Sunday, June 28, 2009

Contactless in Rome

I was impressed with ATAC, the organization operating mass transit in Rome and a couple other cities in Italy. What impressed me about ATAC is the coordination between the different modes of transport. In Rome, you can ride the train and bus (of course). You could also rent a scooter/motor cycle or even a bicyle.

One of the standard rebuttals I hear from my US friends about why mass transit would/does not work is because of the odd times that they have to run an errand to a place which does not have mass transit connectivity. With other modes of transport that you can rent, such an excuse is only that.

Why do I care about well coordinated mass transit operators? A perfect place for mobile / contactless commerce. To the hammer, the whole world is a nail!

In Rome, like elsewhere in Italy, there a lot of young folks. With mass transit opening the doors to contactless transactions, I expected to see a lot more of contactless payments in the retail world. I was very disappointed when even QSRs and newspaper stands at Termini did not accept contactless payments (transit or bank wallet). The silver lining was the availability of dual interface Metrecard that works for both transit and EMV Visa Electron card.

There seems to be a critical mass of converted audience. Initial inquiries to the cause of this gap seem to indicate that the contactless wave was come, heading south and west from London. Why do you think that there is no commercial deployment of contactless payments outside of tranist in Rome?

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