Commuters who have smartphones with Near Field Communication technology will be able to swipe them over sensors in Metro stations, public buses and water buses. Image Credit: Courtesy: RTA

Dubai: Beginning 2013, commuters using public transport in Dubai will be able to use compatible smartphones to pay their fare, a senior official at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced.

Instead of using Nol Cards, commuters who have smartphones with Near Field Communication (NFC) Technology will be able to swipe their mobiles over sensors mounted on access gates at Dubai Metro stations besides public buses and Water Bus services.

This new contactless payment method will be the first-of-its-kind in the Middle East.

“The new service enables public transport users to pay their fares through the e-payment portal, top-up their Nol accounts electronically, and query their balances through the phone,” said Mattar Al Tayer, chairman of the board and executive director of RTA.

“RTA has coordinated with the telecommunication providers [etisalat and du] over the activation of the trial run of the service in order to assess the performance of the service before its official launch in 2013,” he added.

The trial run will begin on Sunday with selected RTA staff ensuring that the new services are fully operational.

A live demonstration of the service will also be held at the RTA’s stand at Gitex on Sunday.

The new services will be officially launched for public use in January 2013.

NFC technology enables compatible mobile devices to act as readers and create radio frequency waves to communicate with other NFC-compatible devices — the access gates at the stations, in this case.

“Using a compatible Sim card and a compatible smartphone, your phone will function exactly as a Nol card. The Sim card will have a built-in application so that the commuter may have control over the services offered through the Nol card,” Mohammad Al Mudharreb, director of Unified Automated Fare Collection at RTA, told Gulf News.

Commuters opting to use this service will have to replace their Sim cards with those that are pre-loaded with the built-in application before they can start using the service.

Al Mudharreb said etisalat and du were due to make an announcement on the list of compatible devices that would enable the services at RTA’s Gitex stand on Sunday.

The RTA will not be imposing additional charges for the services but etisalat and du have yet to announce if service charges will be applied.

Asked about the security of the new service, Al Mudharreb said: “It will be as secure as the Nol card.”

The new service is the highlight of an array of innovative e-services that the RTA is introducing at Gitex 2012. Besides the new contactless payment system, the event will also see the RTA launch the Automatic Vehicle Monitoring (AVM) System that will enable 24-hour real-time tracking of all public buses. Through this system, bus supervisors will have the ability to monitor the operational efficiency and movement of RTA buses through sophisticated satellite-linked navigation systems.