Singtel enables public transport payments through NFC

Singtel customers will be able to pay for trains and buses through an NFC SIM from late April, with the app already supporting taxi and m-commerce payments.

Singaporean incumbent telecommunications provider Singtel has announced the upcoming launch of its Transit NFC SIM, enabling customers to pay for train and bus trips using smartphones with near-field communication (NFC).

Singtel customers across the island will be able to pay for MRT, LRT, and bus rides using an NFC phone that has the telco's Dash app installed. According to Singtel, Dash is the leading mobile payment merchant in Singapore, with customers already able to pay for Comfort and CityCab taxis.

Launching in late April, the SIM was developed by Singtel in collaboration with Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA), EZ-Link, and the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA). The SIM is embedded with an EZ-Link purse, and can be used with compatible NFC smartphones.

"We are pleased to offer the added convenience of mobile payments on buses, MRT, and LRT. With customers already paying for their Comfort and CityCab taxi rides with our popular Dash app, they can now truly enjoy a seamless payment experience in their daily commutes," said Gan Siok Hoon, Singtel vice president of mCommerce for Consumer Singapore.

She added that Singtel is also working on new plans for an "enhanced mobile payments app".

In October last year, the LTA announced that it had been granted approval to begin testing autonomous vehicles for public transport.

The tests will be conducted by the Institute for Infocomm Research under the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research, and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, with all vehicles using data loggers to record speed and travel information.

The LTA has also installed monitoring infrastructure such as CCTV cameras and Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) beacons along the 6km test route, as well as vehicle-to-infrastructure systems to increase the vehicles' awareness.

"Self-driving vehicles can radically transform land transportation in Singapore to address our two key constraints -- land and manpower," said Singapore's Permanent Secretary for Transport Pang Kin Keong.

"The trials will help us shape the mobility concepts which can meet Singapore's needs, and also gain valuable insights into how we can design our towns of the future to take advantage of this technology."

Singtel itself has been collaborating with Ericsson on enabling Singtel's 4G network for the Internet of Things (IoT), including a trial of narrowband IoT technology during the latter half of 2016.

Instead of using cellular networks for the IoT, narrowband low-power, long-range, wide-area networks that use available, unlicensed radio spectrum could allow for extended coverage and less complex devices with higher battery life, meaning more connected devices overall.

"IoT connectivity is an important part of Singapore's enterprises, and supports the Singapore government's Smart Nation initiative. We anticipate a growing demand to connect a multitude of sensors and devices in a cost-effective manner," said Tay Soo Meng, group CTO at Singtel.

"Focusing on power-saving capabilities in our networks enables energy-efficiency benefits for the IoT ecosystem; we expect at least 10 years' battery life. With the early introduction of low-powered IoT devices, this brings us a step closer to 5G goals, where new device and sensor technologies can leverage network connectivity to power a variety of use cases, such as lighting and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity."

According to Ericsson, 28 billion connected devices are expected by 2021. Such devices requiring long battery lives and better coverage include temperature, air quality, and flood water sensors, Sam Saba, regional head of Ericsson South East Asia and Oceania, said.

Singtel last month announced a net profit of SG$954 million on revenue of SG$4.47 billion for the quarter ending December 31, 2015.

"We are investing significantly in our engineering talent, and strengthening our core capabilities in cybersecurity, data analytics, and cloud computing," Chua Sock Koong, Singtel Group CEO, said.

"This is helping the enterprise business stay relevant and resilient in the face of both technology disruption and softer business sentiment."