Berlin Subways Smarten Up
Wired News Report

12:00 p.m.  11.Mar.99.PST
The Transport Authority of Berlin will test a smartcard system later this year that will give riders reusable tickets valid on selected subways, buses, and tram lines.

Motorola and Australia-based ERG Limited designed the smartcard system, which will be available in Berlin and the surrounding Brandenburg area. Fares will be based on the time and distance traveled, and riders will be able to buy units for the reusable card with cash or electronic transfer payments at ticketing machines.

A contactless check-in/check-out terminal at the station or bus will debit the cards, and kiosks will inform travelers of the best route to take and how much it will cost to get there.

The system will use Motorola's latest Venus smartcards, which use higher-capacity memory chips that can pack more applications onto the credit card-sized devices.

The Venus cards have up to 32 kilobytes of a special kind of memory called electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM). EEPROM is used on smartcards because its static memory can retain its contents without power, and an electric charge can be used to erase the memory for reuse.

The field trial is scheduled to begin in October 1999, and will last three to six months. About 25,000 participants will test the system, and up to 150,000 transactions per day are expected. A similar system has been running in Hong Kong, where 4 million transactions are processed every day.

The cards can also be used as marketing and promotional tools to award frequent users with more public transport units or discount prices on products or local events.

A full system implementation in Berlin is expected by 2002.

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