EZ-Link

EZ-Link

The EZ-Link card is a contactless smartcard based on Sony's FeliCa smartcard technology, used for payments in Singapore especially for transportation in Singapore . Established in 2001, it was promoted as a means for faster travel due to speedier boarding times on buses. EZ-Link cards are sold, distributed and managed by EZ-Link Private Limited, a subsidiary of Singapore's Land Transport Authority. As of 2007, there are over 10 million [ [http://www.cardtechnology.com/article.html?id=200709051WTYG8J1 Telcos In Singapore Announce NFC Trials] ] EZ-Link cards in circulation, with 4 million card-based transactions occurring daily.

Development

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) introduced its pilot testing of the card to 100,000 volunteers on 26 February 2000. Initially for commuters who made at least five trips on MRT/LRT per week, the card was branded as the "Super Rider". As an incentive, volunteers were given 10% rebate off their regular fare during the one month period. [cite news | title = 100,000 commuters needed for smart card test | author = Karamjit Kaur | publisher = The Straits Times | date = 2000-01-25 | pages = 33]

Two further tests were made, with the scheme extending to frequent bus users on selected routes, on an invitation basis. [cite press release | url = http://www.smrt.com.sg/news/2000/09_08.html | title = Bus pilot test for the Contactless Smart Card | publisher = SMRT Corporation | year = 2000] The S$134.6 million contract was awarded to the ERG Motorola Alliance to supply 5 million card and readers.

Uses of the card

The card is commonly used in Singapore as a smartcard for paying transportation fees in the city-state's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), Light Rapid Transit (LRT) and public bus services. The card also serves as a supplementary identification and concession card for students in nationally recognised educational institutes, full-time national service personnel serving in the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Civil Defence Force and Singapore Police Force or senior citizens who are over sixty years old.

The system has since been expanded, with EZ-Link cards being used for payments in Singapore branches of McDonald's, food centres, supermarkets and libraries, and even soft drink purchases from vending machines. Some schools in Singapore have also started to adopt the EZ-Link card as a way to mark the attendance of students and to pay for food served within the school campus.

A similar system is used by the Octopus card in Hong Kong.

On December 3 2005, EZ-Link Pte Ltd announced that it was working with NETS to create a new hybrid card which will have the functions of both the EZ-Link card and the CashCard. This card would make it possible for one card to be used for payment on ,land transport in Singapore — ERP, bus,MRT,stalls and library. Work on this card was expected to be completed in 2008, [cite news | page=1 | publisher=The Straits Times | author = Chua Hian Hou | title=All-in-one travel card for cars, trains and buses | date = 2005-12-03] and it is to replace the existing Ez-Link cards in 2009 as the existing EZ-Link cards are being phased-out.

On 17 October 2007, Starhub and EZ-Link Pte Ltd declared the start of a 6-month trial on phones with an embedded EZ-Link card. [ [http://www.ezlink.com.sg/NEWS_ez_press17Oct07.htm EZ-LINK AND STARHUB CELEBRATE THE LAUNCH OF THEIR NEAR-FIELD COMMUNICATION (NFC) PHONE TRIAL WITH 1,000 HANDSETS DISTRIBUTED TO THEIR CUSTOMERS] ]

Technical data

The EZ-Link card operates on a radio frequency (RF) interface of 13.56 MHz at 212 kbit/s, with the potential for communication speeds in excess of 847 kbit/s. It employs the Manchester bit coding scheme for noise tolerance against distance fluctuation between the card and the contactless reader, and implements the Triple DES algorithm for security.

Pricing

Fares range from S$0.66 to S$2.98 for standard adult EZ-Link cards on the Mass Rapid Transit. Concessionary users usually do not exceed fifty cents a trip on both MRT and bus systems. The fare for a bus trip for adult card users, including line changes usually never exceed S$1.90.

On the MRT system, there are forms of EZ-Link cards which are meant to be used as single-trip tickets, but the fares of which range between one and two times that of non single-trip tickets, from S$0.90 to S$4.10. In addition, a S$1.00 refundable ticket deposit is charged for each Standard Ticket. This refund can be collected from any General Ticketing Machine when the card is returned to the machine within 30 days of purchase. The smartcard technology contained in each Standard Ticket makes each one costly enough to necessitate recycling of Standard Tickets.

There was a problem with commuters attempting to evade paying the full fare, with the prior magnetic farecard system.

Under the EZ-Link system, when a person taps his card on the entry card reader, the system deducts the maximum fare payable from his bus stop to the end of the bus route. If he taps his card on the exit reader when he disembarks, the system will return an amount based on the remaining bus stages to the end of the bus route. If he fails to tap the card on the exit reader when he disembarks, the entry card reader would have already deducted the maximum fare payable to the end of the bus route.

Initially, this system was not very well received by Singaporean commuters due to numerous glitches resulting in overcharging. [ [http://www.thelocalking.com/singapore/outing--night-life/ez-link-card.html Ez-Link Card] ] However, most of these glitches were rectified by the second year of operation: upgrading of the system software and changing the way fares are deducted. Nowadays, when a commuter taps his/her card on the entry card reader, the screen will display the remaining value in the card. The fare will only be deducted when the card is tapped on the exit reader. To ensure that commuters pay their fares, bus drivers are required to ensure that all commuters tap their EZ-Link cards on the entry reader (this gives off a discernible beep), and as with magnetic farecards, inspectors occasionally come on board buses to check the status of commuters' cards and ensure they have paid their fare. Non-EZ-Link card commuters use cash and receive a proof of purchase for the particular bus trip.

EZ-Online

EZ-Online is an online service provided by EZ-Link. Commuters are able to view their past transaction records, download discount coupons onto their cards, pay for shopping using the EZ-Link card at selected online merchants, and top up their EZ-Link card online so as long as they own a Sony Felica contactless smart card reader. This is sold at most electronic stores.

EZ-Online currently supports more than 51 merchants and is applicable only for purchases not more than SGD$100. [ [http://www.qb-link.com/services.html QB Services] ]

Criticisms

* Some people question the need for a children's concession card to be an identity card as well. Indeed, the loss of the concession card would cause much distress to its owner, because administration charges of up to S$20 would be levied for the replacement of a new personalised EZ-Link card.
* Also, some parents criticised the expansion of the use of EZ-Link cards to school canteens and fast food chains. While the primary use of the EZ-Link card for transport is a necessity, they cannot monitor or control their child's food purchases on the same card. [cite news | publisher = The Straits Times | title = Students using ez-link card on the sly at McDonald's | author = Venketasubramanian Jayashri S | format = forum letter | date = 2007-08-06]
* There were also criticisms over the need to incorporate a non-refundable S$3 card cost into the price of the card. Questions were raised as to why there was a need to charge people to pay for a medium that is used to pay for public transportation. Other similar contactless smart cards such as the EasyCard in Taipei, do not incorporate a non-refundable card cost element. The earlier magnetic card system employed in Singapore did not have a non-refundable component.
* The Standard Ticket issued for single trips has also been criticized for making passengers using it physically return the card to the General Ticketing Machine, and if they do not do so, forfeit the S$1 deposit which they paid on top of their fare earlier on when they purchased the card. Hong Kong and Taipei, both of which employ a contactless smart system for stored value cards, use magnetic tickets and contactless tokens respectively for single trips, and these are retrieved automatically at the faregate when exiting.

It is not true that ez link stated that the bus fare will only be deducted when the commuter tap their card when they alighting. The problem of overcharging still occur when the commuter forgot to tap their card when they alight from the bus. However, after all it is the commuter responsibility to ensure they tap their card when they alighting.

The real problem is it seems the so called "auto activated" card reader failed to activate when the bus reach bus stop. Sometimes it takes more than 5 seconds after the bus stopped before the card reader is activated. By then, most commuter have alighted from the bus thinking they are charged the correct fare since they tapped their ez link when they alight. I not sure about others, but it occurred 3-4 times when i took bus no 30. If the card reader is truly auto activated, then does it meant that the card readers are designed in such a way to get extra revenue?

When commuter undercharge, they will be fine. When they are overcharged, they are required to take some bus or mrt or both that cost them minimum 71 cents just to get back 20-50 cents. Salute to the strategist who think of this way to increase revenue.

ee also

* Network for Electronic Transfers
* CashCard

References

External links

* [http://www.ezlink.com.sg EZ-Link Official Site]
* [http://www.qb-link.com/services.html QB (non-transit applications agent)]
* [http://www.smartcard.com.sg Personalised Photo Ezlink Card]
* [http://www.smartcard.com.sg/corporateportfolio.html Customised Corporate Ezlink Card]


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