E-wallet phones trialled on London tube

Travelers on the London Underground might shortly be able to use their mobile phones to pass through ticket barriers if trials announced yesterday by O2 and Nokia are successful. The two firms said that the Nokia 6131 handset would be at the heart of the trial given that it was the only device with embedded Near Field Communications (NFC)--a short-range wireless technology that would communicate with the readers at the ticket barrier.

With NFC presently being used by London Underground within its own 'Oyster' contactless card system--and thereby minimising wireless interface issues, the real test will be around the logistics of managing tickets within the phone interface, and the security of the system.

While the Nokia 6131-NFC has a secure memory module within the handset, where the ticket information is stored, many in the industry would like to see the SIM utilised for that kind of data: putting the ownership into the hands of the network operator rather than the phone manufacturer.

Japanese transport systems in and around Tokyo have been operating these sorts of mobile phone-enabled E-Wallet services for some years using a very similar system, known as Felicia, with strong support from the leading mobile operator, NTT DoCoMo.

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