Following research conducted by Dr. Harsha de Silva on the potential techniques of introducing electronic bus passes, the Private Bus Owner’s Association of Sri Lanka scheduled the launch of its implementation for the 24th of September 2011. The solution however, has multiple aspects that need to be considered. The immense cash flow brought upon such a service for instance, calls for at least one bank to be involved, without which this solution will not work.
The technical side there are 2 potentials: the use of NFC (Near Field Communication) enabled mobile phones or smart cards. The predominant issue with NFC (i.e. the lack of NFC enabled mobile phones in the Sri Lankan market) has been overcome by the use of an additional piece of hardware attached to the SIM card that converts a basic mobile phone to one with NFC capabilities. This solution has been successfully implemented in Russia and can be implemented locally with customization. The proposed way forward in Sri Lanka is to have a Proof of Concept to test both the NFC and smart card solutions among two groups of commuters along predefined routes, with top-up centres. The feedback received from commuters, bus conductors and drivers will be instrumental in determining the preferred solution for Sri Lanka.
The technology is available. A bank has pledged their support. The next step is for the buy-in of the Ministry of Transportation and Sri Lanka may see a revolution in public transport in the near future.