Consult Hyperion, the independent consultancy that specialises in the field of secure transactions in contactless smart cards and mobile devices, has today revealed details of its ongoing role as technical advisors to Transport for London (TfL), in a project that will by 2012 see London become the first city in the world where passengers are able to access an entire transport network with just a tap of their contactless bank or credit card.
As technology advisors on the project, Consult Hyperion is helping to bring together the disparate systems of payment scheme providers in transit and retail, as well as card issuers and terminal technologies, in order to ensure that the new scheme will be viable for TfL in terms of the technology and identifying and meeting the security requirements.
As such, customers will soon be able to 'touch in' with their contactless credit and debit cards on TfL's public transport network of tube and buses, just as they already can when making low value purchases in many coffee shops and other retail outlets. Customers who choose to pay this way will be charged for their travel directly from their bank or credit card account, removing the need to go out of their way to buy an Oyster card and then top up - pay as you go credit balances.
"To date, it has always been a huge challenge for universal contactless payments to meet the exacting requirements for London's transit system, so we're all very excited that we will be able to start making this possible over the next couple of years," said Simon Laker of Consult Hyperion, who is helping TfL to develop the specifications for the coming generation of gates that can accept universal contactless payments, Oyster and ITSO. "At Consult Hyperion we've done a lot of work over the years on payment cards, so combining that experience with our work in smart ticketing for transport systems in this project is the logical progression."
Enabling this convergence of payment card schemes and transport operators involves significant challenges to design, develop and testing of the new readers that are capable of accepting ITSO and Oyster and also contactless cards from several schemes. These include cards issued by Visa, Mastercard and American Express who are all working with TfL and Consult Hyperion to make this significant breakthrough a reality.
"With over 12 million contactless debit and credit cards already in circulation in the UK, we are confident that this payment option will be widely adopted in the coming years, either as an alternative to Oyster or as a back-up for when the Oyster card is left at home," said Will Judge, Head of Future Ticketing, Transport for London. "The productive partnership between TfL, the payment industry, device manufacturers and Consult Hyperion has made this important breakthrough possible, as it's allowed us to start upgrading the software in the Oyster smartcard system to recognise contactless credit and debit cards issued by Visa, MasterCard and American Express, as well as Oyster cards, whilst still maintaining stringent security standards."
Previously, transport operators like TfL have only considered payment via smart card systems within "closed schemes" that have been built on a proprietary specification by a single supplier. However, the recent developments in Near Field Communications (NFC) and bank-issued contactless smart cards open up new horizons; especially as contactless technology is now being used successfully in security-conscious sectors such as banking and retail.
As such, contactless technology is expected to bring similar benefits to the public transport sector, thus making the purchasing process more convenient for passengers and less costly for operators. The software upgrade that is to be delivered on the Oyster system will meet all of the standards required by the relevant payment schemes, and will also make full use of the payments industry's security systems.
The new system, set for an initial rollout on busses in 2012, will make London's public transport far more accessible for domestic and international visitors too, as visitors with a contactless credit or debit card will be able to enter the transport network as soon as they arrive simply by touching in with their bank card at the Oyster reader. Additionally, once fully rolled out, the technology will work even if their cards are issued by overseas banks.