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The Snapper/HOP debacle finally resolved?

Well I chose a rather dramatic couple of weeks to be out of the country – I come back and it seems as long last we might have sorted out the integrated ticketing problem and finally given Snapper the boot. Good riddance I say! From next month we will start to see the “proper” HOP card rolled out on the rail network, with ferries following in November and the bus network – seemingly all in one go now with Thales providing the hardware, from April next year onwards. Here’s what the “real” HOP card is going to look like, compared to our current card:

The new one does look quite a bit “swisher”.

Unsurprisingly, Snapper hasn’t accepted responsibility for the mess this project has turned into and find themselves blaming Auckland Transport and NZTA:

As a result, Auckland Transport has announced that they will engage French multinational Thales to develop and roll out a bus solution for all Auckland bus operators by April 2013 at a cost of over $12 million.

Rhoda said “We are naturally disappointed by this decision, as we have invested significant capital and effort to develop the Snapper system, which is currently the only operational integrated ticketing and payments solution in New Zealand. We are frustrated that critical components for our integration work that we needed from Auckland Transport, NZTA and Thales have consistently not been made available to us. Snapper put forward a plan in April that would have delivered by 30 November, but Auckland Transport never took the decisions and steps it needed to take for that plan to be implemented.”

“Auckland Transport is being disingenuous with its attempt to position Snapper as the reason that the AIFS project is delayed. Delivery of the AIFS system was the responsibility of Auckland Transport, with their partner NZTA and their prime contractor Thales. Snapper’s role was limited to integrating with that system, and the reality is that the AIFS system has not yet been built. What Auckland Transport also fail to mention is that of their $100m spent to date on this project, Snapper has never received any compensation for its integration efforts. Auckland Transport are solely accountable for the design, systems integration and delivery of this project”.

“Snapper is ready to deliver a fully compliant and integrated system as soon as Auckland Transport address fundamental capability and project management gaps – something they are unlikely to do until they acknowledge they have a problem.”

Remarkably similar lines to  those repeatedly trotted out by a few commenters on this blog who tend to only comment on posts related to Snapper. What a remarkable coincidence!

That said, I don’t think we can fully lay the blame with Snapper for the mess this project turned into. It would have been clear from a very long time ago that things were heading off-track, yet it has taken about two and a half years since the Thales contract was signed for the realisation that there’s a fundamental problem with the project to actually be flushed out and solved. That suggests really really bad project management by somebody. It might take a few LGOIMA requests for us to get to the bottom of the story, but we will certainly do our best on that count – with so much money at stake.

However, to be honest I almost don’t care whether it costs another few million to be rid of Snapper completely. Enjoying Vancouver’s fully integrated public transit system over the last couple of weeks – with integrated fares to match – has highlighted to me the importance of getting integrated ticketing right. At the end of the day Snapper’s equipment just wasn’t up to the job – something known right from the start actually – so they’ve been kicked out. Now let’s just bloody well get on with it!

91 comments to The Snapper/HOP debacle finally resolved?

  • Cameron Pitches

    I would feel more assured of the success of the project if AT could tell us what the end goal is. Free transfers? Fare caps? Zone based fares? Are monthly passes gone? Is the AT Hop just going to be a debit card? Does anyone at AT actually know? (And please don’t trot out the international best practice line – that didn’t really work for Sydney or Melbourne).

  • Post suggestion: A Transport Blog history of the Snapper debacle – starting from when the original tender went out, to when they lost it, to when the appealed, to when they lost that, to when they said “we’re going to put it on our buses anyway”, to when they were let in for the “temporary” system with a lot of us thinking that was a bad idea. If I find time today I can sift through the archives and e-mail you a collated list, or is someone working on this already?

  • Nick R

    One thing I’ve been mulling over the last few weeks, should AT just drop the tarnished HOP branding entirely and just have it called the Auckland Transport Card (AT Card)?

      • Sam

        +1..has an actual, highly relevant meaning, unlike Hop, (also, who doesn’t love a cat? ) and I feel like there is going to be alot of confusion having two Hops in play. At the risk of being offensive, Im going to say that many if not most people in Auckland arnt that PT savvy, the amount of times people flag down the 2-49/43/33 and ask if it goes down Mt Eden Road, or pull the stop bell on express services well before Mt Albert road on every single express I’ve ever caught (the worst was on Friday when someone pulled it on New North Road) is just ridiculous.

        There is going to have to be a huge effort to market this double card solution to the general public (not just transport geeks) and avoid confusion and I think removing Hop from the AT/Hop card would go a long way given that when I explained this to my flat mates they looked at me as though I was speaking another language and couldnt get over the fact that they were “both still hop cards right”

        • I actually thought HOP had a really relevant meaning that was more suited to attracting the younger audience, remember they are the ones we should be targeting, as we are more likely to change there habits. However I do agree that HOP is now a tarnished brand, thanks to this.

          • Sam

            As a 19 year old, I dont really see how the name Hop targets the younger audience (or am I too old? haha)….just a little side note, based on current internet humor I feel like a CAT card might pick up a lot of attention (potential free marketing too if it went viral)…also, as for changing our habits, I personally think younger people are more likely to easily adopt change to the more convenient (cheaper) option, the hard part is getting them to be interested and to actually care about something

      • ACT. Awfully Confusing Transport.

  • Peter

    I just wondered since you will have to tag on and off, do you do it on the platform or on the train?
    Going by what happens on the bus there is pressure to do it quickly as you exit. Not good if it doesn’t work first time

  • Peter

    Sh*tty Card for Auckland Transport: SCAT. LOL

  • Chris

    I wish the anti Snapper campaign will stop as Auckland is part of NZ not NZ part of Auckland. We have to think nationally when it comes to integrated payment systems.

    The best public transport card that works very well is Beijing – Yikatong (One-card pass) value stored contactless smart card. This card can be used Beijing Subway, Beijing Buses, Beijing Taxis, Cooperated supermarkets, restaurant or bakery, gym, etc. The card a great in getting around Beijing.

    There are plans to integrated the card on some of high speed rail services from Beijing especially on the Beijing-Tianjin high speed train services that operate every 30 minutes. Tianjin (pop 13 million) is becoming a satellite city of Beijing. Travel time between Beijing and Tianjin is 35 minutes at 288 kms p/hr. Great for urban public transport.

    With regards to Vancouver, Translink (similar to Auckland Transport) is introducing Compass card for use in 2013, to replace a range of single/return fares, weekly, monthly, student passes.

    Compass Card will be a reloadable, electronic fare ‘Tap N Go’ card that will work everywhere in Metro Vancouver covering bus, commuter train services, SeaBus ferry or SkyTrain services.

    A Compass card will be available with the fare media product or be able add stored value and pay as you go.

    There one catch, unlike Vancouver where Coast Mountain Bus Company is the major bus and operates only in Vancouver, Auckland’s bus operator is operating in 3 locations in NZ – Wellington, Auckland and Whangarei plus 96% ownership in Fullers Auckland ferries.

    • Louis M

      Infratil no longer own Fullers.

      • Infratil never owned Fullers. It was Stagecoach (Souther Holdings) which sold NZ Bus to Infratil but kept its cash cow on the Waitemata, Fullers Ferries. BTW I haven’t heard whether Waiheke commuters (bus and ferry) will be integrated too. There are Hop readers on Wharf 2 but they may be for other services. The good news is that a new ferry service to Waiheke is starting this week at $10 single fares (compared to $17.50 on the incumbent): http://waihekenavy.co.nz/

        • Thanks, Hans… any chance the Navy will join AT’s Integrated Ticketing process?

          • Infratil purchased Stagecoach NZ including Fullers in 2005. NZ Bus subsequently sold Fullers to Souter Holdings in 2009 to allow us to focus on our core business.

            Zane Fulljames
            CEO NZ Bus

        • Thank you, Mr Fulljames, my bad. Pity Fullers didn’t get new ferries, apart from some second hand river boats, before the sale. Souter still runs the same fleet until it will be scuttled (or blows up by itself). And the Waiheke Bus Co has buses from the Yellow Bus Co era, just with a new lick of paint. Such is the joy of monopoly!

    • Are you not aware that NZTA will eventually take over the system and make it available to other councils in NZ? It is probable that at some point in the future Wellington will actually end up using the Thales system as well when Greater Wellington Regional Council adopts the NZTA/Thales system for their region. National integration isn’t unique to Snapper, Thales can do it as well and in my opinion they are more likely to succeed in doing this. The rest of your post mostly sounds like what AT will be introducing as part of their Thales-backed system.

      • Chris

        Hi James

        Thales is one of an increasing number of international companies that have or developing payment collection/distribution systems.

        Don’t forget that Visa International and Mastercard are the 2 biggest internationally and have been around for a long time.

    • Nick R

      Chris, there is no such thing as “Auckland’s bus operator”. NZBus is only one of six bus companies operating in Auckland. That was one of the main problems with a Snapper based system in Auckland, you have one bus company in charge of the ticketing, fare collection and patronage information for all the city, including all it’s competitors. Add to that the rail system and ferries and we can see why Snapper wasn’t a good answer for ticketing in Auckland, or all of NZ for that matter.

      • Hi Nick,

        Just to be clear NZ Bus has never been nor ever intended to be in charge of ticketing, fare collection and patronage information for all of the city including our competitors , the rail system and ferries.

        Zane Fulljames
        CEO NZ Bus

        • Harvey Specter

          But your 100% sister co did. You make think of yourself as separate but I am sure the IFT board doesn’t.

        • But a company under the same ownership had that intention, so you are probably aware how this looks to the public. Infratil would have effectively been in charge of ticketing, fare collection…they also own NZ Bus. Prob can see the connection?

          Thanks for taking time to come and comment here.

  • Steve

    Chris – thinking nationally is the reason why NZTA mandated that the clearing house they were helping to fund had to be a nation one so that other regions could use it in addition to Auckland.

    Point of correction – you mean major operator, there are other companies in Auckland that run buses and Infratil sold Fullers to Souter Holdings in 2009 so no longer own this as well as NZBus

  • Sacha

    Can anyone commenting here who works for a payment system vendor please tell us that, as some have? Thanks. These recent theads are becoming like a trade show.

    • Sacha

      I understand this system includes transport planning information, not just payments processing.

      • Chris

        Thales is one of a number of companies, that has develop a retail point of sale money collection system (mainly for public transport systems) where a person using a magnetic strip or ‘Tap N Go’ card at a reader like on a bus or gate reader at a ferry terminal or railway station and then gives the fare (less a transaction fee) to the provider of the service you have traveled on.

        In essence the system is a clearing house for multiple payments collected from readers and given to the operators who are using that ‘Payment Clearing System’.

        It works on a similar principle when you use your EFTPOS/ATM, credit, debit card at a retailer to buy goods or services and then gives the money (less a transaction fee) to the retailer who sold you that goods or services.

        The difference between the two type of payment collection systems, a system like Thales, Oyster, etc have the transport fares, zones, etc in its the main computer system, so it knows what fare to charge you, if you caught a bus a stop A and got of the bus at stop G or board a train at station K or go off the train at station T.

        That all it is.

        Hope this helps

  • Chris

    Hi James

    Heaven help NZ if NZTA gets its own way.

    While in theory it would work but like in any theory, reality ends up being very different as you know.

    I don’t see NZTA going ahead with the a central clearing system unless that system allows for B2B (business to business) integration with other payment systems like Snapper, Visa, Mastercard, etc. With the current dramas with AT, Snapper and Thales, it would end costing the tax payer alot off money which the government would not like to spend, especially if they want to get into surplus in the next couple of years.

    As in the the other post – Fried Snapper, technology is moving rapidly especially with smartphones and NFC (Near field communication) SIM cards and chips.

    We are all aware, that Snapper is working with 2 degrees for NFC technology in their SIM cards. Both Telecom and Vodafone are planning to to do the same.

    If any anybody has a Mastercard credit or debit card or an Air New Zealand Onesmart prepaid Mastercard would know, that your card now has a chip that includes NFC for ‘Tap N Go’ use. If fact with Air NZ Onesmart card, you can check in and board an aircraft using your Onesmart card plus make purchase at retail merchant purchase using the card.

    Visa in NZ have started to replace their existing credit and debit cards with NFC chips allowing their cards ready for ‘Tap N Go’ use.

    As already mentioned other payment collection systems are already in place, besides yet to start Thales and if NZTA wants to create a national clearing house for public transport then they would have to step delicately between all parties involved especially the global payment collection businesses of Visa and Mastercard and to lessor extend American Express.

    I don’t think NZTA has the necessary expertise to set up a national clearing house and they would leave to the industry and the regional councils to decide on what system to use. NZTA would probably end up issuing guidelines.

    Personally I would like to use one (not multiple cards) card or my smartphone to buy a coffee, board a plane or travel on bus or long distance train regardless where I live in NZ.

  • Frank Spencer

    In relation to ticketing, have any of the bus companies looked at phasing out onboard cash fares or introducing automated fare deposit boxes? The drop boxes seem quite common now in other cities. Surely this would reduce cash handling costs and improve security for drivers and passengers. Not too sure how much time this would save on boarding though as estimates seem to vary e.g. http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/files/documents/reports/j13684/j13684.pdf.

    Also, now the “Super City” is in place, do the sub brands (GoWest etc) still need to be there as this must be expensive in terms of duplicated branding costs and create confusion if the buses are used elsewhere? Just a random thought.

    • Stu Donovan

      Frank, good question – I was pondering this myself over the weekend. I have a post coming up about “moving beyond integrated ticketing” which was going to consider these issues.

    • Liz

      The fare deposit boxes are fine if you have the right change, but can be frustrating if you don’t. On the other hand, this would probably encourage more people to shift to using HOP.

      Also, if a lot of money is already being spent to put in RFID card readers, it might be seen as wasteful to introduce fare deposit boxes. But Frank has a point that it is much safer for drivers. In London (where most people use Oyster) the drivers are behind a screen because they have to carry cash from non-Oyster transactions… I would hope Auckland didn’t need to get to that point.

      Sub brands are maybe not so necessary any more, but until we have a hub-based system it would be useful to have some sort of differentiation. Auckland is a big city, I want to know that I can catch any of ‘x’ buses to go to a certain area. c.f. the buses in Nottingham, with different coloured lines. http://www.nctx.co.uk/lines.

      On a related note, NCT buses have fare deposit boxes – for which I almost never had the correct change. But is was easy enough to get a day pass so that you only had to worry about correct change once. Or you could pay for several people at once – you didn’t need correct change for each person. Also, there were a couple of other bus companies operating, and you could get a day pass (called a ‘kangaroo pass’) which allowed you to use any operator. It was slightly more expensive than the NCT day pass, but cheaper than paying for each leg of the journey separately.

    • Robin

      The drivers in London are behind glass screens for historical reasons but now need to carry very little cash. Within the greater London area cash fares must be paid for on the street at vending machines at the bus stop. It’s a fixed fare (something like $5 now) regardless of zones. Because it’s so much cheaper to use an oyster card almost everyone does. The only time a driver is involved in a cash transaction is at the route extremities – but since there are very few tourists out that far most users use their oyster cards and so the driver needs to carry only a very small float.

      This system is very effective at increasing driver safety and increasing embarking times (the driver doesn’t check any tickets). Fare evasion is a worry; I think tfl release figures but buses always make up the bulk of network fare evasion. Plus the necessary infrastructure investment to get ticketing machines at thousands of bus stops would probably make it prohibitive for AT but it’s definitely superior to drop boxes as it makes use of the waiting time that otherwise goes to waste.

      • Harvey Specter

        It might have have changed since I left but only certain stops used the dropbox – all in the inner city where the stops are busy. It also relied on honesty as you could board through one of the trhree doors on a bendy bus.

        All buses in London were one price (regardless of distance traveled – no need to tag off) with the Oyster card being about a 50% discount.

      • Liz

        Some routes have ticket machines at all bus stops (e.g. the W7 in north London). Because these are specific routes and standard double-decker buses (where you only board through the front door), tickets were checked by the driver on entry, I think. The bendy buses in central London (several doors to board, very busy) have a high level of fare evasion.. or at least a reputation of being an easy free ride.

        • Christopher T

          No more bendy buses in London; that prat Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson got rid of them all to the detriment of London public transport after a scare campaign orchestrated by the Evening Standard newspaper.

  • Harvey Specter

    I do like some of the ‘press releases’. “We made the decision on Friday”. Except the decisions had been made days before – you dont get a big ad in the Herald that quickly – it was well planned and on a Friday to broadside Snapper? I heard a week or so ago and thought it was to be released on Thursday from my AT insider.

    Plus if you read Rudmans column today he has picked up that AT has ordered 1100 units, not the bus company’s. These are going to be owned by AT and provide them with a further little income stream. No doubt the higher income will mean larger salaries for those at the top.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10829656

    • ‘No doubt the higher income will mean larger salaries for those at the top’.

      Oh please Harvey or; ‘more revenue to reinvest in Auckland’s PT services’ perhaps…..?

      • Harvey Specter

        Its circular – if Bus companies have to pay AT money for reader units, they will request higher subsidies to keep their level of profit stable (all things being equal). As such, AT income will increase but so will its expenses – a zero sum game. But bigger organisations demand bigger salaries.

        • What is the difference with the two options, with your logic, if it was as before both snapper (Infratil) and Parkeon would gain from them = bigger salaries, or now NZ Bus (Infratil) and the other bus companies = bigger salaries. Going by you logic the result is the same either way.

          I tend to disagree though, at least going through AT, we have better control of prices etc. So the profits are more likely to go into re-investing if there is much.

  • Stephen H

    As far as fare evasion on London Buses goes, drivers usually had a pretty good idea when it was going on- there are cameras all over the buses, with screens in the drivers cab. Generally when someone tried to get on through the back door without tagging on, the driver would refuse to move until they got off and paid. The pointlessness of being on a bus thats going nowhere, and about 20 angry/aggro Londoners who want to go somewhere screaming at the fare evader generally solved the problem…

  • Bing

    “New Zealand Bus, which provides the majority of Auckland buses, is refusing to install the Thales readers until they’ve been proven in other buses for six to eight weeks.

    Insiders suggest that it could be September before all buses are linked into the system.”

    Just read that in Rudmans article….umm what? How can they get away with this? Surely AT wont want two hop card around for over a year?

    • Harvey Specter

      I dont see this as a major. Thales will have to install over 1,000 readers, 650 of them being on NZBus. The other companies (Ritchies, Howick etc) will get them first. Six weeks later, NZ Bus will get theirs. If it gets delayed until September, it is because the roll out to the other bus companies is behind schedule as they are meant to be installed in April (will beleive it when I tap and go).

    • Bryce

      Considering everything else that has happened, I’m not concerned at all.

  • zane fulljames

    To be clear NZ Bus has neither refused nor agreed to anything at this stage.

    In due course AT and NZ Bus will meet to discuss the timeline for delivery of integrated ticketing on our services and agree a way forward that meets objectives. NZ Bus as I ahve previously stated to committed to and supportive of Integrated ticketing in Auckland and will work constructively and in collaboration with all of our partners to deliver what will be a much needed step change in PT provision in Auckland.

    Warm Regards
    Zane Fulljames
    CEO NZ Bus

    • Bryce

      Thanks for your informative posts Zane. I guess, we observers from the sidelines, really need to be mindful of the fact that, while having the same owners, NZ Bus and Snapper are two companies. Of course NZ Bus using Snapper in Auckland would have been ideal for NZ Bus, but we cannot take away the fact that NZ Bus provide a great service for us Jafa’s :-).

      I am looking forward to seeing a double decker.

  • pete

    What part of Snapper’s equipment wasn’t up to the job? It’s a transactional RFID card just like the Thales card?

    • Hamish O

      Mainly speed when tagging on/off, and interest from stored cash not being reinvested in PT, but whether or not anyone thinks Snapper would have been a better option (which I don’t), ARTA, the NZTA and AT all choose a Thales only solution, and are entitled to that choice.

      • I second the speed issue. When I first read about the speed issues I originally thoght there was no substance to that claim because I was a regular Snapper user and it didn’t seem too bad to me. But earlier this year I had the opportunity to use and observe the Brisbane smart card system first hand. It was then I realised how slow Snapper is. The best example I think was one bus I caught during the peak had literally 20-30 people board the bus at a single stop. I was gobsmacked when all 20-30 people boarded the bus so quickly due to the very fast tag on speed — I could see straight away had it been Snapper being used it would easily take at least twice as long to process the same number of passengers. I think I had to experience a non-Snapper system to see first-hand how bad Snapper is…

    • Scott

      I think both snapper and the Thales card smart cards rather than simple RFID cards that only serve to send out a identification code. I.E. the card balance is written to the actual card etc.

      • Hamish O

        That is correct, they are actually NFC (Near Feild Communication) cards not RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), this is what makes them so fast (compared to eftpos), but also relatively insecure, and makes online top ups difficult (but not impossible).

  • pete

    All radio based contact less payment systems (“smart cards”) including NFC are RFID devices. Having memory and processors is just a bonus. Snapper, Oyster, Thales and most Australian (and global for that mater) cards are more or less MIFARE DESFire compatible systems. If they are slow that is a PT software issue. Most cards can be read from a distance, so the actual swipe is just to say action this card now. The PT should be able to talk to the card long before and long after it reaches the PT. So repeating the question again, what part of Snapper’s equipment wasn’t up to the job? If it was speed just put the PT’s in the isle like they do in most countries, not at the door!

    • Hamish O

      If they are slow that is a PT software issue.

      Are you sure about this? It’s certainly the first I’ve heard of it. A link to some evidence would be nice. I just find it hard to believe Snapper would have resisted so long in not fixing this ‘issue’ if it is as easy as you imply, especially when they were fighting to win the AIFS tender.

      If it was speed just put the PT’s in the isle like they do in most countries, not at the door!

      I’m not quite sure what you mean by in the isle. NZBus’s new ADL busses have it on the corner. If you took it much further along though it would be hard for the driver to watch, and people would be able to board without tagging on.

      what part of Snapper’s equipment wasn’t up to the job?

      Thales won the tender for the ‘core’ system. AT was worried that Snapper wouldn’t be ready in time, and wanted a single supplier (for obvious reasons), so ditched them as well as Parkeon. The bus companies aren’t complaining as they need to be friendly to AT for PTOM contracting.

      That really is all there is to it, we could debate for ages over whether or not Snapper suffers a technological disadvantage, but it is irrelevant as the choice for Thales was made a long time ago by both ARTA and the NZTA. Technology was also not the only factor in consideration

      • pete

        Thales and Snapper both use DESFire systems, IIRC Snapper use chips fro NXP, their data sheets show at 100 mm range you get 800 kb/s+ data rate and using hardware assisted DES you should get total transaction time < 200 ms, same for other DESFire compatible supplier like Philips etc. Any other delay is just bad software or artificial "standards" rubbish. In comparison most NFC phone have a transaction time or around 350 ms, and people around the world are happy to use those?

        On the bus the driver gets a panel read out of how many people tagged on and off, and they can count how many boarded (they have more important thing to do like driving :-) ), you should be able to board from the back of the bus too

        It's not irrelevant, some stupid people have spent truck loads of taxpayers money on gear we didn't need. Wait for the disaster on the trains next week when they finally work out they don't have enough payment terminals!

        • Hamish O

          Over time AT owning the gear should mean that the $100m+ cost is repaid from the interest on cash stored. If Snapper didn’t think they could make money out building and running the system they wouldn’t have tendered. Why would it be any different for AT?

          I agree that technically the cards are not that different, but I still fail to understand why Snapper would use ‘bad software’, as the standards for them will be the same standards for AT/Thales. If they could easily speed up their cards by 3-4 times then I’m sure they would have done it already. I am happy with 350ms, but I understand that Snapper (at the moment at least) is more like 600ms-800ms, this really is quite slow.

          Back of the bus boarding requires there to be random ticket checking on buses like there will be on trains. Taking this approach would speed up boarding, but also increase fare leakage. Exactly how much would be worth calculating.

          In terms of the lack of ticket machines, yes it could cause delays on Monday, but in the long term most Aucklanders might have a AT Hop card and use an auto top up, meaning not so many are needed. I definitely would have wanted more at Britomart and Newmarket though. AT getting the HOP site with online top ups and auto top ups going soon would help I think.

          • My guess is it’s the Snapper tag posts and drivers’ console that are slow and underpowered rather than the cards.

          • pete

            Even with a few million in the cash stored account, at current interest rates you are only making small change compared to system and vandalism costs. Interest would be lucky to be more than a few $100k a year

            The question to ask is; If the Snapper system is so bad, why is no one in Korea complaining? The last time I checked the pace of life in Korea made Auckland look closed!

            A faster transport system means more people use it, that means more savings for everyone. A bit of fare leakage is going to be easily re-couped in not having to build more motorways and hospitals

          • Hamish O

            1) If the interest is so little, why would Snapper have offered to do it for free?

            2) I never said the Snapper system was bad. Snapper probably has what I call ‘mild technological disadvantage’ compared to Thales. This is mainly just the speed thing. I saw a video of someone tagging on with T-Money in Korea and it seems a lot faster. If it was easy for Snapper to speed up their system I’m sure they would have done it already.

            3) I agree that all door boarding should be given serious consideration, but getting the basics of this project completed should be priority first.

          • Peter M

            Is pete another Snapper astroturfer?

          • pete

            1. If Snapper can get NZ wide acceptance, they become the defacto payment processor for zillions of small payments (coffee, mags, movies, etc). They collect $0.25 for those! That’s where the money is

            2. AT said it was no good, which appear to be un-true. Maybe implementing Thales “version” of DESFire or PT/BO was causing delays?

            3. Given that more then half the Auckland buses already had a working solution, the fastest way to complete the project was to build on that, not throw it away. I assume in a few years time, after the enquiry, some heads will roll

          • If Snapper is using the same tech as Seoul Upass/T-Money it’s not DESfire, it’s a variant of Ultralight. Ultralight C I think, so it has tripleDES, but no accelerated crypto. There is a significant speed jump on DESfire.

            Koreans are probably happy with it because they’ve had it since 1996. I’d give up a few milliseconds if it meant Snapper could deliver me a system 16 years ago. As it stands today their technology was a poor choice in an evolving market. Not only the comms tech, but the reader (and I don’t know much about them so I’m guessing) seems underpowered or has a poorly configured antenna. In fact their speed issues could be down to a number of different things or a combination of all of them. And their mobile phone tech also seems like they’ve jumped the gun – favoring first-to-market over waiting for an industry standard and picking rubbish technology in the process.

          • pete

            PeterM I am a independant RFID applications developer. I found this blog by accident, wish I had known about it earlier. I can’t believe this beast has got this far and big. For what it’s worth, Snapper isn’t much better, it could have been fully developed in NZ. This is just for some small transactions, we are not talking bank level security here

          • pete

            T-Money started in 2004, DESFire was from around 2002. Ultralight is for disposable cardboard based tickets. Plastic tickets are usually DESFire (hardware DES). I would assume t-Money can use those, the readers are the same, it’s just a simple software issue. Either way t-money is fast, it’s certainly less than 200 ms, check http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwuH4HN4Vis at 1:30 mark

          • Robin

            Well if it really is hardware TDES then the speed issues are most likely the readers… I still can’t find and documentation saying those cards are hardware encrypting… Got any details on the chip in the snapper?

            Instead of a theoretical 100mm 800kb/s I have had to actually make sure the end of the snapper card with the chip in is touching the reader with nothing else in proximity to get a transaction. certainly nothing like that video. If the readers could be fixed I guess NZ Bus could still fix them to work with Thales cards… So if they don’t I guess it means it was all broken!

          • pete

            Neither Snapper not AT/Thales have published their card types. I can’t imagine either the readers or the card are at fault for speed issues. Any non DESFire card/reader is going to be compatible with DESFire. It’s just a matter of upgrading to DESFire cards, and changing software. No hardware change required. We are talking about a few hundred bytes of data interchange, and some simple storage commands, even on the the Ultralight a 12 page DES transaction take < 100ms

            I imagine Thales imposed some crappy transaction and balance update rules/process that where designed to be difficult for the particular Snapper hardware, this is the same game Microsoft/Google/Apple play with each other

          • Robin

            Your theory doesn’t stand up in practise, where existing snapper cards and readers aren’t even talking to the Thales system. They are definitely not < 200ms. So if it's as you say it is why are they slow?

          • Pete, Snapper is slow even with Snapper cards. About 800ms to read a card, and a 2000ms wait between two successive reads per reader when there are multiple people getting on/off.

          • pete

            Are those actual timed measurements? I just downloaded a couple of old youtubes of snapper terminals being used and it was around 8 frames between display changes (initiate to complete), at 25fps that’s <350ms

          • I’ve just noticed something – my wife and I have one each of a 2009-issued Snapper card and a SNOP card. The 2009-issued card is faster to complete transactions – I’d estimate 400-500ms as opposed to 800-900ms for SNOP (occasionally 1000ms+). I now think things must have slowed down when Snapper moved to JCOP in late 2010/early 2011 – which tells me the cards have got slower. Newer Snapper cards and all SNOP cards are JCOP.

          • Interesting. There is nothing in JCOP as an operating system that forces it to be slower. Certainly not crypto anyway – JCOP cards have a 3DES coprocessor like Desfire. The Desfire system is a lighter weight OS optimised for just a few tasks.

            It certainly warrants some investigation though and has piqued my interest sufficiently that I’ll have to get hold of both cards and do some debuggining.

  • The 2 seconds is personal observation of the shortest time between beeps when a lot of people tag on one after the other, when the following person places their card against the reader immediately after the preceding person has removed theirs. I’ll video it if I get an opportunity.
    The minimum gap was longer if the tag post plays an audio message (the old “Please check your balance” message, now removed, pushed it out to about three seconds before it did the following card)

    I note Snapper’s own promotional video here only claims three seconds per passenger, and you can see several of the users have to hold their card still over the reader for around half a second. Perhaps Auckland’s is slower? We have one red Snapper and we’re going to Wellington next month so I’ll try to video some tags on and off with both cards in both locations for comparison.

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