STM developing mobile payment system for Android phones

The STM is developing a mobile payment technology that will let commuters buy and pay fares.

Payment system will allow commuters to pay fares with a smartphone

The mobile payment technology will work with the OPUS card system. (Radio-Canada)

Suretap, a consortium formed by Rogers, Bell and Telus, have begun testing mobile payments on Montreal's public transit network.

"We want to make it simple for customers to get access to our installations and to our network and this is another way," said STM chairman Philippe Schnobb.

In the new year, a few hundred employees will test the new payment system, which will allow commuters to pay fares with their smartphone.

Schnobb said there's no timeline right now for mobile payments being available to STM riders.

The goal of the tests is only "to make sure it works in real life," he said.

The mobile payments would allow commuters to use their smartphone to board a bus or the Metro, as they do now with their OPUS card.   

For now, the cost of developing mobile payments is being shouldered by the companies behind the tech and not the STM.

"We made our facilities available to those who made the proposal, because we're all interested in developing the technology," said Schnobb.

Incompatible with Apple for now

The technology uses Near Field Communication (NFC) to let users electronically pay their fares.

This is similar to the technology used when commuters tap their OPUS card on a turnstile to enter the Metro.

But, for the time being, it's only being tested on Android. 

The problem is Apple does not allow outside organizations like the STM to access the NFC in their phones. 

"As long as that's the rule, we can only offer this on Android," said Schnobb.

There have been rumours that Apple could change their policy in the future.

According to market research by Media Technology Monitor released last year, 42 per cent of Canadian smartphone users own a iPhone.

This summer the STM spent $7.6 million on a card reader that allowed commuters to refill their Opus cards at home.