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The Transit Advantage

Will NFC-fueled transit transactions change the world?

The recent news that Apple Corp. plans to integrate Near Field Communication (NFC), a wireless technology that allows devices to communicate without the need for physical contact, into next-generation iPhones and iPads really got my attention. I think NFC-powered transactions can have a significant impact on the U.S. transit, healthcare and retail industries. Apple also plans to unveil a new payment network via its iTunes store that could affect price points and change the nature of how people purchase items around the world.

Can secure, contactless payments really become the preferred choice for consumers? In addition to early adopters such as the folks who embrace any and all of Apple’s “iProducts,” one of the key limitations to NFC adoption has been the lack of contactless payment infrastructure and instruments for purchasers to use. In the mid-2000s, credit card issuers uniformly moved toward adding contactless capabilities to bankcards. Unfortunately, the movement stalled, and it may be reversing as fewer financial institutions are deploying contactless bank cards.

However, if people have contactless payment options and can understand and trust in the improved security that contactless payment offers, chances are strong that it may become the preferred payment method, but the public’s acceptance of NFC-driven payment will require wide availability of terminal equipment to accept payments. 

This is where I believe Acumen, specifically our AcuFare 200 Smart Card Reader System, can play a significant role. We know that public transit applications require fast, convenient, rugged and secure equipment that can stand up to tons of use and transit abuse. We know NFC technology and have worked with it for years to produce terminal equipment in the transit industry. We also know it will scale to work for other applications such as secure building access control or medical records access in the health care  industry.

Our AcuFare 200 equipment features a powerful Linux-based processor that can easily add new business rules to complement closed-loop payment operations, and we are starting the bank certification process to support open-loop payment solutions.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and tell you about how Acumen’s technology can play a significant role in NFC’s emergence for transit agencies and beyond.