NSW Transport kicks off trial of Opal digital card

It comes just over a year after the state transport service allowed commuters to pay for travel on public transport with credit and debit cards in lieu of their Opal card.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor
Image: Screenshot/Transport for NSW

Transport for New South Wales has announced it has kicked off a 12-month trial of the Opal digital card, which will enable commuters to "tap on" and "tap off" public transport using their digital wallet on their smartphone or watch.

Transport for NSW said it has partnered with Mastercard, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and EML Payments to deliver the trial to up to 10,000 adult Opal customers.

"We have seen the increased popularity of using a digital wallet to conduct shopping and access membership cards, so we're delighted to be taking Opal digitally for the first time while providing the same Opal card benefits to adult customers," a Transport for NSW spokesperson said.

As part of the trial, the Opal digital card will initially be available on Apple Wallet for iPhones or Apple Watches, Samsung Pay on Samsung Phones, with plans to also add it to Google Pay shortly.

Opal users are being asked to register their interest to participate in the trial. To be eligible, they will be required to answer three questions, including whether they currently own a valid Apple iPhone 6S or newer with iOS 13.0 or newer, or a Samsung smartphone with NFC and Android 8.0 or newer; currently travel on public transport; and pay adult Opal fares.

Those who meet the eligibility criteria will be asked to register their contact details, be requested to download the Opal digital card trial app, and link it to their Opal Connect account, before adding their Opal digital card to their digital wallet.

During the trial, participants will receive a new Opal digital card, which would be separate from their existing Opal card. They will also be able to report any issues, provide feedback, or request help via the Opal digital card app, as well as participate in interviews and surveys.

The spokesperson said Opal users who register their interest in the trial would be notified whether they have been successful in the trial "over the coming weeks".

"This trial will enable us to listen to Opal users feedback, expectations, and preferences and continue to enhance the experience for people travelling on the network," the spokesperson said.

The announcement of the trial comes more than a year after the state transport service introduced a contactless payments system to the state's public transport system.

Working with Cubic Transportation System, Transport for NSW introduced the payment system to allow commuters to pay for their travel via the PayPass or PayWave function on either their debit or credit cards -- including smartphones and any smart devices that have NFC payment capability -- in lieu of using an Opal card.

Earlier this year, the state government touted the contactless payments system as a success, announcing that 30 million journeys had been taken using debit or credit cards or linked devices, such as smartphones or watches, since 2017 when the state government first trialled the feature on Sydney ferries.

The function was made available on the Sydney Trains network and on any NSW Train Link Opal service in November 2018, before lastly being introduced to Sydney buses in September 2019.

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance previously predicted new forms of transport payments would give commuters an Amazon Go-like experience.

"Similar to Amazon's walk out technology in shops where customers scan their phones at the door, grab the items they want, and walk right out and their account is automatically charged," Constance continued.

"In the transport space we use facial recognition technology to scan customers who have opted in and linked their Opal account, so no more gate barriers just a smooth journey."

NSW government cracks down on 'revenge porn'

The New South Wales government also announced on Tuesday that it would work with eSafety to stop image-based abuse, otherwise colloquially known as "revenge porn", by providing support and advice to victims who have had intimate digital content shared online without their consent.

"Sharing an intimate image or video of someone without their clear consent is never ok. We want people to know exactly what to do if they fall victim to this appalling act," Minister for Women Bronnie Taylor said.

"This campaign highlights everything you need to know about image-based abuse, from reporting an offence to accessing counselling and having images or videos removed from social media and search engines."

See also: New Australian Online Safety Act to include take-down of cyber abuse  

Reports of image-based abuse to eSafety increased by 172% between March and September this year when compared to the same period in 2019.  

In October, legislation was introduced to state Parliament with the aim of offering further protections for victims of the distribution of non-consensual intimate images and videos online.

Under the proposed amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act 1986, victims of intimate image abuse would have the same court protections as other sexual assault complainants. Judicial officers would also have greater powers to order images and recordings be destroyed. 

The amendments, if passed, would also provide victims with the ability to give evidence remotely and in a closed court, access a support person, have their identity protected from publication, and avoid cross-examination by an unrepresented accused personally. 

The Australian government in August 2018 passed legislation aimed at protecting citizens from revenge porn by mandating civil and criminal penalties.

Under the legislation, individuals could face civil penalties of up to AU$105,000 and corporations of up to AU$525,000 if they do not remove an image when requested to by the eSafety Commissioner. 

Anyone experiencing abuse can report it to esafety.gov.au/report or call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) for 24/7 support and referrals.  

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