Mobile phones let Scottish drivers pay and display

Edinburgh becomes the first UK city to implement an automatic cellphone-based pay and display parking system

Drivers wanting to park at one of central Edinburgh's pay-and-display (P&D) car parks can now use their mobile phones to pay the fee.

A new system allows drivers to use their mobile phones to call an automated call centre and either pay their parking fee with a credit card or charge the fee to a pre-registered FastPay account with the Royal Bank of Scotland. When the parking fee is paid, the nearest P&D terminal will receive an authorisation signal from the call centre and print out a ticket for the driver to display.

Edinburgh City Council expects the mPARK phone pay system to reduce the number of people that do not buy tickets and minimise the number of coins that are stored in the P&D machines -- making them less attractive to thieves.

Transcomm, a wireless network operator, won the contract to maintain the connection between the call centre and the P&D terminals. According to the company, it was in direct competition with technologies such as GSM and GPRS, but won the deal because its network's performance is not affected by voice calls: "Having an independent, data-only network means we can consistently provide users with a reliable high level of service as we do not have to carry millions of voice calls that can affect the performance of GSM and GPRS data services provided by large mobile phone operators," said Andrew Carver, chief executive of Transcomm, in a statement.

Chips with everything
In other news, UK banking group Halifax Bank of Scotland has ordered 40 million smart cards for its UK customers over the next two years. The deal with smart-card maker Gemplus is part of the banking group's plans to migrate its customers from traditional credit and debit cards with magnetic stripes to more secure chip-based cards.

The smartcards comply with the EMV standard, which was created in 1996 by Europay, MasterCard and Visa. All credit and debit cards in Europe are expected to be smart cards by 2005.

According to the Halifax Bank of Scotland group, the UK will have an estimated 120 million smart cards in use by 2005.