France's mobile network operators and banks, along with Visa and MasterCard, the local transport operator, the city council and others will take part in Europe's first pre-commercial NFC pilot — which will be identified by the new Cityzi brand.
The pre-commercial NFC pilot in Nice, first announced in June 2009, is to officially launch on Friday 21 May. The project, coordinated by the Association Française pour le Sans Contact Mobile (AFSCM), brings together mobile network operators Orange, Bouygues Télécom and SFR plus the Nice region's public transport operator Veolia, French banks Crédit Mutuel, Société Générale and BNP Paribas, the Nice city council and others in a bid to discover how French businesses and consumers will react to the availability of a real-world NFC service.
The pre-commercial pilot is going ahead without a firm plan for how revenues and costs would be split between the players in a future commercial rollout. It is hoped, however, that the information gathered during the pilot — on the popularity of the services offered to consumers in particular — will provide the partners with the information needed to work together to develop a long-term business model.
Extensive field trials of near field communication technology have been taking place in France for a number of years. The difference with the Nice pilot is that it will see NFC phones going on sale to the general public for the first time.
A second key difference is that the AFSCM has put substantial resources into creating the consumer and business proposition for NFC services — to the point that the term 'NFC' will not actually be used at all.
Instead, the service will be marketed under the Cityzi brand name. A comprehensive set of technical specifications, built around the concept of an open platform, have been published and a detailed marketing pack, including a set of Cityzi logos that will be used to indicate the availability of standards-compliant services, has been produced for businesses wishing to offer services.
Four logos are available in all:
A logo which shows a service or a contactless mobile device is compatible with AFSCM specifications.
A 'ici Cityzi' ('Cityzi here') logo displayed prominently — in doorways and on cashtills, in the same way as card acceptance logos — in all places where Cityzi services can be used.
A target mark, to show consumers where to hold their device when interacting with a Cityzi service via a poster, billboard or other NFC-enabled object.
An icon displayed on the consumer's mobile device, allowing quick access to the list of Cityzi applications stored on the handset.
A dedicated consumer-facing website, Cityzi.fr, has also been put together which explains the services on offer in clear, simple language. To make the offer as easy to understand as possible, these have been grouped under four headings:
- Payments. Consumers who purchase an NFC phone will be able to make payments at any merchant equipped to handle contactless payments.
- Transport. Purchase of transport tickets and access to real-time travel information for all services calling at each bus and tram departure point in the Nice region via 1,500 NFC and 2D barcode-enabled information points being installed across the local transport network. As well as travel information, the information points will also provide access to information services provided by the city council, events listings and the latest news articles from Nice Matin, the region's daily newspaper.
- Information services. As well as the travel services, additional information services will be available, including an NFC tag-based tour of the old city of Nice.
- Loyalty points. Consumers will be able to collect loyalty points automatically when they use their NFC phone to make a purchase.
Despite the lack of a clear business model, further expansion of the system to other parts of France is already being planned. "Many stakeholders have expressed their interest for this project or indeed for a rapid development of new services using NFC technology," says the AFSCM. "Following their initial pilot experiments, the cities of Caen and Strasbourg are planning a wider development of contactless mobile services in their regions. Jean Paul Huchon, president of the local council for the Ile-de-France region (Paris), expressed the desire to launch a mobile NFC solution in the local transport sector. Finally, the retail sector — through the Ergosum project which aims at harmonizing the mobile NFC customer point-of-sale experience — is also investigating the development of this technology with a view to offering new customer services and to reducing costs."