An Australian First for Public Transport

The most innovative step a tech company can take is to understand that innovation isn’t an end in itself, but a means to make the daily lives of real people and business partners easier and more secure.

Technology to Improve Lives

To bring this ideal to life, Mastercard is creating an "open loop" contactless payment system for public transport. It operates like the current Opal card without being limited to one network, and seeks to turn a clever idea into a reality.

This is why Mastercard is joining forces with Transport for NSW to bring contactless card payment to the Manly Ferry.

It’s an area with many potential rewards – any impact upon daily life needs to be taken seriously. Changes to public transport payments and travel times impact upon hundreds of thousands of people every day; they affect productivity, efficiency … and even the city’s mood.

Expanding Opal's Ease and Flexibility

Mastercard's initiative for Sydney's Manly Ferries is a government-supported trial for a system to augment (or, perhaps, one day replace) the current "single-use" Opal card with a more flexible and versatile "many use" Mastercard. This could mean that commuters paying with a contactless Mastercard need not carry any other cards to use public transport.

Perfectly suited for international and interstate travellers, anyone in Sydney can use their Mastercard to tap on and off the Manly Ferry as they would with their Opal, with exactly the same fare being deducted.

The route runs between Circular Quay and Manly and aims to improve the journeys of thousands of Sydneysiders and tourists every day.

New Collaborations for Better Solutions

This isn't technology for its own sake. Mastercard's goal lies in successfully adding value to public transport in conjunction with the NSW Government.

“... part of the Government's focus on adapting the technologies of today to make the customer experience easier while testing ... technology for the future."

Innovation is about helping our collaborators reach their goals with better, faster, more-efficient and more-secure solutions.

“… anyone catching the ferry with Mastercard no longer needs to queue for a single Opal ticket and can simply tap … at the … gates,”

- Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Andrew Constance


Inside the Technology

Implementing contactless Mastercard payments on public transport means inventing solutions to overcome some technical challenges, such as the issue of payment speed hindering movement through the gates when tapping.

With thousands of commuters moving through the gates at peak periods, a payment transaction can't take the one or two seconds required for a standard retail contactless purchase. When large numbers of people are involved, the smallest of individual delays quickly expand into a major inconvenience.

Mastercard has implemented secure cryptographic authentication for every transaction, rendering the payment process safer – and faster. In essence the gate will let the customer through instantly and collect payment later, so there is no waiting and personal data isn't exposed.

Mastercard has international experience at troubleshooting such issues. For example, while developing solutions for London's Oyster contactless payment system (essentially the same technology as Sydney's Opal), Mastercard found a way for the input of a PIN to be skipped entirely, greatly speeding up the process.

“A coffee shop payment takes … 1-2 seconds … Mastercard had to reduce ... that to 400 milliseconds.”

Real Change for Real People

Whatever comes as a result, it will be to the advantage of the end user. In Mastercard's view and that of their ongoing tech partners, the technological innovation of contactless transport payment is but one kind of example.