Apple Pay and TFL: A new wallet-less era

Apple Pay has been in the news everywhere over the last few weeks. Having recently set up Apple Pay myself, I can say that the process is breathtakingly easy.

As a process it’s simple and pleasurable, so unlike most banking experiences. And once set up, using Apple Pay is - similarly - stupendously easy.

So that’s good. It’s up and running, and for the most part, it works. A minority of users are complaining about some technical difficulties, but as with any revolutionary new service there are always going to be glitches that need ironing out.

What Apple has essentially (and successfully) done, is established a wallet-less era. And in this new era, challenges that have until now been emerging slowly are leaping fully-formed to the fore.

Earlier this year, wae worked with Crossrail in developing insight into what the future rail passenger might look like (the future being five years from now). What would passengers expect, require, and need in terms of information to allow them to get smoothly to their destination? We identified some new essentials for the modern traveler, which we called (only half-jokingly) new human rights:

Human Rights 2020

  1. Access to Wi-Fi
  2. Access to battery charging

However our good-humoured predictions may become reality sooner that we thought, as two recent news events spawned by flaws in Apple Pay suggest that these issues are beginning to carry weight.

Firstly, the news that a rail passenger was arrested for plugging their phone charger into a train’s power supply, thereby committing the offence of ‘abstracting electricity’.

Secondly, there have been reports that Transport for London has warned that travellers using Apple Pay need to ensure their devices are charged to avoid being fined for non-payment of fares - or being charged maximum fare as a default - if their device dies on a journey. The assumption being that ticket collectors would therefore not be able to check if a traveller has a valid ticket.

So as a knock-on effect of the new payment technology, the takeaway from these news stories is that service providers must be looking at how they can, as part of their basic service, provide customers with the means to keep their devices charged. Could wireless charging be the answer? Happily, this technology is starting to become reality.

Wireless charging seems eminently possible for a passenger on a train where they can use a flip-down table. Things become more problematic when thinking about crowded tube trains or buses. But even here there are possible, contactless charging technologies in development. Apple, for example, are conducting research into Near Field Magnetic Resonance (NFMR) charging for peripherals, with a charge distance of around one metre.

Obviously there are knock on cost effects for service providers, but a lot of time is being spent on how to provide Wi-Fi generally across public spaces, so should thought be given to charging as well.

I am sure there will be other issues as we get more used to Apple Pay and this new payless era, but for now Apple Pay certainly gets the thumbs up from me.

Check out our Apple Pay hub for everything that businesses need to know

Tim Hurles, director, wae