Meet the Monkey Awards Nominees – Public Concern

This group is about more than just pure business – it’s about giving something back to the community, about serving the public trust, making the communities life easier. It’s also about successful, well run trials that actually push the cause of contactless further than ever before. Who worked the trials, what were they and more importantly, will one of the nominees win a Monkey for their troubles? Let’s meet the nominees for the Monkey awards category  – Public Concern.

  • HillingdonFirst Card – Metric Group (UK)
  • NFC attendance supervision for primary schools – City of Oulu (Finland)
  • NFC interactive timetable for students – City of Oulu (Finland)
  • e+ Citizen card – Bracknell Forest Council (UK)

First up it’s the HillingdonFirst CardMetric Group (UK). This is a contactless citizen card scheme issued by Hillingdon Council in London, incorporating parking. Last year saw a major contactless implementation launched in July by the London Borough of Hillingdon with the HillingdonFirst card issued to over 150,000 residents, give a range of council services including discounted parking and local retailers discounts. The Hillingdon Authority was first Authority in the UK to embrace this type of smart card technology for parking and other loyalty schemes.. The scheme operates by the owner applying for a card through the bureau service offered by Smart Citizen, and once approved the card is issued by Burall Infosmart direct to the applicant. Currently 168 machines have been supplied for the scheme.

Following on with the Metric Group’s work to provide the contactless card scheme and as the parking systems provider to London Borough of Hillingdon they tell us that they intend to work closely with the customer to fine tune and change any parameter as they see fit. At present the scheme is in the first year and its success and parameters for success are under review, as you would expect.  Roll out of any expansion or changes are not something they are aware of at present, but they say that they do understand from their close work with the customer that they are a very forward looking Authority and the Metric Group have no doubt improvements and expansion to other customer applications will happen in due course.

Our second nominee is once more the city of Oulu, Finland (who have more NFC projects ongoing than you can share a stick at!). No idea what that means but you get the gist. This project is for NFC attendance supervision for primary schoolsCity of Oulu (Finland).

Students use contactless smart cards to register their attendance at school, so that their whereabouts can be tracked. A similar system has also been deployed in secondary schools, where pupils tap in/out to register their attendance to save time for teachers and monitor students’ activities. A great use of contactless technology that improves both convenience and security: simplifying attendance recording and tracking students’ activities (and I say that as a father who has kids at school so I know what I’m talking about!).

Students from 6 to 7 years old (just starting at school) are taking part in an ongoing NFC-enabled attendance supervision project with an emphasis on security. The project gives parents real-time information on children’s attendance. The NFC attendance supervision is also used in extended day care programs before and after school. Children beginning school in Finland travel to school (after the first few weeks) largely independently, either on foot, by bicycle, or by bus. The goal of the pilot is to decide whether NFC technology can support safety aspects of the journey to and from school and afternoon supervision. The idea is to give parents real-time information about their child’s arrivals and departures.

Students use contactless smart cards containing the Pupil ID to mark themselves present in class. The smart card reader registers the pupil’s name and ID, and adds a time stamp and an attendance direction (In or Out) defined by the application and set by the teacher. In a small class of less than 20 pupils, the teacher has an NFC-enabled mobile phone with an attendance application. Larger classes of more than 20 pupils have a smart card reader.

C-ITV asked the City of Oulu representatives about their learning’s from this project and this is their reply

  • Parents considered it important to receive information about their child’s arrival at and departure from school. VTT is finding out what monthly/per term charges parents consider reasonable.
  • A visual message confirming a successful contact of smart card to reader device is extremely important to first-grade students aged 6 to 7 when logging into class independently.
  • If a smart card is left at home, the application should have a function by which the teacher can easily send a message to the parents that their child has arrived in school.
  • It is essential that the visual layout of a SmartCard is designed so that a child feels that the card is his or hers, and that it is fun to use.
  • A SmartCard’s diversity of uses (bus ticketing, as a library card, swimming pool/other tickets) also supports the use of contactless cards in schools.
  • When a child travels to school by bus, an application connected to the SmartCard (ticketing) reader could also send information to parents about the progress of the child’s journey.
  • In addition to attendance supervision, enjoyable use of a child’s contactless card could be supported in afternoon supervision activities; for example, in RFID compatible, so-called ‘smart’ playgrounds (SmartUs/Lappset).

An NFC-technology-based application is being developed for the city’s day care centres and pre-schools in Smart Urban Spaces Project. The NFC feature helps day care staff monitor a child’s attendance precisely, including arrival and departure times (the safety aspect). The same application works for attendance-based meal ordering (the correct amount of meals, taking into account specialised diets). Through monitoring staff working hours, working days can be scheduled in a more flexible way (ensuring that enough staff is present when needed). Hour-based monitoring will also enable various billing systems in the future (this is cost-effective for parents also). Amen to that!

Third in the list of nominees is…Oulu again! This time for their NFC interactive timetable for students – City of Oulu (Finland). Can you enter twice in a category? Well, I wouldn’t know, as I am not on the judging panel but apparently so.

As part of the NFC City project, students participated in NFC interactive time-tabling and projects, utilising smart posters at home and school. It’s a great way to introduce smart posters to the younger generation, as a fun and interactive way of accessing information. “VIKSU” Info channel consisted of active timetable/homework and school media content. All students taking part in the project had a smart poster at home with NFC tags for their timetable, homework, and for the school information channel. There were also smart posters in many school locations. The pilot was implemented in Laanila upper secondary school.

By touching a tag, the student received an active timetable on his/her NFC mobile phone (containing, as well as the daily timetable, all possible doctor and other appointments, changes in classroom/teaching space, and other exceptions to the timetable), and homework assignments with instructions. The pedagogical goal was to strengthen cooperation between home and school by ensuring that everyone had up-to-date, reliable information, and to reduce absences due to lack of information. Changes in the system were carried out via the calendar function built for the project. Entries in the calendar could be made by the school staff, by guardians, and by the student. The student could choose whether his/her own entries were visible to others.

Preparation of the content for the school’s media screen began in May 2008. The content was material produced by students about school events, celebrations, and, for example, school interviews and class introductions. By touching a tag a student could choose the content of choice from the list of links received. The content of the information channel was stored on a server available to the entire school’s students and staff. Also, in the entrance hall of Laanila Secondary School was a wide screen on which the information channel content could be shared. An NFC-enabled mobile phone, when touched to an NFC tag next to the giant screen, operated as a remote control for the giant screen for a period of three minutes.

The pilot was conducted at Laanila Upper Secondary School, in the City of Oulu. The pedagogical goal of the NFC based “VIKSU” Info Channel is to provide NFC based homework assignment functionality and the active timetable supporting the following cross-curricular themes:

  • Growing as a person (the students’ life skills grow as they are better able to plan their timetable and meetings, and take care of homework assignments)
  • Technology and the individual.

Additionally, these two NFC-based services save teachers time for activities that better support learning. The NFC information channel supports communication and media skills. The students themselves produce material for the information channel; this increases understanding of communication and brings students into a situation where they have to consider the sense and content of the information being published. It also encourages community spirit in the school.

Schools have traditionally been the last places to test technology. However, the representatives of Oulu say that it is of the utmost importance that technology aimed for schools is tested in an authentic environment. All eighth grade students typically have a personal mobile phone, so its use was perceived as natural.

In 2009, the City Of Oulu has started to build the Ritaharju School of the Future, where school environment technology tests will be focused on the future. Ritaharju School will have a ‘tri-part’ approach (public sector, private sector, and research) – a ‘living lab’ learning environment model. An important criteria for choosing staff is their R&D orientation and ability to innovate. A separate communication/research permission practice is being developed for students of the Ritaharju School of the Future and their parents. With the new practice, parents and children will be aware of the school’s orientation, and technology test projects will not require written permission each time.

Finally, our fourth nominee is a little closer to home – it’s the e+ Citizen card – Bracknell Forest Council (UK). The e+ card is a citizen card for local residents in Bracknell and offers a number of different services on one card. There is an impressive offering of multiple services to local residents using contactless technology and shows a keen interest on expanding the card to include payment facilities. As a leader in local authority smart cards, Bracknell have gone on record saying that they are happy to assist other councils with developing programmes.

Bracknell Forest Council, a Unitary Authority in Berkshire, introduced contactless technology to mainstream services in 2003, initially as a library card with an e-purse function. Since then, cashless catering, leisure membership, English National Concessionary Transport Scheme (ENCTS ITSO Bus pass), Proof of Age, photo ID for Housing and local discounts have been added to the card called the e+ card. The e+ card began life as a Mifare 1K contactless card that was migrated to a JCOP 30/ 31 processor card in 2004.

The ePurse function changed to a CEPS contact e purse in 2006 but the epurse function was ceased in 2008. It was realised that people needed a full prepaid function that would work nationwide and the Bracknell e purse only worked for council services in Bracknell. At present the ITSO application operates as a CMD2 contact application. From March 2010 Bracknell is migrating to a DESFire 8K contactless card for all its applications.

Talks were held with TICON consultants regarding having an EMV prepaid debit function on the e+ card to allow its use for Social Services Individual Budgets. However the banks say that this is not possible at the present time.  Bracknell have said that would be minded to add the sQuid ePurse function to the e+ card if it was granted EMV accreditation and would work with mainstream card readers.

Asked how the card makes a different in the lives of the community, Bracknell have told C-ITV that the customer uses their e+ card as a show and go card to benefit from discounted prices from over 150 local businesses. With access to local amenities with certain additional discounts. There are 75,000 e+ cards in circulation and Bracknell are currently looking to use the e+ card to replace the use of the VASCO token used by staff working at home to access the council’s secure network. It is intended for staff to use the card for door access too.

So there you have it, UK, Finland, from the young to the old, a variety of contactless applications aimed at the Public Concern. The winner will be announced at the award ceremony on the 29th.  My only hope is that a certain ash cloud doesn’t stop the Finns from attending….

(Don’t read anything into that – I just want everyone there! Including you.)

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