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Oyster – London's hidden treasure

(Source: The Review (Gemalto Magazine) | Summer 2011 - Written by Cath Everett

The success of London’s Oyster smart card for travel has helped to increase awareness and acceptance of contactless technology in the United Kingdom

The UK market for contactle​ss payment technology is expected to start taking off in earnest next year, just in time for the 20​12 Olympic and Paralympic Games. If it grows as quickly as expected, much of the credit should go to a piece of plastic that has become a fundamental part of life for millions of Londoners: an electronic ticketing smart card called Oyster.

Transport for London (TfL), the local government body responsible for developing and managing transportation services in the capital, introduced the Oyster card in 2003. According to Shashi Verma, TfL’s Director of Fares and Ticketing, eight million people use it regularly, with more than 43 million cards having been issued in total. Oyster cards are now used to pay for 96% of all bus trips and 80% of train journeys, which has cut the number of paper tickets issued by two thirds and reduced lines drastically. "We’re trying to take the pain out of traveling," says Verma.

Ted Bissell, mobile business expert at PA Consulting, suggests this high level of usage also means that, "almost accidentally, folks in London are quite familiar with contactless payment technology"because they are used to simply tapping a card against a reader before and after making a journey. "So there’s already a pretty large number of people who realize this technology doesn’t bite," he says. "That’s significant, because if you’re starting from scratch, people can’t really conceive of what this kind of thing can do."

A nationwide system A nationwide system

Nonetheless, the adoption of smart ticketing elsewhere in the country has been more limited.

Smart ticketing Smart ticketing

Despite this controversy, TfL is pressing ahead with upgrading its smart ticketing system.

Early adopters The Early adopters

So you won’t be surprised to hear that TfL is not the only organization in the UK intent on supporting contactless payment.

Technology on show – the Olympic dividend Technology on show

The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are being viewed as an opportunity to showcase more than just sporting prowess to domestic and foreign visitors alike.​