Nice is nice when it comes to contactless

Nice from Côte d'Azur Observatory

Image via Wikipedia

If you were thinking of conducting a trial or a pre-commercial launch in a dream location, you’d be hard pushed to find anywhere nicer than Nice: stunning scenery, a mild climate, great food and that inimitable French panache. But the real reason why the city plays host to major business projects is because it also has all the essentials in place, which is why it has now earned its place in the contactless sun.

Nice is no stranger to the technology, having adopted contactless ticketing for its public transport network several years ago. NFC was being used in the city as far back as October 2005, when telecoms giant Orange was involved in a 12-month travel ticketing pilot called TiLAMo with the city’s transit operator, Veolia Transport. It involved 30 people using Siemens NFC handsets that enabled them to buy prepaid tickets and day passes on buses serving two towns in the Nice Côte d’Azur area.

Since then, the technology has moved into car hire in the city with Hertz trialing contactless smart cards to identify the driver, unlock the door and start the engine. It has also migrated to air travel, with Air France rolling out its Pass and Fly NFC cell phone-based boarding pass and loyalty bonus system in 2009 for exclusive use by members of the airline’s frequent flyer program and those travelling between Nice and Paris Orly airports. The system, which was trialed for six months and used Nokia NFC phones, was developed by Nice Côte d’Azur Airport and Air France along with Amadeus, a transaction processor for the travel industry, and IER, a supplier of ticket printers and gate readers.

Heading into 2010, the city became Europe’s contactless showcase. In May this year, Christian Estrosi, France’s minister of industry as well as the mayor of Nice, officially launched the Cityzi project. Billed as the ‘first in Europe’, this is a high-profile pre-commercial launch of the technology, which is supported by several major commercial players as well as the government. Between 3,000 and 4,000 of the city’s residents are taking part in the scheme, which enables them to pay for public transport tickets using NFC handsets and obtain information about routes and timetables using smart posters. Veolia is also backing Cityzi and has so far equipped an estimated 1,500 bus and tram stops with the technology. To start with, Samsung handsets are being used, but Sagem phones are expected to be added in the future.

Payment applications are also set to be included in the scheme later this year, and it already offers a range of extra applications such as loyalty, multimedia access at local museums, access to cultural events and access to student services at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis. For example, visitors to the city’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art can scan the works with NFC-enabled phones to access multimedia material related to the pieces.

The roll call of companies involved in this massive program – touted as a rehearsal for a national rollout of NFC – is growing all the time. So far names linked with it include BNP Paribas, Crédit Mutuel-CIC, Société Générale, Orange France, SFR, Bouygues Telecom, NRJ Mobile, MasterCard, Visa, Veolia, McDonald’s, Intermarché, E.Leclerc, Carrefour, La Croissanterie, Rica Lewis and Game, as well as smaller local merchants.

Click here to see the League Table on Nice.


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