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Parrasync: NFC smart card for getting around town

August 20, 2012

Came across this video for the Parrasync smart card, which was a finalist at cebit 2012 in the innovation award category. It’s a great concept and I’m really pleased to see it – but I think it will have its challenges.

A collaboration between Parramatta City Council, STMicroelectronic and Globas, the smart card will enable people to access Council-owned car parks, use it as a security tag to access work buildings, borrow from Parramatta City Council public libraries, purchase items from registered local businesses, access loyalty programs and so on.

It’s a great step forward in terms of NFC adoption at a city-wide scale. Unfortunately, it has a few structural shortcomings that might present themselves as roadblocks sooner rather than later:

  • Instead of replacing all the plastic cards in your wallet, it will only add to it  - it’s not like every business that local residents use will be a part of the trial.
  • The card at this stage will be limited only to the boundaries of the Parramatta City Council, so actual usage may be quite limited.
  • Cards can easily be transferred from one individual to another (ie to access a secure door, or borrow items on someone else’s account), while mobile phones provide a more secure and less transferable method of NFC usage.

In fact, while I’m really pleased to see an Australian local council being so progressive with their use and adoption of NFC technology, the ParraSync card in fact for me reinforces the benefit of having this kind of functionality built into the apps on your phone or other device. As Google Wallet, Apple’s Passport and other mobile wallet systems become prevalent in the coming years, they’ll quickly replace the need to have a physical wallet at all – And with it will come the ability to manage the extraneous NFC functionality that Parrasync refers to, such as accessing business coupons, opening secure doors, borrowing library books and so on.

So – why would I want another piece of plastic when NFC will be readily available on my smartphone in a matter of months?

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