In other smart card news, it was announced this week that Octopus Holdings Ltd will be making an expansion into the Chinese market. Octopus already has contracts outside Hong Kong in New Zealand, Dubai and the Netherlands.
Hong Kong’s Octopus card is much more than an electronic ticketing system. It is a stored value account that is able to also make retail purchases from convenient stores, fast food outlets and supermarkets. Octopus is used to pay for roadside parking, and act as a debit or credit card. The smart card can also act as membership cards for workplaces, gyms, resorts and residential complexes to register and track attendance and/or participation. The Octopus system handles 11 million transactions daily at a value of USD12.9 million.
Now its use is about to be further expanded. At least ten municipalities are expected to be in talks with Octopus Holdings Ltd to engage their services in developing electronic ‘citizen cards’ for use in three years. Nanjing has confirmed its talks whilst Hangzhou is speculated to be in negotiations to expand their existing card. The information expected to be on these cards include medical records, benefits status, birth registration, social security and residential data. The Wall Street Journal says this could raise privacy issues in China. Despite this, Octopus is only the technological provider for its clients, and so is not legally responsible for how its technology is used.
As well, Hong Kong Octopus cards could soon be used on the Shenzhen Tong network as interoperability gets closer. The technological problems which have been a barrier in the past seems to have been ironed out according to the Shenzhen Post. This is expected for late 2010.
Octopus Holdings Ltd is a private company owned by Hong Kong’s major transport operators. Such has been the concern about the potential for Octopus’ misuse, the company is regulated by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (banking regulator similar to APRA) as a deposit-taking institution (like a bank).