Our Farevalue project is intended to address some of the minor but real frustrations people experience with RFID-based stored value cards.
If you live in one of Earth’s great cities, the odds are good that you use one of these just about every day of your life, whether you quite recognize it or not. You’ll know it as the farecard you use to pay your way around your city’s transit system; Hong Kong’s Octopus, London’s Oyster, and the Clipper card recently launched in the San Francisco Bay Area are all excellent examples.
In this context, stored-value cards clearly offer riders an enormous improvement over tickets, tokens or magnetic swipe-cards. But they’re not without inherent shortcomings of their own: most particularly, with the generation in current use, there’s no self-evident way of knowing how much value remains on a given card. You have to tap the card on a dedicated reader to learn whether or not you have enough fare to get on the bus or the subway — and the readers are never where you need them to be.
And this leads to trouble, both for you as a rider and for the transit system. Most aggravating is that situation many of us have been unlucky enough to experience, at least occasionally: you’re already moving through the turnstile, in anticipation of bus or train (and maybe you can even see it, about to depart without you) when you’re brought up short by insufficient fare or an expired card.
This is bad in three ways. First, it’s simply awkward and embarrassing. Nobody likes to inconvenience others, especially when those others are impatient big-city commuters, lined up close behind you. It might cause you to miss that bus or train, whether or not you can afford to miss it. And at peak hours, it can materially impact that station’s throughput, its optimal ability to handle passenger load.
But what if you had a way to know how much remained on your card before you hit the turnstile, and it didn’t require tapping on a reader? What if that information was presented to you in a friendly way, at a sufficient size that you could read it at a glance from across the room?
This is what Farevalue does, by laminating an e-paper display onto the card; the same flow of current through the radio-frequency antenna that energizes the card’s logic also updates the display. And since e-ink is “non-volatile” — the display only draws power during a change of state — the new value ought to be legible for weeks or even months thereafter.
Urbanscale’s work on Farevalue reflects our contention that the “smart city” can only reach its potential if based on thoughtful, human-centered design. We are actively seeking partners interested in licensing this method, and we invite you to get in touch with us if its vision of more convenient, less stressful mobility is a good fit for your concern.