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Sony's Cashless Smart Card Catching on in Japan

timothy posted more than 11 years ago | from the are-they-tradeable dept.

The Almighty Buck 213

Spasemunki writes "The New York Times reports here on the success in Japan of an RF-based, cash replacement smart card developed by Sony. Used primarily by Japan's largest railway company, the cards carry a declining cash balance (no link to your credit card or bank account if it is lost or stolen), and conducts transactions at railway turnstiles in 1/5 of a second. Mass transit remains one of the big areas for many folks where you just can't live without cash- this would be a big improvement over digging in the couch for exact change ... "

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Nice... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5518922)


Who needs photocopiers and engravers, when you can just "hack" some funds!

japanese people are annoying (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5518924)

they go around using "l" in place of "r" and vice versa. really fucking annoying.

yoo rike flied lice? kekeke ^_^

fp 4 sak

Re:japanese people are annoying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5519040)

Not half as annoying as you, fuckwit.

Now go off yourself and save us the trouble of putting up with your sorry ass.

too bad... failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5519099)

baka gajin, YOU FAIL IT

now go run from some terrorists or something

Potential uses... (2, Interesting)

watzinaneihm (627119) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518927)

With smart-card readers integrated into your computers, will this be the solution to the great micropayment problem? (Similar things have appeared on prev. /. stories, so idea not mine)
Or will somebody spam your computers with viruses to steal your money then?

Re:Potential uses... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5518970)

Huh?

Why "RF based/cash replacement? Metrocard (5, Interesting)

indiigo (121714) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518928)

Huh? NY has had metrocard for years, it's successful, disposeable, and considered a fairly resounding success and can be linked to cash or credit, giving you a range of options, some of which are beneficial to the consumer (you can let someone else use your card free.) I guess if it has a chip though it should be cool.

The token is dead. Cash is dying. off topic, the dollar is dying, in particular... :)

Re:Why "RF based/cash replacement? Metrocard (1)

sward (122951) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519016)

The Washington, DC area metro system has a similar card called the 'SmarTrip' card. I keep mine in my wallet, and just lightly tap the sensor. I can walk full speed through the gate, which opens quickly enough, and I get a readout of the remaining balance on my card. It's not linked to an account, so I have to add to its balance with a farecard machine, but other than that it's quite handy.

Re:Why "RF based/cash replacement? Metrocard (1)

Psx29 (538840) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519043)

Speaking of which, they are now eliminating [nytimes.com] tokens completely.

Re:Why "RF based/cash replacement? Metrocard (5, Informative)

mvanhorn (60852) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519076)

Having lived in NYC my whole life, before coming to Tokyo, I can say Suica is pretty different than Metrocard. You do not even have to take the thing out of your wallet to use it. No dirty metocard readers that keep you stuck for 5 minutes because they can't read your card. On the negative side, I don't think there are "unlimited" suica cards, but there are unlimited commuter passes. These work like metrocard in that they need contact with the machine, but you just insert it, and it races through the machine in a split second, and you grab it again on the other side.I've yet to have a problem with a machine not reading the card.

Re:Why "RF based/cash replacement? Metrocard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5519092)

Yeah, well how often do you get the "swipe again.." message with metrocard? From my experience it's about 10% of the time (maybe I'm just a looser and don't know the secret handshake, who knows ;-).

I was in Japan until last year and I can tell you that you don't need a led display for that purpose. I agree with you that the principle is not new, but the implementation is of a much better quality.

Re:Why "RF based/cash replacement? Metrocard (5, Informative)

Mr. Theorem (33952) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519102)

No, no--the NYC Metrocard still needs to be swiped, much like the regular Metrorail farecard we have here in DC.


Smart cards--like DC Metro's Smarttrip--are far cooler. You don't need to swipe them--just get them close to the reader. You don't need to take it our of your wallet: just put your wallet up to the reader and that gets it close enough.


Even better, you can register it with Metro and if you lose your card with $100 on it, you just have to pay $5 for a replacement card and you get all the value you had on the card.


In July, they should have Smarttrip readers on all the buses too, so that transfers will be automagic--no need to remember to get a paper transfer from one of those machines that always seems to be out of paper. Bus boarding should speed up dramatically too.

Re:Why "RF based/cash replacement? Metrocard (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519157)

Right. But you have to *swipe* those.

The one's in Japan you don't have to swipe. You can leave it in your wallet and just hold your wallet against the panel for 1/5th of a second.

The way this was posted makes it sound stupid.. Cash replacements cards have been around for ages.

Re:Why "RF based/cash replacement? Metrocard (1)

MidnightBrewer (97195) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519362)

I agree. Here in Osaka, we have the standard ticket readers, with one-time, round-trip, and paper debit cards (no smart cards yet.) The Japanese ticket readers are *fast*; Once you develop the knack, you walk right through, drop in your ticket on one side and pick it up on the other, without ever slowing down.

I have seen them being repaired, though, and they're monsters inside. Whoever figured them out was a genius. I can definitely see where the electronic cards would be a benefit for the train companies, especially at rush hour. It's true that you don't have to take them out of your wallet, so hunting around for the card is reduced. :)

Re:Why "RF based/cash replacement? Metrocard (1)

Kirin3 (133278) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519298)

NY has had metrocard for years, it's successful, disposeable...

Not to mention Starbucks, my local University's (UVic) Student Union Building, and my local mass transit system. While the transit system's card isn't so much a 'debit-style' card as it is a bus pass (you swipe it on a reader, and that's all), none of the above mentioned cards carry any personal information, and the two former cards are cards that you can put a balance on at the point of purchase.

The token is dead. Cash is dying. off topic, the dollar is dying, in particular... :)

The token is alive and kicking in arcades. No longer do they fit the machines for large sums, tokens just cost more.

But cash does seem to be dying. Funny corollary to that of course seems to be the less I carry cash with me the more I need it for the stores I'm frequenting.

This is no quantum leap (2, Informative)

BillsPetMonkey (654200) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518929)

Japanese commuters have had plastic travel since around 1991 in most Tokyo stations, paid directly by your company. The only reason you would buy a ticket is to use a route other than your regular commuter one.

News a bit thin today?

Re:This is no quantum leap (1)

Dot.Zeile (461136) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519015)

Your talking "plastic" cards are just magnetic cards. In those days, we must insert them into the ticket gate machine. Those magnetic cards are just commutation-tickets, and the companies are just paying their commuting fares beforehand. This SUICA (I don't know what it stands for, but, in Japanese, the word "SUIKA" means "watermelon" :)) NYT is discussing, does communication to gate machines via Radio so we can go through without taking that card out from wallet. It will sometimes save great cost and time because it will never jammed. :-)

-- from YOKOHAMA, JAPAN

Re:This is no quantum leap (0)

BillsPetMonkey (654200) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519035)

SUICA has been around for over a year now. I fact, there's even a similar system in the UK.

Re:This is no quantum leap (1)

Dot.Zeile (461136) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519119)

We have just saw the banner of the "SUICA's first anniversary" in JR stations. And, you're right, RFID card system is nothing new, and we're heavily learning to do our daily life with it here in Tokyo area. :-)

how long will it take.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5518931)

..until american authorities interpret this little rise in a non-american economy as act of terrorism?

should be after conquering the Iraq (1)

hutuworm (657576) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519050)

should be after conquering the Iraq

Does this have "big brother" implications? (5, Insightful)

Eese (647951) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518933)

While the money in this instance is anonymous, is anyone else reminded of those scanners from Minority Report that just "pinged" you as you walk by? I wouldn't like the idea of being forced to walk around carrying RF-emitting devices. If I wanted to, by all means, but I would rather this not become the norm, personally.

Re:Does this have "big brother" implications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5518962)

What about a handy? They can spot you ~2 feet range when you carry it with you..

Re:Does this have "big brother" implications? (2, Interesting)

schtum (166052) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518994)

for those who have no idea what he just said, handy == cell phone, or mobile phone, in Germany (and perhaps a few other places as well?). Most Germans are surprised to discover that "handy" isn't the regular English term since the word is clearly derived from English. I learned this from a friend who took German in college, and it still took me a few seconds to interpret the above post.

Re:Does this have "big brother" implications? (1)

Dunkalis (566394) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519316)

From a real conversation.

Him: Hast du ein Handy? (Do you have a cellphone?)
Me: Was heisst Handy? (What does 'handy' mean?)
Him: Ein Handy! Guck, das Maedchen. Sie hat ein Handy! (A cellphone! Look, that girl, she has a cellphone.)
Me: A cellphone? How does HANDY mean CELLPHONE?

Anyway, I think moneyless transactions are the future. For obvious reasons, it should be run by private corporations, all adhereing to a single standard. I don't want my government managing my money, since they will make mistakes. I'm guessing this is a perfect startup, since many people get frustrated with cash and classic magnetic cards, and this seems like a perfect solution. However, would it be secure? I don't want somebody intercepting the wireless signals and being able to decrypt them. Sadly, if this gets off the ground, some company will use that excuse to develop proprietary systems and create a monopoly.

Re:Does this have "big brother" implications? (3, Insightful)

tekunokurato (531385) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518963)

No. If there's no link to your accounts, there needn't be a link to you. When you buy a metrocard in NY (as a previous poster discussed) do you have to input your ID? not at all. Sure, you may pay for it with a credit card, but if your goal is not to carry cash, how else would you pay for anything anyway?

Re:Does this have "big brother" implications? (1)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519327)

There is still a big brother implication. Your metrocard is not linked to you, but it does have a UID that's recorded on every ride. If the cops arrest you, they take your metrocard, and check where you've been with it.

They've used it to disprove people's alibis so far. That seems like a pretty acceptable use, to me. It also seems like they might easily slip into less acceptable uses. I don't even know what that might be, but it makes me nervous.

A new business in making people anonymous? (1)

MyNameIsFred (543994) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518990)

Certainly something to be concerned about, as discussed in RFID tags [slashdot.org] . At the same time does this open a new market for those wanting to remain anonymous? For example, a small metal wallet to contain your smart cards that acts as a Faraday cage. Or a home scanner that zaps RFID tags rendering them useless. Or a detector that alerts the wearer to any devices trying to read smartcards and RFID. For the truely paranoid, it could set off a jammer. The ideas are endless, patent pending.

Re:A new business in making people anonymous? (1)

Chokma (610031) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519039)

Another idea would be a virtual RFID-tag wallet: You store the signature of all your tags in your PDA and zap the original ones. If someone tries to read them, you have the option to authorize access or deny it.

Re:Does this have "big brother" implications? (1)

Talking Goat (645295) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519019)

I subscribe to Big Brother conspiracies as quickly as the next /.'er, but I'd personally be more worried about /.'er's themselves... How about war-driving for smart cards?

Re:Does this have "big brother" implications? (1)

SmackCrackandPot (641205) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519028)

I would be a bit concerned about the storage of personal details on an RF-emitting device as well. Our local bus company has a smartcard system which stores the expiry date, name, address, and credit details of the user on each card. I really wouldn't like the idea of having this information being held on a RF-emitting device. That would seem only likely to increase the chances of identity theft. Criminals have already set up fake ATM machines. Setting up a fake smart-card transceiver would seem even easier.

Re:Does this have "big brother" implications? (1)

Dot.Zeile (461136) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519057)

Actually, railway company keeps record of you and that "Commutation-Card". When you purchase your "commutation ticket" in Japan, you must write your name, address and company name on the application document. And, you can get your card reissued when you lost your card, because railway company can disable lost card by its unique ID recorded on their computer. But, in current implementation, this can not truly work as a Big Brother tracking system, because the card cannot be read until it is put to the ticket-gate nearly enough (5 or 10 cm, I have heard). I don't know about the future, but, it is OK for us, for now.

-- from YOKOHAMA, JAPAN

Re:Does this have "big brother" implications? (1)

eyeye (653962) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519265)

You don't have to read the article but at least read the summary.
I guess the mods didnt read the summary either!

Octopus in Hong Kong is used for ID (3, Interesting)

mamahuhu (225334) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519317)

In Hong Kong many housing estates, offices and schools are using the Octopus [octopuscards.com] card for identification. There are 9 million cards in Hong Kong with a population of only 7 million. One of the reasons is that some people require two cards - perhaps one for the office and travel, maybe another for the housing estate.

I went to a conference [hkiiexpo.com] recently and I was required to register with my Octopus Card to get entry to the conference floor. It was useful because I went back later in the week and of course I had the card with me so got without any re-registering.

School kids use them to get into school and a roll call is instantly made up. Entry and exit to the school can then be monitored. This is not so different from the access cards I have used at several offices - the difference is that I've had my Octpus card for years now and theoretically all the transactions, travel, entry and entrance could be recorded. A bit scarey I admit.

However there is no link back to me. There is no name attached to the card, and no connection with a bank account. So there is a limit to the amount of data o be tracked.

There are a lot of uses [octopuscards.com] for the cards.... it is pretty good technology.... except that they in effect have a monopoly and charge 10% commission on the sales going through there system. Imagine having a monopoly on cash and making a profit everytime you used your coins and notes.

I think you will find that there will be more and more of these cards used. Already Nokia has built it into some of their phones in Hong Kong, you can buy watches with it built in - people like it - very easy, no coins, no need to rummage around for the train ticket just wave your wallet at the gate. Ditto for keys to the office, home - soon perhaps your car. They're already used for payment at car parks and soon car meters.

People won't resist this so the best thing is to build in safeguards, walls between systems so no accumulation of data is made unduly.

Face it - it's coming. It's here in Hong Kong now.

Re:Does this have "big brother" implications? (1)

Drogo Knotwise (587556) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519357)

The transit authorities don't stop accepting the cash. Remember, visitors need to be allowed to use public transportation, even if they haven't signed up.

In Hong Kong, most people have "Octopus" cards, but payment by cash is still possible. However, cash is as risky, more time-consuming and far heavier.

Moreover, banks have every reason to want these types of system to work, as the costs of guarding and moving large sums of cash are huge.

This system works for business and for consumers. I don't see why it wouldn't work. And as it's opt-in (and not enforced, controlled or monitored by government, like the retina-scanning in Minority Report), there's no reason for that to be a bad thing.

Finally non secure systems (3, Insightful)

brejc8 (223089) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518937)

Finally people are making systems which they know might be cracked. After doing power analasis of processors I would not be happy if my bank said that the data is fully secure and no one can break into it. I would prefair if they said well people could break into it but they will only be able to steal x ammount before the card is canceled.

Re:Finally non secure systems (1)

rufo (126104) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519045)

How the heck is that going to work? If somebody hacks through your bank account using your account information, how do they distinguish between legitmate uses by you and by the hacker? Heck, even if somebody doesn't hack into your account, how do they distinguish between you and a possible hacker?

Fact of the matter is, nothing is secure in this world. Things can be made secure enough so that there's a major deterrence to hack into it, but there's always a way. I don't just mean pure Internet hacking - there's social engineering, TEMPEST-style hacking, any number of ways that you could hack into a system other then through the Internet. Of course, the system in question not being on the Internet is a major deterrence itself.

Anyway, enough rambling on my part. Need to get ready to go. :)

Will only work in Japan (2, Insightful)

bushboy (112290) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518939)

There's so many cool ideas that only Japan seems to have.

I think this is one of them.

Japanese citizens seem almost Zenlike in thier capacity to accept such civilised ideas.

By comparison, in much of the rest of the world, this idea won't work simply because of the cultural background.

Re:Will only work in Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5518946)

yeah.. in the land of the free this would definately be misused by the goverment...

Re:Will only work in Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5518995)

Actually, the Wshington DC Metro system already has a smartcard in place called SmarTrip. I use it everyday and it is a real convenience. It works for subway fares and parking lots. I am not sure, but I think they are also expanding to buses soon.

One of the best features is that Metro can disable the card and refund the balance to me if I lose the card. Much better then carrying a few $20 paper passes.

Re:Will only work in Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5519198)

The Dumbing of America.

It used to be that people took pride in being smart and capable. If people made a mistake (like, for instance losing a Metrocard with $ still on it), they owned up to it, and learned from it.

Now, people seem to demand backups and ways to recover from mistakes, which means they no longer need to be careful any longer.

Re:Will only work in Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5519352)

If people made a mistake ... they owned up to it, and learned from it.

Now, people seem to demand backups and ways to recover from mistakes, which means they no longer need to be careful any longer.


Yes, exactly. This is why I object to abortion-- not for religious reasons (IMHO, religion is a bunch of bullshit), but because it contributes to the notion of a consequence-free environment, and not having to live with the consequences of your poor choices is what's sending American society as a whole into the shitter.

Re:Will only work in Japan (0)

BillsPetMonkey (654200) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519030)

Were microwaves, low fuel consumtion cars, quartz watches, portable calculators and sushi ever rejected because of the cultural background.

Oh and "zenlike"? How do you know?

Re:Will only work in Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5519046)

We've had a card system just like that in Helsinki, Finland for a couple of years now.

Re:Will only work in Japan (2, Informative)

k_187 (61692) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519138)

Nope, here in DC the Metrorail has pretty much the same thing. They call it smartrip and you have an account with them that you put money into and then your trips are deducted from that. They're pretty money (for lack of a better term ;) especially in that since they only cost 5 bucks I've been able to get them replaced twice and saved myself 30 compared to the normal cards they use.

Japanese need smart cards (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5518940)

because their squinty eyes can't recognize the denominations of the bills.

It's a fact.

Great idea! (5, Insightful)

Xenna (37238) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518941)

Now the banks can actually collect interest on the money in your pocket!

If you lose your card and noone else finds it, the money goes to the banks as well!

A win-win situation!

X.

Re:Great idea! (2, Interesting)

tekunokurato (531385) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518987)

I know the "win-win" remark above was sarcastic, but think of it like this:

First, there's virtually no interest to be collected in Japan regardless. Short rates are practically zero, and barely enough to recoup transaction costs.

Second, let's say the bank actually WAS collecting interest on your cash. Well, what are you going to do with it? You've got two choices: you can bury your money and not let anyone make any interest off it (because you're certainly not using it productively if it's sitting in your pocket), or you can lend it to someone to make money with, and it'll be instantly recoupable.

Technically, if everyone converted all their cash and let banks have it while they weren't using it, the economy would be more productive, and might do better.

Of course, the availability of cash might push interest rates lower, but it also might increase the willingness of people and companies to invest in productive products, possibly helping the Japanese economy out of its crisis.

Re:Great idea! (1)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519065)

I highly doubt that - the banks have every reason to make this desirable and easy to use, so protections would be put in place similar to the credit card fraud protection that is now common.

Otcopus Card in Hong Kong (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5518942)

Hong Kong has had a similar system for years - the Octopus card. An RF smartcard where you can add money when you need them. Your balance can even go in minus for a couple of trips until the next time you get a chance to fill it up (the card has a 50HKD deposit).

Re:Otcopus Card in Hong Kong (1)

sam0737 (648914) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518983)

And---The Octopus not just for taking bus and train of one company.
You can pay all local bus company, all railway system, and all 7-Eleven, all Circle-OK, Supermarket, McDonald's...u name it...with the octopus card. It's a must have for everyone in Hong Kong, not just for train rider.

Implications (3, Funny)

Compact Dick (518888) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518943)


Does this mean that if you get stuck in a revolving door, you go broke quick?

Re:Implications (2, Funny)

tekunokurato (531385) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518992)

If you get stuck in a revolving door, you DESERVE to go broke quick!

"look kids, Big Ben!"
"look kids, Big Ben!"

Belgium : proton (5, Informative)

selderrr (523988) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518947)

We've got this for quite a few years now in belgium. All small stores have cardreaders now. Parking meters, payphones, cola machines, even movie theaters. I rarely carry cash anymore. The only disadvantages so far are that it doesn't work (yet) outside belgium, and that the readers seem to be a bit more fragile than coin-operated machines. The coke machine in our building has a crashed card reader once every 2 week. But apparently the machine resets itself every day, so the next morning they're back OK.

For the merchants, the advantage is 2fold : no cash in the store so less attractive to thieves, but also there is no permanent connection needed with the bank : the cardreader can store the balance internally, and upload a transaction log at the end of the day. This makes proton payment a lot cheaper for the merchants (payment by visa costs a percentage, and payment by bankcard costs a fixed fee)

Re:Belgium : proton (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5518993)

Must have been written by an Indian software factory

Re:Sweden - Cash-card (1)

wirre (640993) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519084)

It's been around a couple of years here, though hasn't catched on that much.. since for small stores deployment cost is a bit.. and they still have the cost of handling cash since everyone won't switch cash-cards at once. I have cash-chip in my visa-card, so for stores that support cash-chip i can pay fast without any PIN or so.. otherwise i'll resort to the slow visa-payment method..

Re:Belgium : proton (2, Interesting)

CvD (94050) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519225)

We have the same here in the Netherlands (its called ChipKnip). You forgot to mention one of the more annoying problems: you don't know how much you are carrying. You can't look at your card and find out how much money is still on it.

Actually, this would be a cool application for that plastic flexible panel display thingy that was on /. a while back, have it embedded on your card. The only problem with this would be powersupply.

And yeah, the readers are very suceptible to dirt and other crap. Also the metallic contact points tend to get somewhat corroded after a while. I clean them with a pencil eraser. Works like a charm.

Cheers,

Costyn.

The Wallet Problem (4, Insightful)

dmorin (25609) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518951)

Smart cards are at least partly failing to catch on because of what I call "the wallet problem". Fine, you have a cash card for the subway. and one for the parking lot. And one for the office cafeteria. And the mall. Pretty soon you have a wallet of nothing but cash cards, each carrying $20 here or $50 there and none of them interchangeable.

Visa and MC work because there's a single standard with multiple providers. Everybody takes Visa, nobody says "Oh, whoa, hey, we don't take the GM Visa, we only take the Wachovia Visa." So there's a massive hurdle to overcome for cash cards to really catch on. You want to make a generic cash card that people can use anywhere. But if you do that, then naturally you will want to fill it with more cash...which, in turn, makes it more risky to lose it, which makes less people want to sponsor them. Note that I don't say "to use them", because I think that people would put $100+ on a cash card and want to use it to go shopping (think of the new "gift cards" that people get for the mall). I said sponsor because once you get beyond a certain amount, if somebody loses it, they're gonna scream and say "I don't care about your policy, I demand you get me my money back."

Know what I mean? What's a good solution that that problem? I suppose the solution is for Visa to sponsor a cash card, which seems like it would be very similar to the whole "debit card" concept that caught on very rapidly once the banks were able to say "Use your checking account money just like Visa."

Re:The Wallet Problem (2, Insightful)

LegendLength (231553) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519008)

The solution is to have a card which can 'contain' cash cards from different providers. Then you could have a single card which holds data for all of your cash cards, and you wouldn't be locked in to a single supplier like Visa/MC.

Governments really should get off their asses and implmement these, free of charge. How can they pretend that this type of money isn't a basic service that should be handled by them?

Re:The Wallet Problem (2, Insightful)

GregWebb (26123) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519083)

When Mondex was trialled a while back in the UK, it didn't take long for the encryption to be hacked and people to get essentially free money added to their cards on demand.

If this sort of card system is to be long-term practical, it can't be the wallet. It has to be the key that opens the remote safe, or someone will eventually find out how to put money into the wallet without putting the corresponding bills into the account that backs it up. Yes, I know that slows it down but it's necessary.

Note to Marketers (4, Funny)

Marijuana al-Shehi (609113) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518952)

Do you want these cashless smart cards to "catch on" in America too? Call them X-treme Cash Cards! Apparently the only way to get people to buy something here is to call it X-treme, Extreme, etc..., and to inform your target market that your product doesn't support terrorists. And while you're at it, give them a few designs to choose from: Avril Lavigne, Goody Mob, Dixie Chicks, and Dale Earnhardt so they can express their individuality (very important).

As soon as these things start getting stolen through violence, the sheeple will line up for their cashless laser tattoo forehead bar codes. I give it five years tops.

Re:Note to Marketers (2, Insightful)

La Temperanza (638530) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518968)

Hey, isn't that in the Book of Revelation?

16: He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead,
17: so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.

Originally I thought this sounded eerily similar to fingerprints and retinal scanners. But I'm just an occultist quack, and an OT one at that. :p

Re:Note to Marketers (1)

raider_red (156642) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518997)

Violence? Will this be a real problem compared to conventional muggings. If they get your wallet and credit cards, you're equally screwed. Of course there are easy solutions to the mugging problem, like issuing concealed handgun licenses to anyone who meets certain qualification (like we do in Texas), or just carry a bogus card in your other pocket (for those who live in NYC).

A few comments... (3, Informative)

BJH (11355) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518961)


Japan in general, and the Tokyo area in particular, has had a form of prepaid card for use at train stations for several years. These cards are of the "magnetic stripe" type, and have to be fed through the ticket gate to work. The ticket gates have a tendency to jam occasionally, requiring human intervention to get them working again.

The main advantage of the Suica cards is that they just have to be held against a panel on the ticket gate - as they're RF based, there's no moving parts to get jammed.

The main disadvantage of these particular cards is that they don't offer the same flexibility in routes that the "old" cards have - you have to be travelling between two JR (Japan Rail) stations to be able to use them. I commute on a train that switches from a JR train to a subway train (separate organization - same train) halfway along my route, which means I can't use the Suica cards.

In spite of what the article says, I haven't really noticed them being used for anything other than commuting.

Re:A few comments... (1)

Dot.Zeile (461136) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519096)

Non commutation type SUICA (SUICA IO card, a prepaid type), is convenient and used by some people including me. :-) And, in these days, convenience store "ampm" has "Edy card". It is the same system of SUICA. You can pay OBENTO and drinks, with Edy card. They are all based on SONY's RFID card system. Newest CLIE can read them via its integrated RF card reader.

I want one (2, Insightful)

Openadvocate (573093) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518966)

I want to place one in one of my windows. Outside there's a crowded sidewalk. I am sure noone would mind me getting one cent for every person walking by, as I am sure they never will discover it.

Re:I want one - collecting the cash (2, Insightful)

gpvillamil (108572) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519023)

This issue was raised re: the Octopus card in Hong Kong as well. What prevents people from just wandering around lifting 'cash' out of people's contactless cards is that ultimately they have to get the real cash from the entity that collected it. Sure, you can go around trying to take money from people's Suica cards, but then you're going to approach JR East and ask them to give you real money? All you have is a bunch of long encrypted strings.

Underground in London (2, Informative)

oliverjms (548028) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518969)

They are currently testing this on the underground in London:

http://www.transportforlondon.gov.uk/tfl/oyster_ ca rd.shtml

Re:Underground in London (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5519067)

are anchor tags [w3.org] so hard?
London Underground are also testing this [transportf...don.gov.uk] .

Ahh, I ways wondered what the yellow circles were, thanks for the link :)

Officer, I've been mugged! (5, Funny)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518973)

I know I should have been there this time of night but we had this party, anyway, I was walking down 8th street and this guys jumps out of the alleyway, points this box at me, it had these glowing lights, like, oh, you know, those led thingys? And it went 'beep beep' - I didn't think anything of it but now my smart card is empty!! I had $89.45 in it and now it's all gone!!

Re:Officer, I've been mugged! (2, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519210)

Unfortunately this is low-crime Japan. You'd have to spend a few minutes explaining to the police what mugging means, and convincing them that someone would be so dishonourable as to do such a thing.

I'm in Japan... (4, Informative)

Mossfoot (310128) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518975)

.... and I can tell you first hand these are pretty darn efficient. After all, having a train pass is just for a set point A to point B, but with the Suica Card, you just use it whenever you need to. I still prefer to use my bike when I can, but when I take the train I see more and more people using the Suica card. Of course to get the card it costs about 2000 yen (20 bucks give or take) but once you have it you don't need to get another.

Transactions are too quick (1)

epicstruggle (311178) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518978)

conducts transactions at railway turnstiles in 1/5 of a second

Can we make the transactions take more time to execute. Id like to have a stripper to be in front of me for several minutes before charges on my account are deducted. :D

later,

Re:Transactions are too quick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5519059)

Yeah, and I'd like my dick stuck up your ass for several hours until you bleed to death

No limit on cash per card? (2, Informative)

arvindn (542080) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518984)

Riders take the cards to vending machines and add as much money as they want.
I'm not sure this is such a good idea. It would be better to have a fixed maximum. That way, losing the card involves no more risk than losing paper money. I recall a similar initiative in France a while ago, where they had an upper limit. If there's a cap you're not putting all your eggs into one basket, and you get a pretty good idea of how much money you are carrying even when you are not near a card reading machine.

Re:No limit on cash per card? (2, Informative)

BJH (11355) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519037)

Believe it or not, it's an *improvement* over the old system. Normal train passes here in Japan can only be bought for 1, 3 or 6 month spans, with the cost per month lower the longer the span. That meant that, in order to get the cheapest fare (which is all your company will pay out), you had to buy the six-month pass, and carry the equivalent of several hundred dollars (if you live far out of Tokyo, it could be over a $US1000) in your pocket in the form of a thin piece of plastic. If you lost it, tough.

At least with the SUica cards you can control how much you want to keep in the card yourself.

Re:No limit on cash per card? (1)

Dot.Zeile (461136) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519176)

The term of commutation-ticket type SUICA is still limited to 6 months. You can just renew the term without changing the card. But, renewal will not happen before its time limit nears. You cannot have such thing as 10-year effective commutation card. And, SUICA can hold cash value beside its commutation-ticket functionality, but, it is also limited to 20,000 yen. So there IS a limit of the cash we can hold into the card.

Re:No limit on cash per card? (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519216)

What, exactly, did that have to do with what I said?

Re:No limit on cash per card? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5519081)

I don't know about the system used in Japan, but in Finland you get your money back if you lose and cancel the card. You only need to pay for a new card (5 euros).

Here too (1)

zm (257549) | more than 11 years ago | (#5518988)

Bell Canada has been selling cash smart cards for use in public phones for a while now...

Hello? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5518989)

The Netherlands have this for like 5 years. Ok no RF, but it has a chip in it. And its finally catching on, mostly because parking lot and train ticket devices require it. Actually I only have to carry 'real money' when going to a club or so. Oh, and instead of credit cards we use bank cards with PIN, which work better also (minimum fraud). So just 2 plastic cards is what you need.

American Response (1)

utd-blaze (654032) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519005)

In response to Japan's cahsfree smart card, the Bush administration is unveiling the cashfree school. The main difference from the old system is the replacement of funding with tax breaks. No longer will you have to attend a properly funded school. Instead you can stop paying taxes on dividends, and send your kids to a private school. This is sure to help American workers' employers' CEO's rich uncles. And fight terrorism.

also in chile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5519024)

we'v got this in the santiago subway for about a month now: http://www.multivia.cl/index.htm (site is in spanish)

It's been around for over a year (1)

Dan B. (20610) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519034)

I was in Japan this time last year and I used the RF/Prox card for the metro, as well as the traditional magnetic strip tickets. The card is very quick indeed to get through the turnstyles, but the normal ticket system can easily cope with the levels of use and is also just as fast. The only way this benefits the customer is missing the queues to buy/adjust the ticket value at the beginning/end of the journey.

Where I live here in Edinburgh, the busses have a similar sort of card (time, not distance based though) and it takes easily a full two seconds before it registers the pass which is slower than paying by cash. It does forfeit the problem of having to dig up correct change before walking out the door though.

Speedpass anyone? (3, Insightful)

jpellino (202698) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519055)

Just got my speedpass timex watch - no more key tag - I'll prolly give that to my wife - the windw tage never did work on my dodge neon's back window, so that was out.

I like the idea of speedpass being used at gas and other small place - mcd's, dunkin's - for the most part if I lose it, the money is safe (so they say so far) and what's the worst someone could do - buy a tank of gas, drive for a day then buy another - i'd figure it out by then.

Plus anyone who has a debit card and uses it for purchases AND atms - it wears out about halfway thru it's expiration date from people treating it like a sanding tool at the checkout.

Negroponte told a neat story a few years back - about the ski pass rfid's in switzerland - he went to pull out cash at a small store to buy some chocolate, and was fishing for change and the cashier saw his spent ski pass - he offered to take it for the payment - nn asked why, and the guy said they're worth 5 francs deposit when you turn them back - when pressed, the cashier said he piles them up and pays the bread vendor - the bread vendor piles up piles from the stores he delivers to , one of which was the ski resort, and turns them in en masse!

it was nn's arguement for how micropayments are easier than we think. speedpass isn't exactly micropayments given the price of petrol, but it's close, easy, cheaper for the shop (debit vs credit) and certainly easy for me.

Old news (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5519063)

As people have already stated, this kind of technology is already in use in many Asian countries (e.g. Hong Kong and Singapore) and even in old Europe :) It's not just for transportation (bus, train, taxi, parking, etc), it's also used for small purchases (e.g. 7-Eleven).

There is no personal tracking involved - nobody knows who owns a card (a card might have a unique ID on it, but you don't give any form of identification to buy a card).

Do you yanks ever wonder that perhaps your rabid paranoia about privacy is perhaps getting in the way of progress? (I can hear growling from here...)

Malaysia has had such a system for years (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5519066)

Malaysia has the exact same system which is used for paying road toll, bus fares and for Light Rail Transit ticket. It's also been extended to be used in Car Parks. It's called the Touch-N-GO card

Belgium has sth, but a little different ... (1)

anerki (169995) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519075)

Here in Belgium we have a system called Proton. I don't know about the US, but Proton is just a chip on your credit card where you can put a limited amount of Euros on. (125 if I'm not mistaken, about 128 Dollars). Once the money is on the chip there's no way to take it off other than spending it. The advantage is you never have to type a code for your smaller spendings ...

This is a great system, you don't have to have any cash on you, you can track where your money is spent if somebody steals your card ... However, you can't block the Protonchip, you can block the account of course, but since the money is on the chip and not the account ...

Imagine the possibilities (1)

worst_name_ever (633374) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519085)

Cards with cash on them? Imagine what you could do with a Beowulf cluster of those! ;)

There's something like this in Malaysia too (2, Informative)

TheLink (130905) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519093)

They're called Touch n Go cards here in Malaysia.

http://www.touchngo.com.my/

They can be used for the light rail transport in the capital, highway toll booths (proximity or stick them in a gadget aka smartTAG that allows remote deduction/payment at up to 40kph[1]), a few parking lots and you can reload them at certain bank ATMs.

Of course there are the usual complaints of double deductions etc.

And I wonder about pranksters deducting from cards just for fun (you often don't need to take the card out of your wallet/purse for it to work).

Also wonder if the organized crime syndicates have figured out a way to "make money".

Link.

[1] If the transaction doesn't go through the toll bar doesn't go up, so caution is encouraged :).

Hong Kong MTR Octopus (2, Informative)

psi6030 (105079) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519100)

The MTR in HK has this - buy an Octopus card [hk-hotel.com] for (refundable deposit) HK$50, use it up buy sweeping it over entry and exit to train stations or on buses, and top it up when it gets low (balance displayed on each sweep).

Re:Hong Kong MTR Octopus (1)

go-low (149672) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519239)

The octopus card is also accepted instead of cash in amongst other places: in 7-Eleven, Circle-K and soon McDonald's. It's even possible to replce your Octopus card with a mobile phone with it's own embedded Octopus chip.

http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/j un 2002/tc20020624_8848.htm

Been there, done that. (1)

someguy (23968) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519103)

The Chicago Transit Authority already uses these. They've been going cashless for at least 5 years and have had the non-swiping cards for about a year.

Chicago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5519127)

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA -- busses and
trains) offers this system. It's called the
"Chicago Card". Being the owner of both a Suica
Card and a Chicago Card, I can attest that the
two systems work virtually identical. Chicago
has the advantage that you can use the card on
busses. Tokyo has the advantage of having a vastly
more extensive rail system.

See www.transitchicago.com

crack it? (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519194)

So can anyone provide an easy explanation why these can't get cracked?

If money is stored in the card, then the right device could put money into it by altering the balance.

I was thinking the only way to prevent this would be to check the balance with the transaction database before accepting any transactions... but in 1/5th of a second, accomplishing this would seem unlikely.

One benefit of the RF cards... (1)

Kasperitus (316050) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519257)

From my experience comparing the Taipei, HK, and Tokyo subways against NYC, one of the big benefits of these cards is that the fares with the RF cards are based on the distance you travel, where as in NYC its just a flat rate. So the panhandler shaking a cup in your face who has been on the train for 5 hours paid the same $1.50 that you paid to go 20 blocks from Canal St to Union Sq in 10 minutes (assuming he didn't just jump the turnstile). If I remember correctly, the fares in Taipei ranged from about $0.75 to $2.25 depending on the distance you go.

This would be hard to implement with the current metrocards in NYC because it would require you to swipe both on the way in and the way out.

the couch? (1)

russellh (547685) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519278)

Mass transit remains one of the big areas for many folks where you just can't live without cash- this would be a big improvement over digging in the couch for exact change ... "

Yes, especially since you won't need to carry the couch with you on the train.

hong kong also... (1)

iosmart (624285) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519279)

according to this cnn article, apparantly hong kong is also highly utilizing smart cards...even in their railway system.

OLD! (1)

shepd (155729) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519293)

So old we pulled the plug on it a half-decade [www.efc.ca] ago.

why compromise security (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 11 years ago | (#5519353)

The question is why compromise security to get a bit of convenience and possibly reliability. We have very cheap very anonymous very thing cash cards. These require the user to slide the card into a reader. The act of sliding the card in a reader is an explicit act to acknowledge the user wishes to have the fare amount deducted. The act takes a few seconds. The cards are extremely durable. I wish we had a standard card so we could use these cards at retailers for small purchases.

Contrast this with RF car. I see all sorts of problems. The least of these problems is there is not explicit act needed, other than to just walk into a room, to have a fare removed. A bigger problem is a thief with a bit of equipment at the street corner stealing money from the card. If this were an automated task, and cards were in wide use, a thief could transfer a dollar from each card into his account, and empty his account by the end of the day before anyone was the wiser. I realize that there safeguards that may make it difficult for the thief to actually get the cash, but that does not help the people that were robbed. If a retailer were to be the theif, say radomly deducting money from browsers cash cards, we would have real problems.

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