Earlier in February this year, EZ-Link made a ground-breaking innovation in pushing Singapore further into the global standards of NFC with ticketing.
EZ-Link Mobile, an Android app developed by the EZ-Link team; granted their card users (app included) a rather convenient method of topping up their cards with the promise of security and speed.
Innovation aside, their practical efforts in preserving traditional “top-ups” through ticketing offices, convenience stores, ATMs and etc. remain to ease the transition of regular consumers into tech-savvy individuals.
With over 30,000 retail points island-wide, its easy to see how EZ-Link has gargantuan potential in rapidly influencing the adoption of NFC technology starting with Singapore.
And now, we’re thankful for Nicholas Lee, CEO of EZ-Link Singapore during the Cards and Payments Expert Roundtables at Cards and Payments Asia 2014 to share with us an exclusive and first hand insight into the realm of NFC in Singapore and addressing the ticketing challenges in transportation present from adoption to maturity during the
“As you know we started NFC as early as 2009 in a small trial with StarHub and in 2011, we initiated trials with Gemalto N-Flex in which we tagged a SIM overlay with an antenna where it was well-received with the EZ-link and DBS MasterCard. However there was a problem with how the overlay was done. It even required the technician to do an insertion to the SIM at the overlay antenna where the antenna itself was unstable.”
It’s also worth noting that while the SIM itself isn’t embedded with NFC technology, the secure element is fixed onto the SIM with a protruding antenna.
The problem begins with several inconsistencies in detection and performance issues especially among the different phone builds that had to deal with the problematic antenna pushing against the phone covers.
Therefore, EZ-Link decided to collaborate with the IDA (Infocomm Development Authority) to rule out the NFC national ecosystem and to begin looking towards harnessing the SIM card as a secure element itself. The call for partnership then revolved around EZ-Link, Gemalto, DBS, StarHub, SingTel and M1 to emulate the success stories of NFC in Japan and Korea.
“However, the challenges for NFC in the transport sector are viewed as twofold. The first thing is performance and while some handsets do work with NFC, some do not at all. As such there is no guaranteed certainty in performance for NFC. In Korea however, T-money has the added benefit in working closely with Samsung and LG unlike Singapore. And so, Singapore is continuing its strategic alliance with Korea in the adoption of NFC.”
More importantly, what was being observed by NFC in Singapore is that the technology is seen as a more favourable option for self-service vending in which consumers can be spared from the technical inconsistencies in the ticketing sphere. For example, NFC-aware consumers can now top-up their own EZ-link cards at their own convenience without the need to visit other traditional top-up outlets.
Ultimately, it’s about granting the consumer the power of efficiency with NFC instead of making the leap with NFC-enabled infrastructures where adoption rates are still uncertain.
As such, it still remains that interoperability is the key in overcoming ticketing challenges for NFC to truly replace contactless cards for now.[Image: EZ-Link]