Near Field Communication (NFC) is a method of wireless data transfer between devices that are within a close proximity of each other. It is a derivative of radio frequency identification (RFID) that does not require a pairing code to link the connecting devices. More information into this technology can be found in our article NFC Tech. NFC devices allow users to pay for services, get additional information and gain authorization or special privileges. This combined with the fact that it is embedded within many mobiles phones already in the pockets of local consumers makes it an attractive technology to enable a number of end customer solutions.
A solution that is particularly needed is one that addresses or alleviates some of the problems of our current transport sector. A few steps have been made to slowly to digitize SLTB and Private buses, but the potential of the technology is not being capitalized on. This article looks into the benefits that all stakeholders in the transport sector will receive through leveraging this technology.
Most bus stops do not have any details about the timing or even the routes of buses passing by (P2)
Among the many issues faced by commuters, the unpredictable nature by which our buses operate means that passengers wait for them without knowing how long they have to wait for and whether there is seating available. NFC integration with other standard technology, such as GPS (Global Positioning System), would allow passengers to locate the location of buses enroute, as well as the number of people on each bus. Already the National Transport Center has taken the incentive to commence a service to provide a real time look into the whereabouts of buses enroute but this service is still being rolled out and its benefits have not been realised.
The “Sahasara” bus project piloted in the Central Province reliably provides commuters with an NFC payment option, but this has not been expanded reliably into other bus routes. This also not been connected with the recent initiative to track the GPS coordinates of buses servicing the route. But such a combination will allow commuters to coordinate their transport better and balance the crowd within buses travelling a certain route. In addition to saving people the trouble of carrying and collecting the correct change.
Conductors have a challenging time keeping track of commuters and giving exact change to each (P3)
Owner and Conductor Benefits
Bus owners can use NFC to collect fares and monitor the number of commuters that use their busses on a daily basis. An NFC integrated GPS system can give owners a high resolution into the operation of their buses down to the price paid, and distance travelled, by each commuter. Such information will allow the identification of key bus stops and provide full transparency into the daily revenue of each bus, thereby simplifying the management of a fleet of buses. Changes to ticket prices can also be done remotely and easily ensuring that the right ticket prices are paid, and that commuters are reliably informed beforehand about changes to the pricing of their daily commute.
Besides the immediate benefits owners can also use the information provided by such a system to also determine the most cost-effective departure times and better manage resources by observing the demand for each bus route.
Conductors have the benefits of not having to carry so much of change. At the same time whether the customer is using an NFC card or their mobile phone it is possible for the conductor to check the last transaction made to ensure that the ticket has been paid, simplifying their search for free riders. The nfc reader device interface to makes it easier conductors to print tickets and charge the exact amount from each commuter.
The improvements will greatly improve our current road transportation system with minimal infrastructure investment (P4)
Down the road
A mass adoption of NFC payments in the local market will also encourage other businesses to come on board to offer the same service to their customers. Value Added Services can be built on top of this system to allow companies and small businesses to collaborate with buses along particular routes, to offer discounts and other value added packages for riders. Such a system integrated onto a mobile phones application will also allow for customer’s to keep track of their spending, providing them with financial management services. We have a look at some of these consumer applications in our article here.