Wednesday, 3 September 2008

The world is your Oyster card

As someone who grew up in the country, I love living in London. I’m a big fan of all the advantages that this brings (like living right next to shops, restaurants, or a Hot Bikram Yoga Studio). I’m even like things other Londoners detest – like public transport – as to me it’s an easy way to get home after a night out, when growing up the only choice was to ring my mum to come pick me up.

One thing that does drive me crazy about London and public transport is slow people - my pet hate is people standing in front of the tube ticket gate slowly rifling through bags for misplaced Oyster cards, when there’s a queue of people behind them.

However, this could be thing of the past according to an article on The Guardian Online yesterday about the successful completion of a trial by 02 and TFL to turn mobile phones into Oyster-equipped ‘mobile e-wallets’. 500 testers spent six months using a specially modified phone handset, to make tube journeys and as a bank card to pay for small items under £10. It’s by no means a new idea – similar types of schemes have been implemented successfully over the past few years in other countries such as Japan.

The mobile technology behind the UK trial is near field communications – which can also be applied for other uses such as mobile gig ticketing, or to create electronic house keys out of your phone (so you really could ring your keys if you lose them).

As it’s likely that mobile travel cards will be rolled out to all users in the next few years, I’m not sure what the security implications for having this type of information on your phone are - especially in light of the recent Oyster card bug and outage. And considering how long it takes to replace a handset, how do you get to work if you lose your phone?

In theory though, the TFL/02 trial sounds like a positive and convenient use of technology, and I like the sound of something that requires me to carry less stuff around in my bag. Plus, anything that could help to speed up slow people on the tube can only be a good thing.