RFID hooks ride on German mass transit

Efforts to introduce electronic-ticketing systems in Germany's huge mass transit sector have moved forward with the successful testing of a smart card system that combines RFID (radio frequency identification).

T-Systems International GmbH, the IT services and infrastructure arm of German telco Deutsche Telekom AG, has developed an e-ticketing system in collaboration with the German Mass Transit Authority (VDV), which represents hundreds of regional bus and train companies in the country, said Frankfurt-based T-Systems in a statement on Thursday.

The system consists of several components: the so-called "VDV core application," a semiconductor-based smart card equipped with a miniature antenna, RFID technology for retrieving data from the cards over the airwaves and sensor-based card readers.

The technology allows passengers to pass by a card reader without having to swipe or insert their cards into the device.

Customer data, such as identification number and pricing, are contained on a chip embedded in the smart card. "This is not an RFID chip, which essentially is dumb, but a chip that contains an operating and software application," said T-Systems spokesman Albert Hold. "All data is encrypted for secure transmission."

RFID is used in the process because the radio technology doesn't require the embedded chips to be powered in order to retrieve information, according to Hold. Also, the cards can be read remotely.

"With our system, passengers don't have to remove the cards from their wallets," he said.

T-Systems has also developed a back-end application for processing usage and billing data. The company aims to host the application in its own data centers.

The necessary hardware will be supplied by equipment manufacturers, which have yet to be announced, according to Hold.

T-Systems hopes to start marketing the e-ticketing system to German mass transit companies after approval of the VDV core application standard, which is expected in June, the spokesman said.

Numerous mass transit companies in the country have expressed interest in the system, which aims to reduce operating costs and curb manipulation from paper-based tickets, according to Hold.

The e-ticketing venture is one of many RFID projects in Germany, which is at the forefront of smart-tag development in Europe.

Metro AG, one of the world's largest retail groups, which is based in D

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