Globetrotting smart card developer ERG has stepped up efforts to rid modern cities of one of their most aggravating characteristics - inefficient public transport. Its latest contribution will see the Aussie developer deliver a $US157 million smart card ticketing system to the San Francisco Bay area.
The deal is the first that ERG has captured in the US, yet with its long-term partner Motorola, the Perth-based company has already swept through Hong Kong, Singapore, and Berlin in the last couple of months, implementing its TransLink system as it goes.
"One of the reasons we won this tender was because of our experience," said Leonie Mawkes, ERG's marketing manager. Whittled down to just two final contenders, Mawkes further attributed ERG Motorola's victory to the simple concerns of price and technology. "In the end the ERG Motorola Alliance was the most cost-effective and technically advanced. ERG has had the backing of Motorola since 1985 when we formed the alliance. We also had unique technology already developed, unlike our competitors who develop particular technology only after a contract has been won."
Described as "the largest smart card deal in America to date", the 10-year San Francisco contract will include the design, supply, and implementation of the actual smart card, as well as the infrastructure for smart card and back office operations. The system will centre on the Alliance's clearinghouse and data processing network, with the front end driven by the M-Smart Venus card and reader platform.
The entire system, spanning 26 different transit agencies and an initial 500,000 cards, will be managed by the Alliance, which will support the distribution system and reload network as well. "Motorola developed the contact/contactless card. ERG developed the back-end systems and manufactures most of the hardware for the TransLink systems," Mawkes explained.
The contactless element of the card is the application that allows a commuter to simply wave the card in front of a smart card reader. Autoload capabilities enable commuters to transfer money from their bank accounts or credit cards onto the TransLink cards whenever the smart card registers a particular value.
The contact component of the technology allows additional applications to exist on a single card, such as the ability to perform public telephone payments and electronic cash applications, and to allow a user to pay for parking, buy a newspaper or a coffee from participating vendors, or catch a cab.
"The beauty of this system is that both elements exist on the same Motorola-designed chip. And ERG designs and implements the system to integrate different operators onto the same card. So the user only needs one card for different private/public operators and different modes of transport," Mawkes added.