Global wireless company Vodafone will make a fresh foray into the micro-banking business, testing a mobile payment system in partnership with Deutsche Bahn, the companies announced at the weekend.
Deutsche Bahn already has mobile tickets but the Vodafone deal will take things further
Instead of buying tickets, passengers will simply press a button on their mobile phones as they hold them near a "touch-point" when they board and disembark from a train. They will then receive a monthly bill for the total of their travel.
Vodafone says the "touch-points" are equipped with radio chips that transmit data to the mobile phone as they log in and out. This ticketing information is securely stored on the phone's SIM card and can be checked even if the battery has run down.
Touch & Travel pilot scheme
Customers can record their travel at "touch-points"
The pilot project, code-named Touch & Travel, would be operated from October on an inter-city line between Berlin and Hanover and on pubic transport in the suburbs of Berlin.
The initial testing will involve volunteer users. A more extensive pilot involving real passengers and covering Berlin's entire metropolitan rail and subway network is being planned for next year.
Touch & Travel will cover both bus and train services. There are also plans to integrate Deutsche Bahn's car sharing and Call-a-Bike services into the system, says Vodafone.
DB and Vodafone looking to sell system on
After the Berlin test phase, DB hopes the system will go national
Speaking at the CeBit technology fair in Hanover, Germany, spokespersons for the British-based Vodafone and Deutsche Bahn said they hoped to develop a system that would be saleable to other companies within the next year. DB planned to introduce the system nationally after the pilot phase.
To participate, phones must be equipped with near field communication (NFC) modules, which are fitted in many handsets.
Big international phone groups have in the past tested schemes to use phones as devices to make small payments. Such systems would have made phone companies competitors to the credit-card industry, with customers settling their bills monthly with the phone company.
Previous mobile-phone projects were abandoned after phone companies grew concerned about the high risks and lack of profits.