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SUMMARY Use of contactless smartcards for electronic fare payment for transit in the United States will probably increase over time. There is a strong desire to create interoperability within transit smartcard implementations for greater patron convenience, which would indirectly stimulate greater use of mass transit. Unfortunately, interoperability is not an attribute of the existing systems and will require some effort to attain. TRB defines interoperability for this research project as "the ability of different agencies to coordinate and share information so that passengers can travel in a seamless fashion." This definition covers technological barriers that may preclude one agency's smartcard reader from reading a smartcard issued by another agency as a result of protocol or radio frequency incompatibility. It also addresses the need for uniformity in how data are stored on the card and what information is included on the card. To accomplish interoperability at a technological level, use of international standards must be required. ISO/IEC 14443 is an international standard that covers the physical and radio frequency characteristics and the initialization, anti-collision, and transmission protocols for contactless smartcards. Strict adherence to ISO/IEC 14443 in transit implementations would make data exchange possible because it would ensure that transit contactless cards and readers would have a uniform basic communication channel. To allow interoperable access to the data on the card, ISO/IEC 7816-4 defines a set of com- mands or application protocol data units that allow data interchange at the higher applica- tion level. This allows identity to be read, updated, and authenticated in a standard non-proprietary fashion. This standard was developed for contact smartcards; however, early contactless devices chose proprietary protocols to provide for application-level data exchange. The research done for this report found that the lack of standard use was a signif- icant obstacle to interoperability of existing implementations in transit systems. How data are represented on the card, or card format, is another area that needs stan- dardization. Several standards are available for this purpose, one being the Regional Inter- operability Standard for Electronic Transit Fare Payments (RIS). The RIS is under review for adoption by APTA's Universal Transit Farecard Standards (UTFS) Task Force. Com- pelling the use of such a standard would ensure that every agency would store data on the card in the same way; this would allow a card to be "understood" from agency to agency, provided the agencies were inclined to share the security information needed to authenti- cate access to the cards. A standard such as the RIS or UTFS typically includes related pro- cedures and specifications to govern the transmission of data from the automatic fare collection (AFC) equipment to and from the agency central computer system and regional clearinghouse. 1
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2 Smartcard Interoperability Issues for the Transit Industry Another area that could benefit from standardization would be the integration of the contactless smartcard reader to the host computer that typically operates a fare gate or ticket vending machine (TVM). Today, the programming interface for contactless smartcard read- ers is predominantly proprietary. This usually requires that the fare gate or TVM application software be rewritten if the contactless reader is replaced with a different model. A standard application programming interface (API) can solve this through the definition of standard functions and data types. Once an API is established, the hardware manufacturers can pro- duce equipment with software drivers that conform to the API. As part of this project, an API and software drivers were developed to demonstrate this concept. The API approach provides an option for transit systems to reduce the cost of technological obsolescence in smartcard-based AFC deployments. This work is intended to guide the planning of new deployments and systems. Several sys- tems with smartcard infrastructures exist; most of these systems were planned and imple- mented before the current standards. The cost of transitioning one of these systems to a standards-based system will differ from system to system and cannot be generalized effec- tively. Perhaps the most prudent approach for such systems would be to wait and see if the acceptance of contactless bankcards may provide an effective alternative to a system rebuild. Sufficient standards exist to provide interoperability in the use of smartcards in transit environments. The adoption of a standard API may help reduce the cost of maintaining AFC application software as contactless smartcard technology develops and matures. The key to interoperability in the future of smartcard-based AFC systems for transit lies in com- pelling the use of these standards.