Commuters in certain parts of Australia could soon be "tapping on and off" public transport services with their smartphones, watches, or credit cards.
Amid postponed industrial action from Sydney's train drivers and network-wide delays following a change in train timetabling, New South Wales Transport Minister Andrew Constance signalled the government was considering expanding alternate payment methods for Sydneysiders after a successful Opal card trial that began on the Manly ferry services last year.
The Opal card requires commuters to "tap on" when beginning a trip via bus, train, light rail, and ferry, and "tap off" when they reach their final destination on services operating in Sydney and many of its suburbs.
The contactless transport payment trial currently underway by Transport for NSW allows commuters to use their Mastercard on Manly to Circular Quay ferry in Sydney.
"Opal is an enormous success ... but we can now take it to a new level so people have choice," Constance told reporters on Sunday. "So they can use their iPhones, their smartwatches, and of course contactless payment through credit card."
ZDNet revealed in December the initiative was on the cards for launch in early 2018, with a spokesperson for the government entity telling ZDNet the Manly ferry trial "continues to be a success".
"Since the technical trial was launched in July, the technology has remained stable and customer feedback has been extremely positive, with users finding the new payment option intuitive and easy to use," the spokesperson said.
"The trial will continue to run through 2018 to allow Transport for NSW to gather data to inform decisions around any further expansion of contactless payments on other services and modes of transport."
In Australia, around 80 percent of face-to-face Mastercard transactions are performed using tap-and-go functionality; it's a similar story where Visa is concerned, with 92 percent of face-to-face transactions on the Visa network utilising the PayWave service.
Although the tap-and-go function is heavily utilised in Australia, less than 1 percent of contactless payments are conducted via mobile or wearable means.
Constance said offering different payment methods would not require a technology overhaul, with the current payment system already equipped to scan credit cards.
"There's an inbuilt chip that already exists in the hardware, so we've got the hardware available, what we want to do is provide people with choice," he said.
The Herald Sun reported over the weekend that Victoria's Myki system is set to introduce tap-and-go payments in June during a trial of Melbourne's new E-class trams, despite concerns from payments space consultancy firm The Initiatives Group that Myki will require an infrastructure overhaul as it wasn't built with contactless payment capabilities.
"You'd love the idea of all of the main metro areas in Australia to be openloop because you could go to any city and just tap on and tap on," The Initiatives Group managing director Lance Blockley told the WT Wearable Technologies Conference in Sydney last month. "Melbourne will be a problem."
Brisbane appears set to receive similar functionality as well.
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