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TfL confirms NFC payments to go live on London buses this week

According to a report in Computerworld UK, Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed that near field communication (NFC) contactless payment systems will go live on buses in the capital this Thursday.

The systems were meant to be rolled out in time for the London 2012 Olympic Games, but were delayed due to “complexities with the technology”.

NFC allows users to benefit from contactless payments using their credit or debit card, as well as suitably equipped mobile devices.

Computerworld UK understands that buses that will be going live with the technology but that TfL was unwilling to disclose what proportion of the network was going live or when it would be extended to the Underground.

Further information is expected to be released on Thursday, but TfL has previously said that the project will not be completed until the end of 2013.


Payments system failed the 'wave test'

Writing in GigaOM prior to the Olympic Games, Sam Gibbs reported the reason why London and other major cities around the UK hadn't introduced use NFC-based payments for public transport was due to the technology being too slow to  be actually useful in testing.

Talking to Giga OM, Transport for London’s Shashi Verma said “Unfortunately, during both of these tests [2008 and 2010], we found that the technology was not fast enough to complete the transaction in under 500 milliseconds, which we would require.”

The current RFID-based Oyster cards authenticate in around 300-350 milliseconds.

Previously, a Register article suggested that introduction of the technology was delayed due to cost and security implications of the technology.


NFC suited to mobile devices and unpowered chips

Near field communication (NFC) is a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity, usually no more than a few centimetres. Present and anticipated applications include contactless transactions, data exchange, and simplified setup of more complex communications such as Wi-Fi. Communication is also possible between an NFC device and an unpowered NFC chip, called a "tag".


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