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The Almighty Buck

Sony's Cashless Smart Card Catching on in Japan 213

Posted by timothy
from the are-they-tradeable dept.
Spasemunki writes "The New York Times reports here on the success in Japan of an RF-based, cash replacement smart card developed by Sony. Used primarily by Japan's largest railway company, the cards carry a declining cash balance (no link to your credit card or bank account if it is lost or stolen), and conducts transactions at railway turnstiles in 1/5 of a second. Mass transit remains one of the big areas for many folks where you just can't live without cash- this would be a big improvement over digging in the couch for exact change ... "
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Sony's Cashless Smart Card Catching on in Japan

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  • Nice... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Who needs photocopiers and engravers, when you can just "hack" some funds!
  • Potential uses... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by watzinaneihm (627119) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:41AM (#5518927) Journal
    With smart-card readers integrated into your computers, will this be the solution to the great micropayment problem? (Similar things have appeared on prev. /. stories, so idea not mine)
    Or will somebody spam your computers with viruses to steal your money then?
  • by indiigo (121714) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:41AM (#5518928) Homepage
    Huh? NY has had metrocard for years, it's successful, disposeable, and considered a fairly resounding success and can be linked to cash or credit, giving you a range of options, some of which are beneficial to the consumer (you can let someone else use your card free.) I guess if it has a chip though it should be cool.

    The token is dead. Cash is dying. off topic, the dollar is dying, in particular... :)
    • The Washington, DC area metro system has a similar card called the 'SmarTrip' card. I keep mine in my wallet, and just lightly tap the sensor. I can walk full speed through the gate, which opens quickly enough, and I get a readout of the remaining balance on my card. It's not linked to an account, so I have to add to its balance with a farecard machine, but other than that it's quite handy.
    • Speaking of which, they are now eliminating [nytimes.com] tokens completely.
    • by mvanhorn (60852) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @10:27AM (#5519076) Homepage
      Having lived in NYC my whole life, before coming to Tokyo, I can say Suica is pretty different than Metrocard. You do not even have to take the thing out of your wallet to use it. No dirty metocard readers that keep you stuck for 5 minutes because they can't read your card. On the negative side, I don't think there are "unlimited" suica cards, but there are unlimited commuter passes. These work like metrocard in that they need contact with the machine, but you just insert it, and it races through the machine in a split second, and you grab it again on the other side.I've yet to have a problem with a machine not reading the card.
    • by Mr. Theorem (33952) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @10:35AM (#5519102)
      No, no--the NYC Metrocard still needs to be swiped, much like the regular Metrorail farecard we have here in DC.


      Smart cards--like DC Metro's Smarttrip--are far cooler. You don't need to swipe them--just get them close to the reader. You don't need to take it our of your wallet: just put your wallet up to the reader and that gets it close enough.


      Even better, you can register it with Metro and if you lose your card with $100 on it, you just have to pay $5 for a replacement card and you get all the value you had on the card.


      In July, they should have Smarttrip readers on all the buses too, so that transfers will be automagic--no need to remember to get a paper transfer from one of those machines that always seems to be out of paper. Bus boarding should speed up dramatically too.

      • Great, and the first time you stand next to a stereo speaker, there goes your cash. It's not like an ATM card or credit card where the transaction record & balance live somewhere else, so if you wreck the card, who cares...

        I'll take the swipes, thanks.

        We use RF-based ID cards at work. Just touch it to the sensor to unlock the door .... I replace mine at least one a year because it stops working. No thanks. I'll take the disposable metrocard....

        --DM
    • Cash Will Never Die (Score:2, Interesting)

      by 0xB00F (655017)

      People have always been using "cash" in one form or another. This is just another form of "cash".

      Follow the evolution:

      1. People trading goods with one another, i.e. my 5 pounds of butter for your 4 pounds of cheese.
      2. People using rare, precious objects, i.e. seashells, precious metals, round stone thingies.
      3. People using coins.
      4. People using paper money and cheques.
      5. People using credit and debit cards.

      The smart card is just another debit card, which is just another form of cash. To be truly c

  • Japanese commuters have had plastic travel since around 1991 in most Tokyo stations, paid directly by your company. The only reason you would buy a ticket is to use a route other than your regular commuter one.

    News a bit thin today?
    • Your talking "plastic" cards are just magnetic cards. In those days, we must insert them into the ticket gate machine. Those magnetic cards are just commutation-tickets, and the companies are just paying their commuting fares beforehand. This SUICA (I don't know what it stands for, but, in Japanese, the word "SUIKA" means "watermelon" :)) NYT is discussing, does communication to gate machines via Radio so we can go through without taking that card out from wallet. It will sometimes save great cost and time
  • by Eese (647951) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:42AM (#5518933)
    While the money in this instance is anonymous, is anyone else reminded of those scanners from Minority Report that just "pinged" you as you walk by? I wouldn't like the idea of being forced to walk around carrying RF-emitting devices. If I wanted to, by all means, but I would rather this not become the norm, personally.
    • by tekunokurato (531385) <jackphelps@gmail.com> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:52AM (#5518963) Homepage
      No. If there's no link to your accounts, there needn't be a link to you. When you buy a metrocard in NY (as a previous poster discussed) do you have to input your ID? not at all. Sure, you may pay for it with a credit card, but if your goal is not to carry cash, how else would you pay for anything anyway?
      • There is still a big brother implication. Your metrocard is not linked to you, but it does have a UID that's recorded on every ride. If the cops arrest you, they take your metrocard, and check where you've been with it.

        They've used it to disprove people's alibis so far. That seems like a pretty acceptable use, to me. It also seems like they might easily slip into less acceptable uses. I don't even know what that might be, but it makes me nervous.
      • Metrocards do have a serial number assigned to each one. Therefore, a MetroCard paid for using cash still has a travel history. If a police officer arrested you and found the card in your possession, the police could get a report of every place you've been while you used the card.
    • Certainly something to be concerned about, as discussed in RFID tags [slashdot.org]. At the same time does this open a new market for those wanting to remain anonymous? For example, a small metal wallet to contain your smart cards that acts as a Faraday cage. Or a home scanner that zaps RFID tags rendering them useless. Or a detector that alerts the wearer to any devices trying to read smartcards and RFID. For the truely paranoid, it could set off a jammer. The ideas are endless, patent pending.
    • I subscribe to Big Brother conspiracies as quickly as the next /.'er, but I'd personally be more worried about /.'er's themselves... How about war-driving for smart cards?

    • I would be a bit concerned about the storage of personal details on an RF-emitting device as well. Our local bus company has a smartcard system which stores the expiry date, name, address, and credit details of the user on each card. I really wouldn't like the idea of having this information being held on a RF-emitting device. That would seem only likely to increase the chances of identity theft. Criminals have already set up fake ATM machines. Setting up a fake smart-card transceiver would seem even easi
    • Actually, railway company keeps record of you and that "Commutation-Card". When you purchase your "commutation ticket" in Japan, you must write your name, address and company name on the application document. And, you can get your card reissued when you lost your card, because railway company can disable lost card by its unique ID recorded on their computer. But, in current implementation, this can not truly work as a Big Brother tracking system, because the card cannot be read until it is put to the ticket
    • In Hong Kong many housing estates, offices and schools are using the Octopus [octopuscards.com] card for identification. There are 9 million cards in Hong Kong with a population of only 7 million. One of the reasons is that some people require two cards - perhaps one for the office and travel, maybe another for the housing estate.

      I went to a conference [hkiiexpo.com] recently and I was required to register with my Octopus Card to get entry to the conference floor. It was useful because I went back later in the week and of course I had the
        1. School kids use them to get into school and a roll call is instantly made up. Entry and exit to the school can then be monitored.

        Thug: McFly, you will bring my ID card to my classes, right?

        Victim: Well, Biff, it's not nice to cut --

        Thug: Did I ask your opinion? Why else would I sign up for the same classes as you? And oh -- I better get a good grade on that report.

      • I was in Hong Kong as a tourist last year and picked up one of these Octopus cards. Really neat actually. I bought it to use it for the local transit. Everythign from subway to minibus to ferry and trolley up the mountain can be paid with this card. And if you get hungry to can buy a meal from McDonald's, KFC or one of the HK fast food place (can't remember the names).

        The neatest thing of all was when I got thirty and found vending machines that took the same cards. For small transactions, this card was gr
    • These cards don't have that kind of range. Maybe 10cm max.
  • by brejc8 (223089) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:43AM (#5518937) Homepage Journal
    Finally people are making systems which they know might be cracked. After doing power analasis of processors I would not be happy if my bank said that the data is fully secure and no one can break into it. I would prefair if they said well people could break into it but they will only be able to steal x ammount before the card is canceled.
    • How the heck is that going to work? If somebody hacks through your bank account using your account information, how do they distinguish between legitmate uses by you and by the hacker? Heck, even if somebody doesn't hack into your account, how do they distinguish between you and a possible hacker?

      Fact of the matter is, nothing is secure in this world. Things can be made secure enough so that there's a major deterrence to hack into it, but there's always a way. I don't just mean pure Internet hacking - ther
  • by bushboy (112290)
    There's so many cool ideas that only Japan seems to have.

    I think this is one of them.

    Japanese citizens seem almost Zenlike in thier capacity to accept such civilised ideas.

    By comparison, in much of the rest of the world, this idea won't work simply because of the cultural background.
    • by k_187 (61692)
      Nope, here in DC the Metrorail has pretty much the same thing. They call it smartrip and you have an account with them that you put money into and then your trips are deducted from that. They're pretty money (for lack of a better term ;) especially in that since they only cost 5 bucks I've been able to get them replaced twice and saved myself 30 compared to the normal cards they use.
    • I think it would work in most of the world.
      The exception being the US, where many people seem to have an abnormal fear of having anyone being able to identify them by other means than fingerprint or dna-sample.
      But this would not be connected to your identity in any other way than that it's you who carry the card.
      The card has a unique id and can be traced to you if you bought it with you creditcard.
      But it is in no way less anonymous than, say, a plastic card with a magnetic strip on the back.
      So it might work
  • Great idea! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xenna (37238) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:45AM (#5518941)
    Now the banks can actually collect interest on the money in your pocket!

    If you lose your card and noone else finds it, the money goes to the banks as well!

    A win-win situation!

    X.
    • Re:Great idea! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tekunokurato (531385)
      I know the "win-win" remark above was sarcastic, but think of it like this:

      First, there's virtually no interest to be collected in Japan regardless. Short rates are practically zero, and barely enough to recoup transaction costs.

      Second, let's say the bank actually WAS collecting interest on your cash. Well, what are you going to do with it? You've got two choices: you can bury your money and not let anyone make any interest off it (because you're certainly not using it productively if it's sitting in you
    • I highly doubt that - the banks have every reason to make this desirable and easy to use, so protections would be put in place similar to the credit card fraud protection that is now common.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hong Kong has had a similar system for years - the Octopus card. An RF smartcard where you can add money when you need them. Your balance can even go in minus for a couple of trips until the next time you get a chance to fill it up (the card has a 50HKD deposit).
    • And---The Octopus not just for taking bus and train of one company.
      You can pay all local bus company, all railway system, and all 7-Eleven, all Circle-OK, Supermarket, McDonald's...u name it...with the octopus card. It's a must have for everyone in Hong Kong, not just for train rider.
  • by Compact Dick (518888) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:45AM (#5518943) Homepage

    Does this mean that if you get stuck in a revolving door, you go broke quick?
  • Belgium : proton (Score:5, Informative)

    by selderrr (523988) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:46AM (#5518947) Journal
    We've got this for quite a few years now in belgium. All small stores have cardreaders now. Parking meters, payphones, cola machines, even movie theaters. I rarely carry cash anymore. The only disadvantages so far are that it doesn't work (yet) outside belgium, and that the readers seem to be a bit more fragile than coin-operated machines. The coke machine in our building has a crashed card reader once every 2 week. But apparently the machine resets itself every day, so the next morning they're back OK.

    For the merchants, the advantage is 2fold : no cash in the store so less attractive to thieves, but also there is no permanent connection needed with the bank : the cardreader can store the balance internally, and upload a transaction log at the end of the day. This makes proton payment a lot cheaper for the merchants (payment by visa costs a percentage, and payment by bankcard costs a fixed fee)
    • Re:Belgium : proton (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CvD (94050)
      We have the same here in the Netherlands (its called ChipKnip). You forgot to mention one of the more annoying problems: you don't know how much you are carrying. You can't look at your card and find out how much money is still on it.

      Actually, this would be a cool application for that plastic flexible panel display thingy that was on /. a while back, have it embedded on your card. The only problem with this would be powersupply.

      And yeah, the readers are very suceptible to dirt and other crap. Also the met
      • Re:Belgium : proton (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GroovBird (209391)
        Banksys, the company that runs the Proton system, produces keychains that let you figure out the amount you have on your card. It will also show you your last five transactions. Plus, you can check the amount in any card reader in any location, wether they are credit or debit readers.

        Dave
      • by whovian (107062)
        Probably not too expensive of an option would be to put flash memory inside to store the value and embed a solar cell on the card to read the memory and then display the value.
    • Yep, Proton/ChipKnip/(whatever else it's called in different countries) is supposed to be the cashless cash.

      Too bad it leaks information like mad. Check out: http://www.klaphek.nl/nr3/chipcards2.html

      Some points from it:
      * "All things considered, ChipKnip (proton) is a big improvement - whereas before (with standard ATM Cash machines) only banks could keep track of what the consumer bought from whom and for how much, now ChipKnip enables the mutual spying of both consumer and vendor"
      * "Cash Register General
  • The Wallet Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dmorin (25609) <dmorinNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:48AM (#5518951) Homepage Journal
    Smart cards are at least partly failing to catch on because of what I call "the wallet problem". Fine, you have a cash card for the subway. and one for the parking lot. And one for the office cafeteria. And the mall. Pretty soon you have a wallet of nothing but cash cards, each carrying $20 here or $50 there and none of them interchangeable.

    Visa and MC work because there's a single standard with multiple providers. Everybody takes Visa, nobody says "Oh, whoa, hey, we don't take the GM Visa, we only take the Wachovia Visa." So there's a massive hurdle to overcome for cash cards to really catch on. You want to make a generic cash card that people can use anywhere. But if you do that, then naturally you will want to fill it with more cash...which, in turn, makes it more risky to lose it, which makes less people want to sponsor them. Note that I don't say "to use them", because I think that people would put $100+ on a cash card and want to use it to go shopping (think of the new "gift cards" that people get for the mall). I said sponsor because once you get beyond a certain amount, if somebody loses it, they're gonna scream and say "I don't care about your policy, I demand you get me my money back."

    Know what I mean? What's a good solution that that problem? I suppose the solution is for Visa to sponsor a cash card, which seems like it would be very similar to the whole "debit card" concept that caught on very rapidly once the banks were able to say "Use your checking account money just like Visa."

    • The solution is to have a card which can 'contain' cash cards from different providers. Then you could have a single card which holds data for all of your cash cards, and you wouldn't be locked in to a single supplier like Visa/MC.

      Governments really should get off their asses and implmement these, free of charge. How can they pretend that this type of money isn't a basic service that should be handled by them?
      • > The solution is to have a card which can 'contain' >cash cards from different providers. Then you could >have a single card which holds data for all of your >cash cards, and you wouldn't be locked in to a >single supplier like Visa/MC.

        Doesn't solve the basic problem. I'll give you $8 in the public transit account, $6 in the prepaid video rentals account, and $10 in the gambling machine payout voucher account. Now buy something costing $20.
    • by GregWebb (26123)
      When Mondex was trialled a while back in the UK, it didn't take long for the encryption to be hacked and people to get essentially free money added to their cards on demand.

      If this sort of card system is to be long-term practical, it can't be the wallet. It has to be the key that opens the remote safe, or someone will eventually find out how to put money into the wallet without putting the corresponding bills into the account that backs it up. Yes, I know that slows it down but it's necessary.
    • You see this in every industry. It is one of the nastier side effects of "intellectual property" monopolies. The problem is that nobody will work together to create a standard, or stay together to improve it because there are inhernet risks that sharing information and collaberating cause when it's contributors can be locked out from the fruits of their own contributions.

      You saw it with CPU's, BIOS, and PC's where the market was seriously fragmented until IBM came out with one that could be coppied witho
  • by Marijuana al-Shehi (609113) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:48AM (#5518952)

    Do you want these cashless smart cards to "catch on" in America too? Call them X-treme Cash Cards! Apparently the only way to get people to buy something here is to call it X-treme, Extreme, etc..., and to inform your target market that your product doesn't support terrorists. And while you're at it, give them a few designs to choose from: Avril Lavigne, Goody Mob, Dixie Chicks, and Dale Earnhardt so they can express their individuality (very important).

    As soon as these things start getting stolen through violence, the sheeple will line up for their cashless laser tattoo forehead bar codes. I give it five years tops.

    • Hey, isn't that in the Book of Revelation?

      16: He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead,
      17: so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.

      Originally I thought this sounded eerily similar to fingerprints and retinal scanners. But I'm just an occultist quack, and an OT one at that. :p
    • Violence? Will this be a real problem compared to conventional muggings. If they get your wallet and credit cards, you're equally screwed. Of course there are easy solutions to the mugging problem, like issuing concealed handgun licenses to anyone who meets certain qualification (like we do in Texas), or just carry a bogus card in your other pocket (for those who live in NYC).

      • If they get your wallet and credit cards, you're equally screwed...

        Actually nearly every credit card agreement (that small print on the back of your application) limits your liability should your card be stolen and you notify the issuer in a timely manner. Of course, our Republican-controlled Congress is probably one one "donation" away from eliminating this protection.

    • Dixie Chicks [cnn.com]

      <flame suit on>

      I thought you said to say the product didn't support terrorism?

  • A few comments... (Score:4, Informative)

    by BJH (11355) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:50AM (#5518961)

    Japan in general, and the Tokyo area in particular, has had a form of prepaid card for use at train stations for several years. These cards are of the "magnetic stripe" type, and have to be fed through the ticket gate to work. The ticket gates have a tendency to jam occasionally, requiring human intervention to get them working again.

    The main advantage of the Suica cards is that they just have to be held against a panel on the ticket gate - as they're RF based, there's no moving parts to get jammed.

    The main disadvantage of these particular cards is that they don't offer the same flexibility in routes that the "old" cards have - you have to be travelling between two JR (Japan Rail) stations to be able to use them. I commute on a train that switches from a JR train to a subway train (separate organization - same train) halfway along my route, which means I can't use the Suica cards.

    In spite of what the article says, I haven't really noticed them being used for anything other than commuting.
  • I want one (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Openadvocate (573093) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:52AM (#5518966)
    I want to place one in one of my windows. Outside there's a crowded sidewalk. I am sure noone would mind me getting one cent for every person walking by, as I am sure they never will discover it.
    • This issue was raised re: the Octopus card in Hong Kong as well. What prevents people from just wandering around lifting 'cash' out of people's contactless cards is that ultimately they have to get the real cash from the entity that collected it. Sure, you can go around trying to take money from people's Suica cards, but then you're going to approach JR East and ask them to give you real money? All you have is a bunch of long encrypted strings.
  • by oliverjms (548028)
    They are currently testing this on the underground in London:

    http://www.transportforlondon.gov.uk/tfl/oyster_ ca rd.shtml
  • by ch-chuck (9622) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:54AM (#5518973) Homepage
    I know I should have been there this time of night but we had this party, anyway, I was walking down 8th street and this guys jumps out of the alleyway, points this box at me, it had these glowing lights, like, oh, you know, those led thingys? And it went 'beep beep' - I didn't think anything of it but now my smart card is empty!! I had $89.45 in it and now it's all gone!!
    • Unfortunately this is low-crime Japan. You'd have to spend a few minutes explaining to the police what mugging means, and convincing them that someone would be so dishonourable as to do such a thing.
      • Yeah, and when you finally make them understand there's been a mugging, they can write out a confession for you to sign...you are a foreigner, after all, and you're always at fault in any possible situation.
  • I'm in Japan... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mossfoot (310128) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:55AM (#5518975) Homepage
    .... and I can tell you first hand these are pretty darn efficient. After all, having a train pass is just for a set point A to point B, but with the Suica Card, you just use it whenever you need to. I still prefer to use my bike when I can, but when I take the train I see more and more people using the Suica card. Of course to get the card it costs about 2000 yen (20 bucks give or take) but once you have it you don't need to get another.
  • conducts transactions at railway turnstiles in 1/5 of a second

    Can we make the transactions take more time to execute. Id like to have a stripper to be in front of me for several minutes before charges on my account are deducted. :D

    later,
  • by arvindn (542080) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:58AM (#5518984) Homepage Journal
    Riders take the cards to vending machines and add as much money as they want.
    I'm not sure this is such a good idea. It would be better to have a fixed maximum. That way, losing the card involves no more risk than losing paper money. I recall a similar initiative in France a while ago, where they had an upper limit. If there's a cap you're not putting all your eggs into one basket, and you get a pretty good idea of how much money you are carrying even when you are not near a card reading machine.
    • by BJH (11355)
      Believe it or not, it's an *improvement* over the old system. Normal train passes here in Japan can only be bought for 1, 3 or 6 month spans, with the cost per month lower the longer the span. That meant that, in order to get the cheapest fare (which is all your company will pay out), you had to buy the six-month pass, and carry the equivalent of several hundred dollars (if you live far out of Tokyo, it could be over a $US1000) in your pocket in the form of a thin piece of plastic. If you lost it, tough.

      At
  • by zm (257549)
    Bell Canada has been selling cash smart cards for use in public phones for a while now...
  • Hello? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The Netherlands have this for like 5 years. Ok no RF, but it has a chip in it. And its finally catching on, mostly because parking lot and train ticket devices require it. Actually I only have to carry 'real money' when going to a club or so. Oh, and instead of credit cards we use bank cards with PIN, which work better also (minimum fraud). So just 2 plastic cards is what you need.
  • In response to Japan's cahsfree smart card, the Bush administration is unveiling the cashfree school. The main difference from the old system is the replacement of funding with tax breaks. No longer will you have to attend a properly funded school. Instead you can stop paying taxes on dividends, and send your kids to a private school. This is sure to help American workers' employers' CEO's rich uncles. And fight terrorism.
  • I was in Japan this time last year and I used the RF/Prox card for the metro, as well as the traditional magnetic strip tickets. The card is very quick indeed to get through the turnstyles, but the normal ticket system can easily cope with the levels of use and is also just as fast. The only way this benefits the customer is missing the queues to buy/adjust the ticket value at the beginning/end of the journey.

    Where I live here in Edinburgh, the busses have a similar sort of card (time, not distance based t
  • Speedpass anyone? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jpellino (202698) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @10:20AM (#5519055)
    Just got my speedpass timex watch - no more key tag - I'll prolly give that to my wife - the windw tage never did work on my dodge neon's back window, so that was out.

    I like the idea of speedpass being used at gas and other small place - mcd's, dunkin's - for the most part if I lose it, the money is safe (so they say so far) and what's the worst someone could do - buy a tank of gas, drive for a day then buy another - i'd figure it out by then.

    Plus anyone who has a debit card and uses it for purchases AND atms - it wears out about halfway thru it's expiration date from people treating it like a sanding tool at the checkout.

    Negroponte told a neat story a few years back - about the ski pass rfid's in switzerland - he went to pull out cash at a small store to buy some chocolate, and was fishing for change and the cashier saw his spent ski pass - he offered to take it for the payment - nn asked why, and the guy said they're worth 5 francs deposit when you turn them back - when pressed, the cashier said he piles them up and pays the bread vendor - the bread vendor piles up piles from the stores he delivers to , one of which was the ski resort, and turns them in en masse!

    it was nn's arguement for how micropayments are easier than we think. speedpass isn't exactly micropayments given the price of petrol, but it's close, easy, cheaper for the shop (debit vs credit) and certainly easy for me.
    • From the FAQ on www.speedpass.com:

      "What will my billing statement look like?

      Purchases made with your Speedpass will be identified by retailer on your billing statement just like purchases made with a physical credit card."

      so it looks like (I could be wrong) that speedpass
      is just a handy way of using a creditcard like Amazon's one-click checkout. So you leave an audit trail - it's not cash.

      • it just pushes the payment to my debit/credit card.
        yes there's an audit trail.
        a new implementation could change that, but for non-trivial purchases, don't you want that? choose one:
        a: "i swear I paid for that - see - it's right here on this statement"
        b: "i swear i paid for that - see? it's right here on the record you have that shows that anyone on the planet might have deposited those funds. trust me."

        the MYOB argument about who spent what is a juicy libertarian tidbit, but the reality of using money a
  • Old news (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    As people have already stated, this kind of technology is already in use in many Asian countries (e.g. Hong Kong and Singapore) and even in old Europe :) It's not just for transportation (bus, train, taxi, parking, etc), it's also used for small purchases (e.g. 7-Eleven).

    There is no personal tracking involved - nobody knows who owns a card (a card might have a unique ID on it, but you don't give any form of identification to buy a card).

    Do you yanks ever wonder that perhaps your rabid paranoia about priva
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Malaysia has the exact same system which is used for paying road toll, bus fares and for Light Rail Transit ticket. It's also been extended to be used in Car Parks. It's called the Touch-N-GO card
  • Cards with cash on them? Imagine what you could do with a Beowulf cluster of those! ;)
  • by TheLink (130905) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @10:33AM (#5519093) Journal
    They're called Touch n Go cards here in Malaysia.

    http://www.touchngo.com.my/

    They can be used for the light rail transport in the capital, highway toll booths (proximity or stick them in a gadget aka smartTAG that allows remote deduction/payment at up to 40kph[1]), a few parking lots and you can reload them at certain bank ATMs.

    Of course there are the usual complaints of double deductions etc.

    And I wonder about pranksters deducting from cards just for fun (you often don't need to take the card out of your wallet/purse for it to work).

    Also wonder if the organized crime syndicates have figured out a way to "make money".

    Link.

    [1] If the transaction doesn't go through the toll bar doesn't go up, so caution is encouraged :).
  • by psi6030 (105079)
    The MTR in HK has this - buy an Octopus card [hk-hotel.com] for (refundable deposit) HK$50, use it up buy sweeping it over entry and exit to train stations or on buses, and top it up when it gets low (balance displayed on each sweep).

  • The Chicago Transit Authority already uses these. They've been going cashless for at least 5 years and have had the non-swiping cards for about a year.
  • Mass transit remains one of the big areas for many folks where you just can't live without cash- this would be a big improvement over digging in the couch for exact change ... "

    Yes, especially since you won't need to carry the couch with you on the train.

  • by The Wing Lover (106357) <awh@awh.org> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @11:42AM (#5519363) Homepage
    GO Transit in Ontario, Canada, has implemented a similar system on its Richmond Hill line, as a test.

    GO uses a Proof of Payment system -- you buy your tickets, and then "cancel" one ride off a multi-ride ticket before you get on the train, and you have to prove to the inspector, if she checks, that you have purchased and cancelled your tickets.

    The Smart Card system that GO uses is great -- it can store up to 255 pre-paid rides and 2 monthly passes (ie, one for this month and one for next month). To cancel your ride, you don't even need to take it out of you wallet -- just hold the wallet up to the card reader. The machines work far faster and with much less downtime than the old style of "punching your tickets" ride cancellers. Even providing proof of payment is as simple as letting the inspector scan your card with a handheld card reader.

    It's a great system and I hope they replace the old system on the other lines soon.
  • by bj8rn (583532)
    ...no, we don't have cash smart cards. But one or two cellphone operators are experimenting with systems that allow you to buy tickets for public transport (mostly buses) using a cellphone. You just have dial a certain number (depends on whether it's an one-hour or 30-day ticket etc) and you'll get an SMS to prove that you have paid for your ride. An alternative version of this includes a magnetic card so you wouldn't have to <i>show</i> your cellphone to the ticket collector. The price of the t
  • Burlington, Ontario, Canada's transit system has used a ComboCard [burlington.ca] for at least seven years. It was super handy. I never understood why the big systems like the TTC in Toronto [toronto.on.ca] didn't use it.

    The Ontario EDCO newsletter had a list of transit systems [edco.on.ca] using smart cards (issue dated February,2000).

  • What the article doesn't mention (or I missed) was how they plan to prevent unauthorized transactions. What's to stop someone from walking through the subway or mall with an antenna and grabbing $1 from everyone's wallet?

    I'm not saying there aren't solutions to this problem, I'm just curious what solution in particular they are planning on using.

    dan.
  • Thank you thank you. I'm here all week. Try the veal.
  • I didn't get a chance to take the train while I was there, but I know the busses work on this system. You was your card (or wallet) in front of the reader and it beeps. When you get off the bus, you wave it again, and the amount is deducted from the card, which can be refilled at a machine. (Bus travel in Singapore costs different amounts based on the distance you're travelling. If you don't have a card, you have to determine and prepay the amount, which is a pain.) As with everything there, if you try to c
  • Finland (Score:2, Interesting)

    Hoping to comment the right post this time..

    We've had those smart cards in use in Finland for many years now. Most are city-specific, so you can't use them outside that particular city they are for. The uses for those smartcards are in electrical identification, so you don't need usernames and passwords, only a card and a pin number (and a cardreader), and mass transportation. You can also pay your purchases in some shops with those cards. Some can be read from a distance, so you don't have to take them o
  • is introducing cards like these later this year. All the turnstiles have been modified & cards are being used by staff as a trial. Not sure of the actual released-to-the-public date.
  • Hmm... a stored value card for mass-transit fares. Brilliant. They were doing it in Washington, D. C. in 1999, probably earlier. The card was disposable, thick paper, and had a black (presumably magnetic) stripe, and they printed the remaining value ON the card when the reader spat the card out. Very helpful.
  • Cash cards in Europe (Score:2, Interesting)

    by subri (658313)
    This concept is quite hot in european countries - like The Netherlands. It is just a smart chip on your credit card / ATM card. There are machines attached to almost all ATM machines which will help you load cash into this chip. Typically one would load about $5 worth of cash. The advantage is, it replaces the annoying coins - more than it does cash. No more coins to count. I thought it was a neat idea.
  • In Moscow, subway system have been using contactless RF Card since 1998 [metro.ru]. You wave the card at sensor and that's it (same as SpeedPass for gas station). Really fast, rechargeable, easy to use.

    They say one guy was hiding RF card uner his cap, and then amazed controller ladies by taking a bow in front of sensor. Of course it worked and it'd let him through :)
  • by ashitaka (27544) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @08:49PM (#5521526) Homepage
    As everyone and his dog pointed out there are no shortage of similar cards elsewhere, but none of the names can match up with the profound punnery that applies to the Japanese card.

    From another web site:

    "Suica stands for Super Urban Intelligent Card, which has the double meaning of being an IC card that makes traveling smooth (sui-sui in Japanese)."

    What they leave out though, is that the cards are a green and white colour, that of a Japanese watermelon, known as, wait for it... Suica!
  • by stuartcw (93333) on Sunday March 16, 2003 @12:39AM (#5522256) Homepage
    I use my Suica card every working day in part of my commute between Yokohama and Tokyo.

    Once a month I renew my travel pass by placing the card in the machine in the station. The touch screen UI is quite sophisticated allowing you decide when the pass will start and giving you the choice of whether you need a reciept or not so that you can claim the cost on your expenses.

    The best feature is that you can also "charge" the card with money and use it as a travel card outside of your normal route. i.e. If you pass for the journey between B to C and one day have to take the train from A to D i.e A-B-C-D it will deduct the charge for the A-B and C-D sections and not charge you for B-C which is covered by your pass.

    Every station has notebook PC in the office where the station staff can take the card and look at it if there was a problem. During the first week of introduction there were a few glitches and the stationmaster reset the "bad" count on my card after my card prevented me from getting out of the station thinking that I had jumped the gate at the previous station.

    Recently while playing with the machine in the station I found that it can give you a printout of your last 50 journies which could cause privacy concerns for some people.

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