Transport for NSW looks to NFC, Android for Opal penalty notices

Transport for NSW looks to NFC, Android for Opal penalty notices

Summary: Transport officers may soon use NFC-enabled Android devices to determine whether Opal users are skipping their fares.


Transport for NSW is seeking expressions of interests from the IT industry to develop a mobile application to assist its transport officers with the issuing penalties for the new Opal card system.

At the moment, Sydney Trains is developing an Electronic Penalty Infringement Notice (EPIN) mobile application under closed tender. However, with the rollout of the Opal electronic ticketing system, EPIN will need a way to interface with the NFC technology Opal uses, as well as connect to its web services back end.

To do this, the expression of interest document sets out the requirements of an "Opal Revenue Protection Application" (ORPA), which will be used by transport officers via Android. In Android's case, it should be able to use the NFC reader built-in to many devices using the operating system.

Transport officers will be able to read data from Opal cards, including encrypted data, and also retrieve data from back office electronic ticketing systems.

The requirements also state that transport officers should be able to directly top up an Opal card. This is in contrast to the current methods of top up, which involve payments made through Opal's web service.

Transport for NSW expects to roll the application out to hundreds of users, each of which will read Opals cards up to 500 times in a single working shift.

Topics: Australia, Android, Government AU, Mobility, Security

Michael Lee

About Michael Lee

A Sydney, Australia-based journalist, Michael Lee covers a gamut of news in the technology space including information security, state Government initiatives, and local startups.

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  • Privacy?

    "Transport officers will be able to read data" from people's transport cards.

    The question is: What privacy training do these transport officers undergo?

    In single mode magnetic stripe cards, a transport officer could also read it. However, when the card is multi-modal, it provides entire trip information across various modes of transport. In other words, reading the card's contents can reveal your movements over a long period of time.

    Combine that with the ability for glorified security guards to read it all, and that spells trouble.
    • Don't worry it'll be bust

      I wouldn't worry too much. This is Transport NSW, so it will cost 3 or 4 times what it is budgeted to cost, will take 2 or 3 times as long as is estimated. In he end if/when it is released it'll be so broken they'll need to roll it back and have another couple of tries to make it work at all. By that time it'll be irrelevant and they'll start all over again.

      If you are really worried about it a few simple hacking attempts will reveal its problems and it'll get taken down.