Xerox to trial universal NFC transport solution

Xerox is developing a new Near Field Communication (NFC) ticketless payment solution, designed to provide access to public transport systems all over the world using a single smartphone app.

Known as Xerox Seamless, the system will consist of NFC tags installed on transport networks, on which users will tag in and out using their NFC-enabled smartphones. Encrypted transaction data will be communicated to the Seamless app – which users will need to have downloaded – then sent to the Xerox servers once the smartphone is connected to the internet.

Xerox hopes the system will be used on transport systems around the world

According to Géraldine Lievre, chief technology officer, International Public Sector at Xerox, the tags will be fully autonomous, free from an external power source and unconnected to the internet, with battery life lasting two years. Ms Lievre told The Engineer that Xerox is currently working on the second generation of tags, but was unable to share further details at this stage. 

Seamless is still in the early stages of development, but will undergo its first trial in an undisclosed city in France in September, with 200 users travelling across four transport lines. If successful, Xerox hopes that it could be rolled out across multiple cities around the globe, providing a single system for users regardless of where they are, and what transport network they are using.

Xerox would install and manage the system for a fee, with network operators retaining control of their data and pricing structure. According to Richard Harris, director of International Transportation at Xerox, Seamless would allow network operators to benefit from NFC technology without committing to investing directly in it.

“One of the main challenges for cities and operators is when to invest in new technology,” said Harris. “With NFC, there’s been a lot of hype about it, but we believe the pickup in NFC phones is going to accelerate quite quickly in the next couple of years.”

NFC has a range of uses, from acting as a hotel keycard, to paying for transport and other services.
NFC has a range of uses, from acting as a hotel keycard, to paying for transport and other services.

“If TfL wanted to change all their validators, it’s millions and millions of pounds, thousands of machines. We don’t think that payment through NFC Seamless is ever going to be 100 per cent anywhere, but it’s going to be an additional way that people can pay easily and conveniently.”

Xerox envisions a future where people see the symbol for its Seamless app in a foreign city, and are encouraged to use the public transport system. The app would also contain a mobility companion, helping users to navigate both at home and abroad. Newcomers to a city could be more likely to forego taxis and tackle the local bus, tram and rail networks, using the same familiar app they use when at home, says the company.

The prospect of increasing users and being part of an international ‘Seamless’ network has generated interest from network operators around the world, according to Xerox.

“Everyday we have contact from transport operators that want a demo or an explanation, and from worldwide – from Africa, from Latin America, from Europe,” says Ms Lievre.

Xerox will present preliminary results from the first Seamless trail and a conference in Bordeaux this October.