A futuristic travel card concept first envisioned in the science fiction blockbuster The Fifth Element is to be trialled in Glasgow and London next year.
The MultiPass, named after the hi-tech travel card used in the 1997 film, could potentially make all other travel cards, tickets, boarding passes and even car parking cards redundant.
The Technology Strategy Board, the innovation arm of the UK Government, has awarded a special £1.1 million grant to an industry consortium in order to pilot MultiPass in "early 2014", prior to a full rollout in 2015. The consortium, led by London-based startup TEDIPAY, is made up of key players from transport and ticketing industries, including GuestLogix, GIS, Global Travel Ventures, Albellio Greater Anglia and the Centre for Transport Studies at Imperial College London.
Jeremy Acklam, director of the London-based MultiPass, told the Guardian: "Because we are managing all these different tickets 'up in the cloud', we can pretty much guarantee to get you the best price. That's the big attraction," he says, adding that one of the reasons for the pilots was to determine customer reaction – "how they like to use it, which bits they find useful".
Concerns are already growing, however, that the rise of contactless payments could make the MultiPass superfluous before it is even introduced.
Following the rollout of contactless credit cards, millions of travellers in London have been able to pay for journeys on London buses directly from their bank accounts. This is expected to be extended to the tube, overground, trams and Docklands Light Railway by next year.
Steffan Aquarone, technology entrepreneur and co-founder of the mobile money platform Droplet, is more hopeful for the future of near field communication (NFC) technologies being used in the MultiPass format.
"(NFC) is great for things like public transport access for example," he told ITProPortal. "But I don't personally think NFC will have a big role to play in the future of mobile payments - that's my hunch."