Toronto shows loyalty to contactless technology

Skyline of Toronto

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The Canadian city of  Toronto is showing how contactless technology can have an impact in the transportation, payments and loyalty sectors.

In 2010, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) began the rollout out of contactless Presto cards on its travel system. Despite project setbacks, the entire system is expected to be up and running by late 2011.

The city’s use of contactless in the payments sector is more established. One of the first schemes to attract public attention in the metropolis was the 2006 trial of MasterCard PayPass-enabled cards at three Cineplex Entertainment theatres. Moviegoers used the cards to pay for tickets and concession items at the Cineplex Odeon Queensway Cinema, SilverCity Mississauga and Coliseum Mississauga. This scheme was extended to more than 100 theaters across the country by the end of the year.

Bell Mobility, Citi and MasterCard held another PayPass pilot in the city in March 2008. Around 100 employees of the three companies were given a Samsung SPH-A920M handset to make payments at Bell’s offices.

In November 2009, Toronto and several other Canadian cities played host to a scheme that saw an estimated 200 employees of Bank of Montreal, MasterCard and Research In Motion given a RIM Blackberry handset and passive sticker, which could be used to make payments at all PayPass merchant locations across the country.

Heading into 2010, mobile operators Bell Canada, Rogers Communications and Telus got together for a three-month trial that extended the use of their Zoompass payment venture to include contactless payment based on PayPass and issued by Peoples Trust.

The progress of Visa’s rollout in the city has been impressive. In 2008, it announced that it was involved in a cell phone pilot with Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Rogers Wireless to enable consumers in Toronto’s downtown center make purchases at around 70 merchants. The project started with a brief employee pilot and moved into the customer phase in mid-2009. During the trial, around 250 participants were given Motorola SLVR L7 handsets embedded with Visa payWave functionality. It tested secure delivery and storage of account information to the mobile device; mobile payments at retailers; storing and redeeming mobile payment coupons; and mobile account management. It also included in-lab testing, an RBC staff pilot and a consumer trial. This was also the first scheme in Canada to test secure over-the-air (OTA) delivery of mobile payment software and credit card information to a customer’s cell phone.

A growing number of merchants across Canada are opting to become contactless enabled. One of the latest companies to adopt the technology is Petro-Canada, which is rolling out Visa payWave terminals at all paypoints, including gas stations and in-store checkout counters at its 1,500 outlets countrywide. By the end of October 2010, all Greater Toronto Petro-Canada locations were payWave-enabled.

Interac Association has also held a series of in-market trials of its Flash contactless technology on debit cards in the city. It later announced that Scotiabank and RBC would be the first to add Interac Flash to their customers’ bank cards in summer 2011.

In the loyalty market, February 2010 saw MoLo Rewards launch a mobile rewards program based on contactless stickers attached to the user’s cell phone in Toronto and San Diego in the US. To take advantage of special offers and redeem rewards, consumers tap their phone at the merchant’s POS.

Click here for the League Table on Toronto

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