TAS Group & La Caixa partner with Open Traffic Systems on ‘smart’ parking meter, as Barcelona goes contactless

5 March 2012

A new parking meter developed by Open Traffic Systems, working in conjunction with TAS Group, which provides software solutions for electronic money payment systems, has been unveiled in Spain with the help of La Caixa bank, which also introduced an NFC contactless payment plan for Barcelona last week.

The Open Parking System (OPS) means that registered users can make secure payments with financial or private payment cards at parking ‘Points of Sale’ (PoS) units across Spain or elsewhere in the single euro payments area (SEPA). Transactions are then routed to a single switch and money is transferred to a customer account.

The scheme could mean the elimination of the need for a parking meter at all in the end, taking advantage of the mobile channel, or details and terminals can be affixed to existing parking meters across Spain if so desired. The OPS solution is already in production in the municipalities of L'Hospitalet de Llobregat in Spain and Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands. It will soon be extended to three additional countries allowing European citizens access to secure payment of their parking time with credit or debit cards whether via magnetic stripe or EMV chip, either with or without requiring a PIN to validate the transaction.

"On-street parking abandons the concept of traditional parking meters and evolves towards a global solution offering multiple benefits such as cross-border payments,” said Celestino Fernandez, general manager of Open Traffic Systems company, when discussing the new launch.

For Spain’s La Caixa bank this latest somewhat ‘off the wall’ parking announcement is part of its drive to encourage new payment methodologies using different technologies. In the past this has meant contactless ATMs, Mobile Contactless Payment schemes in Sitges and Ibiza, Spain, and just last week at the Mobile World Congress trade show it announced that Barcelona would become one of the first major European cities to comprehensively introduce a city-wide MCP scheme. The Barcelona ‘Tap and Go’ project will be rolled out over the next two years but will initially focus on introducing contactless cards this year, something that London has already done but with patchy uptake figures. Mobile phone payment mechanisms, using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology that will be rolled out by La Caixa and its partners in Telefonica and the local government, next year.

More than 15,000 NFC-ready POS acceptance terminals will be in Barcelona's stores by year end, with 300,000 contactless cards already in circulation says La Caixa and millions more in the pipeline. In excess of 500 NFC-ready ATMs will be deployed, 253 of which are already operative. While these figures are impressive they are nowhere near as high as the numbers for the UK, where the acceptance infrastructure and tens of millions of contactless cards have already been distributed, ahead of the Olympic Games which the UK capital hopes will spur customer engagement. Uptake has proved problematic in London so far, however, so presumably the Spanish bank and its partners are expecting the MCP element of the Barcelona rollout to aid customer engagement - alongside the Fujitsu-produced contactelss ATMs, wacky parking schemes and other technologies. Watch this space as the battle between the two cities for contactless kudos hots up.

By Neil Ainger

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