Radio frequency identification (RFID)

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Hong Kong's RFID-enabled Octopus Card with NFC reader in background


Like near field communications, radio frequency identification (RFID) is a type of automated fare media used for contactless fare payment. RFID operates in smart cards through a silicon chip that contains memory and communicates with a transponder for payment. RFID offers all the general advantages of automated fare media - reduced dwell time, convenience for passengers - with the added benefit of being applied through open payment systems as credit card and cell phone companies adopt the technology. For example, the Octopus smart card, in use since 1997, in Hong Kong is accepted by a variety of transportation providers, as well as other service providers. About 25 percent of purchases using the Octopus card are used for purchases other than transportation.[1] Along with being used for fare payment, RFID can be used to track transit vehicles and provide accurate real-time arrival information. The technology can also help with tracking maintenance of vehicles through electronic record-keeping.[2]


Additional Reading

Dempsey, Paul Stephen. "Privacy Issues with the Use of Smart Cards," Transit Cooperative Research Program. TCRP Legal Research Digest 25, 2008.

This legal research digest offers a discussion of the origins of smart cards and RFID technology, with a focus on the privacy concerns that accompany them and their legal implications. This report was produced through the Transit Cooperative Research Program and sponsored by the Transportation Research Board. This report illuminates some best practices for addressing privacy concerns with privacy policies, along with other recommendations from the Smart Card Alliance.