"There are so many different ways to expand NFC inthe transport industry with technology applications that span the entire passenger experience, so it’s a very interesting sector to be involved in."
The NFC Forum is a non-profit organisation that exists to bring together experts in near field communications, sharing development and marketing expertise to develop the best-possible solutions for this crucial technology. Paula Hunter, NFC Forum’s Executive Director, talks to Dave Songer for this week’s 5 minutes about the steps the organisation is taking to break down the barriers and enhance the lives of consumers worldwide. Paula is a seasoned business executive with more than 15 years’ experience in high technology marketing, operations, and business development and has served as officer and board member of global industry associations.
Dave Songer (DS): Thanks very much for taking the time out of your busy day, Paula. I’d like to start with asking you: what you enjoy most about your role?
Paula Hunter (PH): I find it fascinating to see how transport is evolving around the world. International investment is constantly driving new transport projects, making this industry a very exciting one to work in. For example, at our VISIONFC Transport Summit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, we learned about a number of rail projects underway in Asia: from a new subway system being developed from the ground up in Ho Chi Minh City, to well-established public transit systems in Singapore and Tokyo using NFC technology that provide advanced ticketing, payment and service options right from their customers’ NFC-enabled devices.
DS: What are some of the latest projects that you have been working on?
PH: At the NFC Forum, we work with a number of transport standards-based organisations to roll out new NFC technology solutions. To make the process easier, we have been working to bring these organisations together in order to harmonise NFC Public Transport specifications so that the technology will work across all transport infrastructures (Figure 1). While this project is nearly complete from a specifications standpoint, NFC technology is being tested in the broader market on public transportation vehicle systems such as trains and buses, as well as private ones like e-vehicles and autonomous cars. There are so many different ways to expand NFC in the transport industry with technology applications that span the entire passenger experience, so it’s a very interesting sector to be involved in.
DS: How have you seen the industry change in the past five years?
PH: I think NFC-enabled smartphones have been intrinsic to the change we have seen over the past five years – there are two billion NFC-enabled devices in use worldwide, and seven billion people inhabiting the planet. These devices are a key enabler and are becoming the centre to new infrastructure projects, such as our smartphones which have revolutionised transactions, ticketing, real-time information, and everything in between.
We now need to ensure that NFC technology has the ability to be used on an everyday basis, working in harmony with smartphones across all areas. The NFC Forum has worked towards making the adoption of NFC technology a reality, and now we’re focusing more on ensuring the transport industry can support its roll-out.
DS: What do you think the future of rail holds in the next ten years’?
PH: It is important we continue to work on the variety of ways that consumers can use NFC technology in payments and transportation, as doing so will ensure that technology is fully functional across borders and abroad. The main focus will be on how we can make the Forum make public transport easier for travellers, especially internationally.
One such success is the East Japan Railway Company (JR East). Ahead of the 2020 Olympics, JR East opened up their transport infrastructure to NFC-enabled-devices from all over the world. By making public transport more open, versatile and interoperable for both regular users and international visitors, JR East can provide a door-to end-door, one-stop service all while enhancing the customer experience. It is a great case study for the rest of the world.
DS: How can the government improve public transit services?
PH: Well, in America, this is certainly a challenge. This is because there are more than 6,000 public transit entities, so it is a hugely complex undertaking. As I mentioned before, the use of NFC-enabled smartphones will make things a lot easier. There can't be a government-led initiative on a national level due to the many different transportation entities across the country – and of course the cost – so it’s necessary to create new revenue opportunities by automating many of the processes.
Counting and processing money, paper tickets, and plastic cards can be very expensive and labour-intensive – all of which can be easily solved by smartphone ticketing with NFC technology. It’s a move that would ultimately save a lot of overhead costs, while also enhancing the customer experience. The Irish National Transport Authority (NTA) already has a jump start on this process with the implementation of the Leap Card programme, called Transparent NFC. NFC technology enables the smart card to be read and updated via an NFC-enabled mobile phone and app, ensuring a very secure solution for the user and helping to guarantee performance during peak times.
DS: What is your favourite rail journey and why?
PH: I grew up in Connecticut but have lived in both Boston and New York, so I often travel between the cities on the Amtrak Acela line. This trip is my favourite because it passes right through my home town and I can view the beaches and all of the places I used to go, especially in the summer, from my seat. I prefer rail over plane travel, so this journey is very convenient and relaxing for me.
DS: Thanks, Paula. The work in Japan sounds fantastic, I hope to get to use it for myself one day.
Our last 5 minutes with... Marcelo Bravo, Director, Rail Solutions, Trapeze Group
5 minutes with… You? Each Friday the team here at SmartRail World bring a 5 minutes with... interview. This fun, fast-paced feature will help you get to know more about personalities across the industry, their ideas and experiences and of course their own favourite rail journey! Want to take part? Email: Dave@SmartRailWorld.com to find out more.
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