RFID Enables Hands-Free Transit Entrance for Vancouver Disabled

Hyperlight Systems designed the solution for the TransLink SkyTrain to leverage UHF RFD tag reads that would mimic the tapping of a fare card against an automated access gate.
By Claire Swedberg

With the solution implemented, passengers with disabilities must first acquire an RFID card. To do so, a passenger must fill out an application regarding his or her disability, and set up a meeting with the agency to ensure that the solution will work in his or her case. The individual will then receive the UHF RFID long-range Compass Card. Users are trained in the proper use of the card—for instance, learning to wear it on a lanyard or carry it in such a way that the antenna can easily interrogate it. Placing the card in a back pocket, for example, would make it difficult to read.

Upon arriving at the station, a passenger can simply approach the gate. The antenna above the gate captures the unique ID number encoded on that individual's card at a range of 2 or 3 meters (6.6 to 9.8 feet), and software built into the gate system confirms the ID and prompts the gate to open. For users, Krys says, the system is largely invisible. "They would just see two antennas—two little white squares, above the gate," she states.

The system employs radio frequency identification technology to prompt gates to open for those carrying UHF RFID-enabled badges so that they don't need to use their hands.

Hyperlight's Ashish Sachdeva
As part of the solution, TransLink's technology division developed a messaging platform to accept the RFID message and send it to the fare gates. They also are developing the software required to use RFID to identify the price for each passenger journey and charge customers the same fares that they would be charged using the Compass Card system.

The solution cost the transit authority $9 million, which is being funded in part through the federal government's $740 million Public Transit Infrastructure Fund. "This is all about empowering individuals and making sure we make our system as accessible as possible," said Kevin Desmond, TransLink's CEO, at a press conference held on Jan. 23 at a Vancouver SkyTrain station.

Given its scalability, Sachdeva says, the system could easily be installed on accessibility barriers or gates in other cities throughout North America. "We're excited to start working with other cities," he states.

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