The Island of Capri is located just south of Naples on Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast. The island is only 6.7 km (4 miles) long and 2.7 km (1.5 miles) wide and has fewer than 15,000 residents with residing primarily in the two main towns of Capri and Anacapri. But while it may be small in size and population, it is immense in history, beauty, and tourist appeal. Each year, 7 million visitors flock to Capri to enjoy its beaches, visit its historical sites, and explore its renowned Blue Grotto.
Few visitors bring automobiles to Capri. In fact, a prohibition against the transport of cars to the island is further limiting this number. The roads are rustic and taxis are hard to find during peak visitor times. Thus the public transportation system in Capri must serve the small resident population, but it is even more essential as the conduit for Capri’s most significant revenue stream, tourism.
Capri’s two trains and 33 buses run aggressive schedules to meet the demands of the tourist economy. With as many as 15,000 visitors per day coming to the island during peak times, keeping up with the throughput and fare collection demands has always been a challenge.
But as new fare collection technologies based on RFID were examined over the years, the same problem kept arising. Officials saw the benefits of contactless technology but were deterred by the card cost. While costs were acceptable for regular users of the system, the vast majority of Capri’s users were of the single ride or single day variety. It was prohibitive to deploy cards of even a relatively modest cost to a visitor that would leave the island later that same day.
In 2000, ASK, a French manufacturer of contactless smart cards announced C.ticket, the industry’s first paper contactless card or ticket. Capri now had a solution, a ticket that combined all the benefits of contactless cards at an extremely reduced cost.. Visitors could receive a disposable contactless ticket while permanent residents utilized a traditional reloadable contactless fare card. The concept of UnicoCapri (translation: unique Capri), as the system would later be named, was born. Capri contracted with Ascom Monetel to serve as the system integrator– overseeing the project and providing the on board validators, point of sale terminals, turnstiles, and central management system.
Says Sanford Weinberg, VP of Fare Systems at Ascom Transport Systems, “Ascom, has supplied over 200 transportation agencies around the world with fare collection systems–35 of those transportation agencies implementing smartcard systems. The project in Capri is significant step forward in smartcard solution with the use of disposable tickets alongside the more traditional plastic contactless cards. It’s a model with worldwide implications.”
Apparently the system is working well. In 2002, Capri ordered 2.5 million C.tickets and 8,500 permanent fare cards from ASK. Project leaders report an average of 20,000 card-based transactions per day flowing through the system.
How does the system work?
Visitors entering a station can select one of—three disposable fare card options: single ride ticket at 1.3 euros, a 60-minute ticket for 2.1 euros, or a daily ticket for 6.7 euros.
When a rider presents the C.ticket to a reader on a bus or train, the card communicates with the reader and, following a successful handshake, passes its serial number. This number is authenticated and checked against a hotlist of cards that have been reported lost or stolen. The transaction is conducted and the new value and/or usage data is held in the reader and updated on the card. The reader emits an audible confirmation and the display provides a visual confirmation of the transaction. This entire process takes just one-tenth of a second. At a later point, data held in the card reader is uploaded to the system for overall processing and reporting.
What is a C.ticket?
Two key technological innovations went into the creation of ASK’s C.ticket. First, the company developed a process to create contactless antennae by applying silver alloy paint onto paper. Traditional contactless cards utilize thinly wrapped metal wire to create these antennae. Second, ASK created a complete chip module on this paper rather than a more expensive substrate material. In essence, ASK prints contactless modules using paper and ink instead of manufacturing modules using plastic and wire. Obvious cost efficiencies exist in the alternative process.
The C.tickets used in UnicoCapri are compliant with ISO 14443 Type B. So too are the traditional plastic fare cards provided to permanent residents–ASK’s GTML card with 576 bytes of EEPROM.
The Capri system meets the Calypso fare collection standards. As a transit entity, Capri joined Calypso at no cost. ASK and Ascom Monetel pay a fee to the Calypso organization enabling them to read and issue Calypso-compliant cards and supply products to member organizations. According to Mr. Weinberg, “using the Calypso standard Capri was able to draw upon the experience and cost savings of the network of other cities that are a part of the organization.”
The Capri system stands as a model for transit systems within the Calypso family and worldwide. The paper-based contactless ticket seems an ideal fit for systems serving mass numbers of single trip, transitional riders.