Five top NFC transport networks

Last updated: 31 October 2019

For modern, efficient public transport networks, contactless technology is an increasingly crucial part of the equation. Using this technology eliminates the need for tiresome, lengthy queues, paper tickets and inefficient gate processes. It’s simply a must-have for transport system administrators aiming to provide a slick service.

Here, in our second post on new advances in transport technology, we take a closer look at NFC services. If you’re interested in learning more about how transport and technology are working together, do take  a look at the Gemalto Netsize Guide 2015 which can be found here. Our first post about some of the most striking global subway systems can be found here. Now though, here is a selection of the most noteworthy global public transport systems:

Madrid’s public transport system is piloting an NFC service. By downloading an app, initially on a Samsung phone, users can upload card details and purchase tickets. Incidentally, it’s our own Trusted Service Manager that enables users to top up on the SIM easily and securely. Once the user has purchased the ticket, all they have to do is tap their phone on a contactless reader and they’re through.

Hong Kong

Another key innovator is Hong Kong’s transport system, where users can purchase an Octopus Card, a proximity-sensitive card which uses NFC technology to make the travel experience as smooth as possible. Passengers can integrate their OctopusCard with their smartphones, allowing them to use their cell phone to pass through access points.

Launched in 1997, the Octopus was the second card of its kind in the world and has inspired many other payment systems, including London’s much lauded Oyster card. Its use isn’t restricted to transport either – Hong Kong residents can use the NFC-equipped Octopus to buy food and use vending machines.


Since 2013, users of Dubai’s public transport system have been able to use their NFC smartphones to buy tickets, top up their accounts and pass through access points. Recently this capability has been extended to include taxi payments.

The UAE’s transport network also issues Nol cards, which work in a similar way to other card systems. Equipped with NFC technology, the cards eliminate the need for paper tickets and speeds up travelling.


As the most populated city on the planet, Shanghai’s public transport system has to be efficient. That’s why earlier this year officials took the decision to move to a smartphone-based system.

Shanghai already operates an NFC-equipped card system, but with over four million terminals already installed and China’s enormous smartphone user base – the biggest in the world – the potential for mobile payments is huge.

The NFC payment system has also been extended to Beijing. It’s clear that Chinese public transport executives see smartphone payment as the future – and rightly so.


Singapore’s transport authority wants to extend NFC technology to wristbands. A trial is running until February 2016 and involves a partnership between Sony, SingTel and card issuer EZ-Link.

All passengers need to do is hold up their wrists to the contactless terminal, which will then register their payment. Using a mWallet app, users can check their balance and even set up automatic top-up.

It’s a compelling blend of wearable technology and NFC which will make life much easier for passengers on Singapore’s busy transport system.

What do you think about the potential of NFC in transport? Let us know by tweeting at @Gemalto or by posting in the comments below.