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Making the daily commute mobile

Transport for Greater Manchester (TGM) recently announced it will start rolling out a new smart ticketing system across the UK’s third biggest city. It’s a move that is well overdue and is sure to vastly improve many thousands of Mancunians’ daily commutes. However, when first hearing the news, it wasn’t the efficiencies that immediately caught my eye, but rather the organisation’s pledge to incorporate contactless debit and credit cards into the solution within two years.

This will put the city in a leading position, possibly even allowing it to leap frog London, where although there has been talk of incorporating the Oyster card onto payment cards, this has so far yet to materialise. There’s no doubt either that the public will embrace the practice of using their Visa or MasterCard (both of which will be compatible with the solution when it goes live) giving the adoption of contactless payments a real boost.

Although the move is commendable, one can’t help but think that perhaps TGM has missed a trick to become a real innovator and take the brave first step into the world of mobile payments.

As mentioned in my last blog, the recent decision by Apple to not include NFC on its iPhone 5 is proof that the adoption of mobile payments is not yet mainstream and probably won’t be for another two to three years. However with more and more handset manufacturers such as Samsung and Nokia coming to the party, the next couple of years will see more Brits becoming increasingly mobile payment savvy with each passing day.

Whilst working on the solution in order to make it payment card ready by 2014, maybe it would have made sense to also ensure the system can ‘talk’ to NFC enabled mobile devices by this date too? After all a YouGov study carried out earlier this year showed 29 per cent of British mobile owners are keen to use their handsets instead of cash or cards to pay for goods or services less than £20. It’s a clear sign that while mobile payments are not yet mainstream the acceptance and take up of them are increasing all the time.

Of course it is inevitable that mobile payment technology (in the form of NFC or something else) will eventually be rolled out across Manchester as well as other UK cities, but for now it seems we’ll have to keep waiting a little while longer for this to happen. When it does it will undoubtedly give the adoption of the technology a massive boost, helping it become as firm a fixture in our daily lives as our daily commute.

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