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Beijing wireless card for public transport

Beijing Yikatong Card

On my desk is a souvenir from Beijing: a so-called Yikatong card. You can pay subways, buses and also taxis with the card. It works as prepaid card, the card is charged with credit at special machines. When entering the bus you tap card to a reader and at the exit you will tap it again to a reader. The fare is calculated and deducted from the balance. In contrast to the many “Mobile Payment” attempts here in Germany this system is used by millions of people each day for some years now.

yukatong charging machine

Machine to charge the Yikatong card with cash.

The card is issued by the Beijing Muncipial Administration & Communication Card CO Ltd.

What is inside the card? An NFC enabled mobile phone with a simple NFC app delivers the message: “Information cannot be read”. So our device has recognized that there is a something, something that can’t read it! The frequencies and protocols seem to be at least partly compatible with NFC. The tag info app from NXP for Android provides actually more information:

NFC Info of the Yikatong card

The card reports the chip maker (Infineon) and the type of card (Beijing Yikatong card). You can read the card number and also the balance. However, messages in NDEF format are not supported. The NFC compatibility ends here.

Since 2011 there are also cell phone SIM cards which can be used at the same time as Yikatong card. The cards are issued by mobile service provider China Unicom and contain their own integrated antenna. It has the advantage that the card is device independent as the operating system of the phone is not used.

Author: Karsten Meier

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