A city where keys and cards are obsolete

5 years ago by in Feature Articles

VG reports:
These days, most of us carry around wallets stuffed full of bank, rewards and membership cards for which we have to remember passwords and user names. We juggle multiple sets of keys to the house, car, workplace and cabin. In the future, most of these could be gathered in one place: your smartphone. Simen Lomås Johannessen (24) is one of 50 Tromsø students taking part in the NFC City research project. Since last year, the students have tested new uses for their mobile phone and given feedback to the researchers on how they think the different systems work. Today, for example, the 24-year old uses his phone to open his room in the Stakkevollan student village.

Naked without my phone
“It’s a convenient solution, and offers added security in case you forget or lose your regular key. But it has great potential,” says Johannessen to VG. Being a student of computer science, he has more than a casual interest in new technology. And his phone comes with him everywhere he goes.

“I feel naked without it,” the student says.

When Simen takes the bus, he only has to touch his mobile phone to the card reader, just as he would with a regular bus card. The system works even if the phone is turned off. And when buying coffee in the canteen, he pays by setting his phone on a reader on the counter.

“The coffee card is excellent, and probably what I’m most satisfied with in this project. You fill up your phone with the prepaid card, pay by setting it on the reader and get a discount on every cup of coffee. An app lets you know how much credit you have left.”


  • User-led research project where a wide range of NFC services are tested out by 50 students in Tromsø.
  • Began in 2010, and will conclude in the summer of 2014.
  • Partners behind the project are Telenor, DNB, Doorstep, Fara, the National Institute for Consumer Research, Troms County Council and the University of Tromsø. Working with the Student
  • Welfare Organisation in Tromsø on developing and testing new mobile services.
  • Overall budget is NOK 39 million, NOK 10 million of which is funded by the Research Council of Norway.

Source: NFC City

Learn the acronym now: NFC
It stands for Near Field Communication, and put simply, is a transmitter in your smartphone that works over only very short ranges and has a fast connection time. Most of today’s new mobile phones are delivered with this technology built in, with the exception of Apple products. What are known as tags—labels with a small antenna and computer chip inside—can be found in different locations around the Tromsø campus.

For example, if you put your phone up to the tag with a plate and silverware logo, you’ll bring up the canteen’s daily menu on your phone’s display.


  • Abbreviation for Near Field Communication. Communication using an electromagnetic field over a very short range based on RFID radio-frequency identification.
  • The distance itself is important because the communicating devices should be held up to one another in order to gain contact. This means that you don’t pay the fare by just getting on the bus with an NFC-enabled phone—you have to physically hold the phone up to the reader. Similar to the system used by NSB and Ruter in Oslo, but with the functionality built into one card.
  • When two NFC-enabled phones are held up to one another, they don’t need to induce a current, just communicate.
  • If needed, the NFC-system starts up a Bluetooth connection for data transfer.
  • With NFC in place in the phone, the SIM card can also be used as a charge card. There is added value in that the phone can act as protection using PIN codes and passwords.

Source: Teknisk Ukeblad (Technical Weekly Magazine)

Students do the testing
“What’s great about this project is that we have made something we believe in, and then let the students try it out so we can see what actually works,” says Bente Evjemo, the Telenor researcher responsible for the user experience section of the project. NFC technology is nothing new. It isn’t the technology, but rather the interoperability between different systems that poses the challenge.

“Services that appear basic or simplified to the end user in actuality have a complicated backdrop of systems that must communicate with each other, and stakeholders that must co-operate while looking to their own benefit. We’ve been able to access this entire ecosystem through the NFC City project,” says Project Manager Sigmund Akselsen at Telenor to VG.

Source: VG, January 6, 2014