French City to Launch NFC Trial with Contactless E-Purse

The city of Bordeaux, France, in March will launch an NFC trial enabling users to pay with a contactless electronic purse, Moneo, along with a few other services.

About 100 trial participants will be able to tap Samsung S5230 Player One NFC phones to pay in shops in the city, along with gaining access to municipal facilities, such as swimming pools and a skating rink. They’ll also be able to use the phones in reader mode on NFC tags to download information on city monuments. Another 200 trial participants will be able to use USB keys with a contactless interface and contactless cards.

The Moneo application will be stored on SIM cards issued by French mobile operator Orange.

Like many e-purses in Europe, the formerly bank-owned Moneo scheme failed to catch on as a contact payment card for small purchases at shops–in this case mainly as a separate application on French debit cards. Among other problems, small shopkeepers wanted to avoid paying card transaction fees and taxes, so have resisted taking the purse.

But Moneo has gotten a new life as closed-loop payment and access applications on ID cards used by university students in France and to enable cardholders to pay for purchases in vending machines and parking fares in French cities.

It had 42.5 million transactions in 2010, about half of them from students, who can receive discounts on campus for paying with Moneo. Besides payment for purchases of up to 30€ (US$41.36) in shops in and around the universities and in vending machines and self-service laundries, Moneo provides access to such facilities as computer labs and libraries.

Since 2006, Moneo added a contactless interface and about a third of the student ID cards with Moneo onboard, or about 600,000 cards, are contactless.

Venture capital firm BlackFin Capital Partners bought Moneo late last year.

Since last Friday, the Moneo e-purse and contactless student services became part of the multiparty NFC demonstration project in the French Mediterranean city of Nice, through the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis. Bordeaux, among several other French cities, is interested in sponsoring NFC projects like the one in Nice.

Olivier Meric, CEO of Moneo Payment Solutions said mobile phones add more functionality to Moneo, especially for managing the e-purse.

"You have over-the-air functionality, like charging on the mobile," Meric told NFC Times. "It is much more convenient. You can reload the wallet anytime, anywhere. You get better control."

Users also can check their Moneo balances, he added.

It is unclear how many shops will accept the contactless Moneo application for the six-month trial in Bordeaux, though Meric estimated there would be perhaps 500 contactless point-of-sale terminals.


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