Public transport as the backbone of smart cities: How a layer of trust delivers security with scalability 17. May 2016

Unprecedented urban growth is producing a variety of social and economic challenges. The United Nations predicts that by 2050 roughly 70 percent of the world’s population will live in city environments, which will significantly change in the way we live, work, and move around. It also places pressure on the environment, and underscores the need for sustainable economic growth.

At NXP, we see urbanization as part of several larger, already established trends, including green concepts that enhance the quality of life, and infrastructure improvements that reduce congestion and air pollution. Technology-driven initiatives in these areas have already had a beneficial impact on urban environments, and we think technology will only become more important as urban populations continue to grow.

Mass transit is a starting point

Up to now, one thing that has enabled significant urban growth is mass transit. It brings outlying areas closer to the city center, reduces congestion on roadways and reduces pollution, and makes the city easier to navigate, explore, and enjoy. More recently, secure contactless ticketing, made possible by technologies like NXP’s MIFARE® contactless ICs and Near Field Communication (NFC), has enhanced public transport by providing fast, easy access, especially during rush hours. As an added benefit, smart contactless ticketing has also gained recognition for the ways it lowers operating costs, fosters good will, and creates loyalty – among citizens and tourists alike.

Now, with MIFARE ICs and NFC available on smartphones and other mobile devices, what began as a way to automate ticketing for mass transit becomes the backbone for a smart city. Expanding beyond the installed base of mass transit, MIFARE products and NFC provide a strong, flexible, and secure platform on which to build.

MIFARE products/NFC = a secure starting point

Many know MIFARE products as the basis of leading transport schemes, including the London Oyster Card. While it’s true that MIFARE ICs are used by 77 percent of transport ticketing systems worldwide, covering almost 750 cities, the technology is also the basis for secure transactions in micropayment, hospitality access, loyalty, leisure, and more. NFC is both backward-compatible with MIFARE products and an expansion of the technology, enabling an even wider set of applications. It’s a defining technology in the Internet of Things (IoT), and is widely used in applications that need advanced sensor and data-gathering technologies along with secure connectivity and complete data privacy.

MIFARE products and NFC are flexible enough to support a wide range of use cases, yet are small enough to fit in everything from plastic cards and key fobs to smartphones, watches, and other wearables. MIFARE products and NFC are also designed for security, and offer support for the latest methods of encryption, secure authentication, and tamper-proofing.

A wealth of secure MIFARE product/NFC possibilities

This unique combination of flexibility, size, and security means MIFARE products and NFC can help people do just about anything. They are already used by millions – if not billions – of people worldwide, in much more than transport. They’re helping people lead greener lives by making it easier to use public transport, but they’re also helping schools keep students safe, helping banks protect valuable assets, and helping retailers give their customers better experiences, while making it easier to reward their loyalty.

With MIFARE ICs and NFC, you can use a single card or your smartphone as your ticket for public transport, and then use it again and again for other things – as an entry pass to your place of work, a concert ticket, or an ID badge for accessing public-health services. Use it to pay for lunch, do a bit of banking, or make an online purchase. Access the cloud to plan the best way to get across town, reserve a rental bike, or check traffic conditions on nearby roadways. All these examples are widely available today, despite being developed only very recently. As mobile technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to expand, so will the number of applications that benefit urban populations.

The missing link – the NXP layer of trust

What’s missing, however, is a secure, flexible way to link all these various applications together. Urban applications are, by and large, being developed in isolation, with dedicated teams addressing individual use cases in loyalty, micropayment, parking, public transport, waste management, libraries, museums, and so on. A higher layer of technology, used to unify and aggregate these various use cases, creates the thread needed to connect everything together and create genuinely smart applications for truly smart cities.

NXP is already creating this new layer of trust, working with partners and other industry experts to implement good security, configurability, and compatibility. The layer of trust, used to issue, derive, and authenticate identities, provides the security necessary to authenticate and provision any kind of user or service, and makes it possible to support any format (credit card, wearable, passport, ID card, transport card) at any time. If you shop downtown and spend a certain amount, you receive a voucher for transport. Or, if you dine at a particular restaurant, you receive special access to a popular museum exhibit. The opportunities for cross-financing and cross-marketing enhance the urban experience, while also benefitting those who support the city infrastructure. The layer of trust can link every use case to databases, which then provide insights into demographics and trends in demand, enable better decisions, and ensure rapid responses to real-time events.

NXP leads the way

Playing the role of conductor, directing an orchestra of technologists, planners, and developers, NXP is committed to the future of smart cities – to help citizens and visitors make the most of city life, and make urban environments better for everyone.