Singapore sings the praises of contactless technology

View of the CEPAS compliant adult EZ-Link card...

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The island republic has been making progress with contactless on two fronts. Behind the scenes, industry and government have been working together to ensure the fundamentals are in place to make contactless a reality. And Singaporeans’ enthusiasm for the technology is being used to turn theoretical contactless applications into reality.

In 2008, Singapore’s Minister for Trade announced the launch of the National RFIDInnovation Platform, a multi-agency initiative to encourage the public and private sectors to work together on projects using RFID as a key enabling technology. In addition, the government set aside an estimated US$4.5 million to co-fund 30 RFID pilot projects. And in December 2009, Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) announced plans to boost the number of retail locations accepting contactless cards by 19,000 and to include market stalls, grocery stores and vending machines in the program.

In the same year it became the first country to give the go ahead for the creation of a central Trusted Third Party (TTP) designed to ensure full interoperability between the NFC services of all cell phone operators and service providers. IDA is the project leader for the TTP, which is responsible for ensuring the Singapore system complies with existing contactless standards and infrastructures such as Visa payWaveMasterCard PayPass and the state’s own Cepas transit standard.

The transport sector is a big investor in contactless technology. For example, INSIDE Contactless’ Picopass has been deployed for single-trip use on the railway network, operated by SMRT Corporation and SBS Transit, Singapore’s two main providers of multi-modal public transport.

Singapore’s contactless fare card system EZ-Link can be used in 42 automated parking lots, including those at Changi Airport and Marina Bay. Local sources say a further 220-plus parking lots are committed to upgrading their systems with 179 scheduled to be up and running with contactless by 2011.

In 2010, Network for Electronic Transfers Singapore (NETS) and Nera Telecommunications announced they had implemented a completely cashless payment service on Singapore’s Plus 1 buses. Under the new system, commuters can only pay using contactless NETS FlashPay cards, which can also be used on the mass rapid transit (MRT) and  light rail transit (LRT) networks, public and private buses, at electronic road pricing (ERP) gantries, and at over 8,000 retail acceptance points across the island for low-value purchases.

Combining transport with tourism applications, CITY Tours offers a contactless card that allows tourists to tap into various city attractions to get discounts of up to 45% at popular venues such as Underwater World and Singapore Zoo. It functions as both a pass for travel on public transport and as a payment card at a number of retailers.

The education world has also shown its enthusiasm for the technology. The Australian International School Singapore (AISS) has deployed contactless to support applications such as identification and cashless payment on the school campus, for students, staff and parents. This system allows students and staff to purchase food at the canteen; buy items of uniform and stationery; pay for excursions, photocopies and prints; use the libraries; and also enable attendance to be tracked.

Payments are an important element of the Singaporean contactless experience, with contactless mobile payments services being trialed as part of the GSM Association’s global Pay-Buy-Mobile initiative.

In 2007, employees of mobile operator SingTel and NETS held an internal NFC pilot testing NETS payment and couponing applications, followed in 2008 by a six-month payment and loyalty trial. An estimated 500 merchants were involved in the loyalty scheme, which saw 250 participants use a Nokia 6131 handset to make payments and redeem coupons that they had downloaded by tapping tags in smart posters. The ePurse could be topped up over the air using a cobranded credit card account from United Overseas Bank and SingTel.

In the same year, mobile operator StarHub launched a six-month transit fare collection trial using EZ-Link transit and purse functionality with around 1,000 merchants and 20,000 terminals including McDonald’s, 7-Eleven and Coca-Cola vending machines. More than 800 participants were given iWOW NFC handsets which they could use to check their purse balance, transaction history and details of their most recent top-ups. They could also tap smart posters to access coupons and other promotions.

In 2009, NETS teamed up with the Rasa Rasa Coffee shop to allow its customers to use contactless NETS CashCard to make purchases at two of the company’s shops. The NETS card can also be used for public transport, at ERP gantries and in parking lots as well as at more than 2,500 retail outlets.

Citibank and Visa launched the Citi M1 Mobile Visa payWave NFC pilot in the same year. More than 750 merchant locations across Singapore took part in the three-month project, which saw around 300 Citi M1 Visa Platinum card members given a Nokia 6212 Classic handset. Participants could make purchases of up to US$66 at outlets including The Coffee Connoisseur and Ichiban Boshi, Popular and Harris, and Gramophone. Gemalto performed secure Visa personalization on the phones enabling subscribers to gain access to the Visa payWave service on the M1 network.

In 2010, MasterCard announced plans to pilot Gemalto’s N-Flex technology, which can be attached to cell phone SIMs to turn handsets into contactless payments devices. DBS Bank, EZ-Link and StarHub are also involved in the project, which enables holders of EZ-Link Fevo MasterCard cards to make low-value payments by tapping their handsets at PayPass terminals. The trial may also be extended to cover contactless transport applications.

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2 Comments on “Singapore sings the praises of contactless technology”

  1. August 4, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

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  1. PayPal Trials QR Code Payments in Singapore – modrstudio - February 22, 2012

    [...] has been the setting for trials around contactless payments, NFC-based commerce and other such pilots, and we’ll be keeping an eye [...]

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