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Phones to replace bus tickets

By Julie Clothier for CNN

Passengers will enter buses by waving their phones at a scanner.
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Telecommunications Equipment

(CNN) -- Old-fashioned bus and train tickets may soon be a thing of the past -- and mobile phones look set to replace them.

From early next year, 150 commuters in the German city of Hanau, near Frankfurt, will trial technology that removes the need to buy a traditional bus ticket.

Their phones will be installed with near field communication (NFC) chips, and when scanned against a special reader, the price of a ticket will be deducted from each commuter's transport account.

Peter Vollmer, spokesman for Rhein-Main Verkehrsverbund (RMV), the public transport authority for Frankfurt, told CNN that commuters would be sent a bill for their transport use, much in the same way telecommunications companies issue telephone bills to customers.

The electronic readers will tally each commuter's usage and give them the best price, said Vollmer.

"If you are using the system often, it may issue you with a monthly fare. It will always give you the most cost-effective ticket," he said.

The region's public transport system has used electronic ticketing for three years and Vollmer said an NFC-based ticketing option was the next logical step.

This is the first live trial of NFC technology in the transportation sector, and Vollmer said that if it was a success, the system would be installed on public transport throughout Germany.

NFC chips allow for short-range -- up to 10cm -- radio frequency (RF) communication between personal electronic devices.

In mobile phones, they work in conjunction with smart cards, which ensures access is secure.

Sour Chhor, of Philips Semiconductors -- which makes the chips, told CNN they would eventually act as "wallets," sharing data between the phone and the phone user's bank account.

They could also replace access cards, allowing entry to secure buildings with a swipe of a telephone, he said.

The chips also speed up connections between devices, for example, between telephones and personal computers.

Chhor said that Philips, along with Visa International, was currently working with Universal Music France on a project involving "smart posters."

"You might see a nice poster advertising a tennis match. If you come close to the poster -- which would have a tag fitted -- and wave your NFC mobile, you will bring up all the information you need to know on your mobile phone screen," he said.

You would then have the option to purchase tickets on the spot, he said, and could gain entry to the event simply by waving your phone at an NFC reader.

"Our aim is to bring the world of service to consumers via their mobile phone, making it so simple they don't even think twice about these transactions," said Chhor.

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