Imagine walking into the BART station without needing a ticket -- you just tap your mobile phone against the fare gate to pay your fare. Those posters you see on the platform are "smart" ads -- by pointing your phone at them, you can get a discount to a new movie or directions to a nearby restaurant.
That kind of experience is one step closer, now that BART has declared a trial program of the technology known as near-field-communication, or NFC, a success.
BART, along with partners First Data and ViVOtech, released the results today of the trial program, which involved 230 participants from January through May of this year. The trial participants used NFC-equipped mobile phones provided by Sprint to pay for their fares and food, receive discounts and check account balances. The phones contained contactless chips that enable transactions without a traditional plastic card.
During the trial, the participants took close to 9,000 trips on BART. To pay at BART stations, they simply tapped their NFC-equipped mobile phones on top of the BART fare gates. They also topped-up their BART card balances more than 800 times using the over-the-air feature of their NFC-equipped phones. More than 80 percent of the participants said the system was easy to use.
"We're very excited that our trial was so successful," BART's longest-serving board member, James Fang, said. "NFC devices are all the rage in Asia, and if all goes well, millions of Americans will have access to these NFC-enabled phones starting in two years."
"With so many people turning to transit to avoid the ever-skyrocketing price of gas, we must do everything we can to break down the barriers that stand in the way of them using BART," he said. "The NFC-enabled phone simplifies their lives because they never need to dig for a BART ticket again, and they can bypass those fumbling for change at the ticket machine, and instead, go directly through the faregates - knowing they always have the correct fare on their phones."
Trial particpants also used their phones to pay for meals at participating Jack in the Box restaurants, taking advantage of "smart" ads in BART stations. By tapping their phone on the posters they could get directions to the nearest Jack in the Box.
"The success of this trial truly demonstrates the future of mobile commerce -- the ability to see account balances, make payments and participate in marketing programs from an NFC enabled phone," said Barry McCarthy, president, First Data Mobile Commerce Solutions. "For the first time, multiple payment accounts co-existed on the same mobile phone. Mobility will play a big role in the future of commerce."
"The BART trial results show that transit payment is a killer application for NFC mobile phones providing convenience and speed to customers who take transit and other public transportation frequently," said Michael Mullagh, ViVOtech CEO. "We are also encouraged to see that merchant card payments and opt-in smart poster applications enabled by ViVOtech software through the same NFC mobile phone were also highly used by the trial participants."
ViVOtech developed the wallet software for the NFC mobile phones and the over-the-air card provisioning servers that Sprint used for the trial. This enabled participants to remotely download their BART fare and Jack Ca$h(TM) gift cards onto their mobile phones, check their card balances, review previous transactions, automatically top up their cards and use their phones to pay for BART fares and Jack in the Box food. ViVOtech also provided the contactless payment devices that read the NFC-enabled chips at Jack in the Box restaurants
BART will use the results of the trial to determine next steps in moving forward with the technology.