Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cashless Society? Micropayments up for disruption

New Zealand, although small, is a long way ahead in many aspects compared to the UK. Some of their new schemes are being adopted by the UK government. What I remember from my first trip here 6 years ago was the impact of the EFTPOS system. Long before the UK was using Chip and PIN New Zealand was moving towards a cashless society with the ubiquitous EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer Point of Sale) cards and terminals.

The system is good and robust. But the one place you can't find it for some of those micropayments is on the public transport system. Buses would benefit from some form of electronic payment system.

There is one drawback of the system in it's implementation today, the time taking to pay. For small payments, say a Moro (think Mars) Bar at the local dairy (corner shop) is the time taken for the system to recognise the card and for the user to select the account (Cheque, Savings or Card) and input their PIN. This would certainly slow down the boarding process.

Many cities use RFID based cards for public transport. Hong Kong has the Octopus Card, Singapore has EZLink, London has Oyster. What form could a Kiwi card take. The public transport system in Wellington is very good, Well supported with Buses and Trains having one card available to pay for travel on both would be beneficial. Even better if it could be extended to Auckland and Christchurch as well. In my mind the Kiwi Card is an RFID base system that has strategic top-up locations near transport hubs (train stations, platforms, bus stops) that I could use my EFTPOS card to add balance. A system that would mean no cash laying around to be collected by vandals and would speed up boarding times as it would be a standard proximity based system.

Now I just need to find a VC.....

Bus 2.0

Walking around the compact city centre in downtown Wellington you gradually become aware of the grid of wires above your head.

Having stretched the use of trams here into the late 40's the re-emergence of electrified public transport in the form of trolley buses is good to see.

The first thing that strikes you is how quiet they are compared to their diesel counterparts. The next observation is that many of them seem to be conversions from old diesel buses, extending the life.

There has also been investment in a new, purpose built, fleet that runs around the city and out to the suburbs. There are many cities in the UK that would certainly benefit from such a fleet of electric buses. Cambridge with it's narrow streets would be an easy city to retrofit and the benefits to the stone architecture of the colleges with less diesel fumes would be noticeable.