Olympics tickets could double as cash, travel cards

Summary:The London 2012 Games may pioneer smart tickets that can also be used as contactless payment and Oyster travel cards

The London 2012 Olympics could be set to pioneer smart tickets that double up as contactless payment and Oyster cards.

Research into a 'cashless' Olympics and the "feasibility of integrating systems for ticketing, ID authentication and transport", is currently being carried out by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (Post), an independent body that advises MPs on matters of science and technology.

"The Olympics offer an opportunity to showcase new technology; for example it is hoped that spectators will be issued with electronic tickets integrated with a cash card and the London Oyster travel pass," Post's website reads.

Post will publish its guidance on the subject, Technology for the Olympics, in the House of Commons Library in July, where it will be used to provide policy guidance for MPs.

Andrew Miller, chairman of the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee (Pitcom), urged the Games's organisers to embrace the research.

"I think that we have the opportunity to do something special. I hope that what this Post report does is to enthuse people to think in those terms," he said.

Miller said such a system would assist both the 2012 Games and future major public events.

"There is huge potential to improve the visitor experience, the management of cash flow and security and identification issues using integrated smartcard technology.

"For instance, I went to watch the cricket at Headingley in Yorkshire and wanted to buy tickets. They didn't take cheque or Visa card and I had to walk into the village to use a cash machine with 100 other people, which is ludicrous in this day and age."

Alex Smith, research analyst at Canalys, praised the concept but said should such a scheme go ahead, work should have already begun on putting the infrastructure in place.

"Managing the transport for the London 2012 Games is going to be a bit of a nightmare with the numbers of additional people coming in. Any IT management they can put in place will make it run a bit more smoothly," he said.

"But if they are serious about getting it in place for the 2012 Olympics then it really should be underway today. If that is the route they want to take they really cannot afford to delay any further."

The idea of combining a contactless payment card with ticketing capability is not new: Barclays OnePulse credit card, launched in 2007, has both Oyster card and NFC payments functionality.

It is thought that, under the scenario being examined by Post, Olympics tickets would use the same contactless tech as OnePulse: Visa's payWave.

Visa has already announced that it hopes large areas of the UK will have shops with readers for contactless payWave cards by the time the Olympics take place in 2012 and aims to have six million cards in use by the end of 2009.

A Visa spokeswoman told ZDNet UK's sister site, silicon.com: "Visa payWave contactless functionality has numerous applications but a decision is yet to be taken on the technological implications for the Olympics."

While the cost of tickets for the Games will include travel on public transport in London — suggesting the likelihood of a combined Olympics ticket and Oyster card — the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games said it is still deciding on its ticketing strategy.

While companies and the public sector are still debating future technology for the Olympics, Pitcom's Miller said organisers of large public events in the UK should seek to build on systems that have been used successfully in the past.

"The opportunities to improve will continue over successive events and the lessons can be learnt not just for sporting events but for any mass participation events such as music festivals," he said.

"I urge the 2012 Games organisers to learn the lessons from previous events. It is an opportunity to fly the flag about what we are good at," he added.

Topics: Emerging Tech

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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