snapped? (rua)

by Alan on July 15, 2008

So we can confirm that yes, the new Snapper cards do work pretty well in the buses (based on the small sample of one attempt earlier today using our trial USB snapper pictured). One would expect so, given that the technology comes from the giant T-Money install in Seoul, where their mega-city sized public transport operation will have smoothed all the rough-edges out of it long ago.

Snapper USB card - this one plugs into your PCBut WTF is happening with Snapper?

First, the Dom Post reports that the rollout, due for Monday 14th, has been delayed again (originally the rollout was supposed to be in June). Then we find that at least some buses are running with live, lit-up and useable Snapper readers anyway – such was the one we caught this morning. And to confuse the matter further, no retailers appear able to sell commuters the cards until the end of the month… well, those retailers that actually have agreed to sell the things in the first place, that is.

But… we wants it!

So what might have caused this Clayton‘s delay? In the absence of anything useful from Snapper themselves we can, of course, indulge in wild speculation (after the jump):

  • Poneke has mentioned some problems using their card; so much so that they have returned to using their Gold Card. Perhaps there’s still some technical issues outstanding with the Snapper implementation.
  • It appears that there’s a different change till on the Snapper enabled buses; and while most buses have the card readers, one may observe that most of these buses don’t have the fancy new tills. Perhaps they’re behind schedule on installing these.
  • Perhaps Snapper are putting the squeeze on those retailers that have chosen not to sell the card because of the pronounced lack of ping in it (like at least some or all of the StarMarts). Two weeks of punters enquiring if they can buy a Snapper card could force the retailer to think again about not participating. Although after a strange little episode that played out in the media last month the holdout bus ticket sellers may not fall for it.
  • And then there’s the talk about the Mifare Chip Crack in Europe, and the possibility that security considerations have caused the delay.

Who knows. All we can probably discount is the latter: despite a resurgence in media reports concerning security issues with the MiFare microchip that is most likely to be used by Snapper, the work by some Dutch researchers that lead to the break first hit the headlines in March. Clearly if the Snapper people thought it was a problem they’d have delayed the system back then, right?

In any case the attack, as it stands right now, might not appear to be overly productive when targeted at Snapper – there’s a lot of very specialised computer equipment and faffing about required for a payoff of a maximum of $300 (being the card’s maximum value) at a time, which can only be spent at retailers supporting Snapper.

We could of course speculate that Snapper are planning on upgrading their security and have extensive fraud detection and response systems, just as we have speculated above as to the causes of the rollout delay. But Snapper aren’t saying a single thing.

It would be nice to know though, wouldn’t it.

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