A european project

Calypso, an initiative of transport operators in Europe in the nineties

The Contactless Pass

In the early nineties, several transport operators and authorities in Europe were facing the issue of renewing their existing ticketing system, based on paper or magnetic ticket technologies. They were aware of the huge possibilities that the emerging smart card could bring to their business, both in economic terms and possibilities to offer new services to their customers. Some experimentations using contact smart cards had been realized, but unsuccessfully because, although the functionalities were really promising, the time of transaction of contact smart cards was completely incompatible with the requirement for access in transport networks, whether it were bus or metro.

It clearly appeared that the transaction had to be contactless to be quick enough, and facing a total lack of industrial solutions in this field, several transport operators in Europe undertook initiatives to develop a solution fitting their requirements.

Among them, RATP built a partnership with Innovatron, the company owned by Roland Moreno, inventor of the smart card, partnership joined by SNCF, to create a smart card contactless technology adapted to many markets, including public transport, the Contactless Pass. The principle of the partnership was to open the results to as many manufacturers as possible, through a license policy, in order to ensure seamless compatibility between products and true and attractive market competition for the tenders to come. The main goal was to avoid any kind of industrial monopoly, given the important investment that a ticketing system represents.

See a funny, but very serious, video of this period describing the “Contactless Pass”.

ICARE, CALYPSO, TRIANGLE: a chain of successful European Projects

On the basis of the Contactless Pass, in 1995, a group of European transport operators and authorities from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Portugal decided to join their efforts to develop this solution on a larger scale, in different environments and for different needs, and with the same philosophy of an open technology for all portable devices required to operate secure, fast and reliable public transport ticketing systems.

Results of this cooperation were the successive Icare (1996-1997) and Calypso (1998-2000) European projects, financed by the EU programs of R&D, including Brussels, Lisbon, Konstanz, Paris and Venice, and complementary developments that have led to the CALYPSO technology, today largely deployed on a global scale. Through several trials, these programs showed that this technology could be adapted to many public transport environments (big metropolis area, medium size capitals, mixed urban and rural area, touristic city), and could be combined with other services, such as electronic purses, loyalty, access control, and so on. In the continuity of Calypso, the Triangle project proposed an inventive solution for interoperability at international level.

These European projects brought many advances, recognized by the European Commission as main contributions, to the development of smart ticketing in Europe and to the emergence of standards, such as, in particular, the contactless ISO 14443 and the EN 1545 ticketing data standard.

To better identify this contactless ticketing specification, it was renamed Calypso in the year 2000.

Following the wide success of the Calypso concept and its widespread use across the world, Calypso Networks Association (CNA) was created in 2003 to federate Calypso users enabling them to drive and manage the future enhancement of the technology.