RFID Feeds The Meter

Drivers in some cities can use their cell phones to pay parking meters. Now comes RFID as the next convenience.

A Canadian company is adding radio-frequency identification technology to its pay-by-cellular-phone parking application, making a wave of a credit or ATM card as powerful as a fistful of quarters.

Several California cities use Digital Payment Technologies Corp.'s pay-by-cell-phone service. It lets drivers dial a toll-free number to initiate an account and provide their parking-stall numbers to pay by phone by linking to a credit or debit card. With so many banks issuing cards with embedded RFID chips, Digital Payment Technologies in February plans to add the ability to wave cards before an RFID reader. It already offers the option of parking meters that can read cards' magnetic strips, though they can face problems from gunked-up readers.

The biggest benefit from the service may be that customers can set up automated calls to their cell phones to remind them minutes before their meters are set to expire. They can then call a toll-free number to purchase more time. The University of California, Santa Barbara, was the first to use the pay-by-cellular phone system. The cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles also are customers and have asked the company about its RFID plans, says Don Sutcliffe, Digital Payment Technologies' executive VP of sales and marketing.

The company's parking app runs on Microsoft CE and uses IBM's J9 Java virtual machine.

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