Beyond Strudel: Vienna is a true NFC capital!

The famous Viennese Sachertorte has been around for over 175 years. The love of tradition certainly doesn't stop the Austrians looking forward when it comes to technology, though..

Vienna’s coffee shops are well-known internationally not only for their warmth of welcome but also their outstanding quality and good service. And the Austrian capital’s same demand for the best quality and service is now driving the city’s adoption of contactless technology.

Over the past three years, Telekom Austria Group’s cell phone subsidiary mobilkom austria has been behind a series of initiatives to implement contactless in the city. In 2007, it started selling Nokia’s 6131 NFC phones via its A1 online outlet as well as at all its A1 high street shops and specialist retailers. It also launched a commercial rollout of NFC services in the country in cooperation with its partners, NXP Semiconductors, Nokia, ÖBB (the Austrian national railway operator) and Wiener Linien (Vienna’s main public transport provider). The initial phase of the program, billed by mobilkom as the ‘world’s first NFC rollout’, was designed to speed up transport ticketing and make it more convenient for both travelers and operators. In the second phase, other applications – such as a mobile purse – were added. Around 20,000 customers can now use their NFC handsets to purchase public transport tickets, snacks from an estimated 450 vending machines, mobile parking tickets and even indulge in gambling via their cell phone. NFC will eventually be standardized by putting the application on the SIM card.

In 2009, the cell phone operator joined forces with ÖBB for a three-month pilot of an NFC mobile ticketing system based on the Association of German Transport Undertakings’ contactless ticketing standard. A total of 100 customers and 100 conductors on the Vienna-Krems and Vienna-Gmund routes were given a Nokia 6212 handset, which could be used either to buy rail tickets or to be checked by the conductors who tapped their NFC handsets to those of the customer.

In the same year, mobilkom launched a customer package comprising a Nokia 6212 classic NFC phone and four Topaz NFC tags from Innovision Research & Technology. Each tag is pre-programmed with a link to a particular WAP page; users access a page by touching the appropriate tag with their handset. They can access a range of applications such as ringtones, pictures and animations, news and information via the tags. The package also includes a tag that links to a WAP page for purchasing the ÖBB tickets being trialled on the two routes in Vienna.

The operator also showed that NFC is about far more than payments last year by teaming up with Touchatag to launch a developer challenge aimed at finding the best NFC-based city game. Known as the Vienna Jungle Scrum, the competition offered cash prizes as well as the opportunity for the overall winner’s game to be made and played. Under the rules, games had to incorporate at least five separate physical locations in Vienna.  Preference was also given to games that emphasized the city’s history and culture and made creative use of the city’s features and attractions in gameplay.

And the Austrian healthcare sector has also benefited from the technology. In 2008, mobilkom got together with the eHealth systems team from the Austrian Research Centers (ARC) to unveil a blood pressure monitoring system that uses NFC to securely transmit patient data over the air.

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