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NFC Trial at French Airport to Test SIM-Based Security Passes

May 24 2012

Fifty passengers at French regional airport Toulouse-Blagnac will test an application that puts a security pass to access airport facilities on SIM cards in BlackBerry NFC phones.

Mobile operator France Telecom-Orange, along with Research In Motion and airline industry IT and communications services provider SITA plan to hold the trial at the airport this summer.

In an announcement Tuesday, the pilot organizers said 50 frequent flyers would be able to tap their NFC-enabled BlackBerry phones to access an airport parking lot, then enter the departure area through a “premium access zone.” They could tap again to enter a passenger lounge. All the while, they will receive real-time information on their schedule, departure hall and boarding gate.

UPDATE: RIM told NFC Times the BlackBerry models planned for the trial are the Bold 9900 and 9790 and Curve 9360 END UPDATE.

The security pass will be downloaded over the air to the Orange SIMs, Renaud Irminger, director of the SITA lab in Geneva, told NFC Times.

The organizers say the trial will be a first for putting airport security passes on SIM cards in NFC phones. The trial, however, does not store mobile boarding passes or frequent flyer numbers on the SIM. 

That could come later, with SITA and partners developing NFC applications that they hope one day could replace 2-D bar codes to speed passengers through airport checkpoints and gates.

At the same time, Orange in France is keen to offer additional NFC services on its SIMs, and RIM wants to create more uses for its BlackBerrys.

“Using NFC technology offers many advantages: it is extremely secure; it works even when the mobile is powered off; it does not require any specific application to be loaded on to it; it is not affected by reading problems due to a scratched or dirty screen surface,” said organizers in a statement. “Passengers using NFC can now be handled more promptly and efficiently than with any of the current boarding processes available.”

Irminger said SITA plans another NFC trial later in the summer involving an airline.

The Switzerland-based organization, owned by major airlines and other global air travel industry companies, predicts NFC phones could store 50% to 80% of all boarding passes by 2018, provided the rollout of NFC phones and other infrastructure meets projections and the airline industry agrees on standards.

In January it demonstrated with partners the use of NFC to load boarding passes over the air to SIM cards in the NFC-enabled Samsung Galaxy S II, which users could then tap to automatically pass through security checkpoints, enter lounge areas and access boarding gates.

The partners in the project included France Telecom-Orange and the telco's Orange Business Services unit. They conducted the test in the lab.

A white paper the International Air Transport Association, or IATA, along with the GSM Association, the major trade group for mobile operators, issued early last year describes the benefits of using SIM-based NFC for helping passengers check in, pass through security, enter lounges and board planes.

Japanese airlines have already introduced contactless-mobile check-ins and boarding passes using FeliCa-based handsets.

A few other airlines have issued passive contactless stickers, including Scandinavian Airlines, which plans to introduce an NFC app for Android phones as early as this summer, with a frequent flyer number embedded in the app. The app would speed check-in, security screening and boarding.

 

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