I had a story a few months ago on Technobiography about some sensors temporarily installed at the Boni MRT station. I hypothesized that these were sensors would allow passage of commuters with the use of a cellphone. I wondered out loud whether the sensor would use SMS or bluetooth, or some other technology.
Later on, in private e-mails, I discovered more about the technology behind these mysterious sensors that appear and disappear at the Boni MRT station. Now, after trying out the EZ Link card in Singapore, I have a better understanding of how these sensors could work.
EZ Link card
The EZ Link card is a stored value ticket for commuters using Singapore’s MRT and buses. The EZ Card looks very much like a plain plastic card. It doesn’t have a visible SIM (like the PLDT phone cards) nor does it have a black magnetic strip (like our ATM cards and credit cards).
Prior to entry in an MRT station gate, a commuter needs to “œtap” the card on an EZ Link card sensor. The card need not leave the comforts of the commuter’s wallet or handbag. What most people do is take out their wallet or handbag and place it very close to the sensor until they hear an audible beep. Some people sling the card together with their ID for easy tapping.
On the way out, the commuter needs to tap the EZ link card once more upon exit. This is when payment for fare is made and the stored value of the card is reduced.
Commuters can easily “œtop-up” or add value to the stored value card through a vendo machine or through the customer service desks found at every station. Furthermore, I saw advertisements saying EZ link cards can be automatically topped up using a credit card.
What’s more, the EZ link card can be used in almost all of the public utility buses that ply local routes. Although different companies run different bus lines, the EZ link card can be used in any of those buses; Afterall, all bus companies are supposedly privately-owned on paper but “œun-officially” government-owned, we are told.
When we visited the library, we found out that the EZ link card can also be used to pay for borrowed books. Later, we also found out that the EZ link card can be used to pay for goods at 7-11 or McDonald’s. Neat, huh?
On the fourth day we were in Singapore, our EZ link card’s stored value went negative! We had a 3 dollar deposit on the card, so we didn’t really “œowe” anybody. We started using the vendo machines at the train stations. There’s this transaction called “œanalyze card”. And you know what we found out? In that card, aaaaalllll transactions we had using that card were recorded! It recorded where, and at what time we entered or exited a station or bus. Whoa! Big brother has been watching! And this is for a tourist’s EZ link card. Some EZ link cards are personalized, and inlaid with senior citizen cards or student ID’s, if I’m not mistaken.
I guess it was just surprising for me that I felt my privacy was being invaded. But I all is well. Singaporeans are used to this kind of monitoring. They have closed circuit TV cameras all around, more so after the London bombings. I think all this monitoring is part of the security that has kept Singapore’s crime rate virtually zero.
Meanwhile, back in the
hall of justice Philippines
Now, back to the Philippines. After experiencing the EZ link, I see how it could be applied here in the Philippines. It’s fast and convenient. I believe this technology, or something similar, is what is being tested at the Boni MRT stations.
But then again, for every new technology, there will always be a hacker or a smart ass who will try to short circuit a system. I’ve seen people at the MRT station who would jump over the gates when their ticket is rejected. And I’ve seen security guards turn a blind eye on some erring commuters.
These kinds of behavioral problems, minor as it may seem, are pogi points lost for our country. For behavioral problems of some Filipinos, technology isn’t the best solution. Maybe media or religion or an iron hand would do better.
Technology can do so much. But technology can only do so much.
In my next article, I will tell you about the techie taxi drivers in Singapore and how Filipino drivers could become techie too. But Manila taxi drivers should learn first to give back the correct sukli. More on that in my next article.