Tube smartcards taken for a ride?
(Electronics Times; 08/24/98)
The Tube may be starved of cash, almost always overcrowded, invariably
squalid, and sometimes even quite inefficient -but we are delighted to hear it
will soon be smart as well.
At least its ticketing technology will be, following a deal between London
Transport (LT) and a consortium to develop and install a system that will use
smartcard technology on the capital's underground network to help defeat
fraudsters while speeding us on our way.
This is splendid news in all respects, not least as a boost to the
electronics companies that will supply smartcard ICs, contactless card readers
and touchscreen booths where passengers will be able to `load' credit into
their cards, and computer services companies that will keep the whole smart
system under control. Long-suffering passengers may even be rewarded with
extended season tickets, free journeys or special, but so far unspecified,
services. It could even form the basis of a universal smartcard system
encompassing loyalty schemes, electronic purses and paying for leisure
If it all sounds too good to be true, it probably is, especially LT's
assertion that the Prestige system will almost completely eliminate fraud. The
fact is that large-scale smartcard-based systems like this are not yet as
secure as some believe. And the smarter they are, the more hackers they will
Let's hope the system designers have thought it through.