLean, Va.; NFC-chip manufacturer NXP Semiconductors, Eindhoven, The Netherlands; handset provider Samsung Mobile; and Englewood, Colo.-based Western Union Payment Services, provider of the self-service Internet options.

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