What is Calypso


Calypso is the appropriate solution suited to transport and mobility needs. It stems from an approach that transport operators introduced in the nineties. It is open technology, free from any manufacturing monopoly making it both economical and adaptable to evolving future technology changes. The Calypso vision is to meet the current and future demands and requirements of all the transport providers in the world. Calypso offers a standardized and multi-application solution while preserving individual data protection. Calypso technology is a bespoke and progressive solution for all transport operators and authorities.

Calypso can be defined on three levels

First of all, Calypso is basically a set of technical specifications describing a fast and secure contactless transaction between a terminal and a portable device.

It corresponds to the level 3 in the ticketing transaction layers scheme, which is really the heart of a transaction, on which the performances and reliability of a whole ticketing system rely. It is where the security, the efficiency and the speed of a transaction are defined. It is based on two patents, Session and Ratification, invented by Calypso founders.

Secondly, Calypso technology represents a coherent aggregation of its specifications with the use of all existing standards:

at the levels of the communication interface, of the card mapping and file organization, of the card data structure.

Moreover, through the services offered by CNA and its technical supports, Calypso brings assistance to the implementation of levels 5 to 7 of the transaction, for the data model (also named data instantiation), the interface with the applicative software, the architecture of security of the system and its recommended mechanisms.

Finally, Calypso represents a state of mind, a philosophy in which the users and not the manufacturers are leading “the game”.

Through CNA, the users decide on the evolutions of the specifications and of the security, ensure that Calypso remains open, with no monopoly and an extensive panel of providers. They are pushing for standardization and for interoperability.

If other technologies have copied Calypso on the main technical aspect, which is obviously for CNA an acknowledgement of its performances, they are not following “Calypso philosophy”: owned by manufacturers, their interest is to remain proprietary.

Calypso is the appropriate solution suited to transport and mobility needs. It stems from an approach that transport operators introduced in the nineties. It is open technology, free from any manufacturing monopoly making it both economical and adaptable to evolving future technology changes.

The Calypso vision is to meet the current and future demands and requirements of all the transport providers in the world.

Calypso offers a standardized and multi-application solution while preserving individual data protection.

Calypso technology is a bespoke and progressive solution for all transport operators and authorities.

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.

Main characteristics

Among the different ticketing systems on the market available at the moment, Calypso ranks as an attractive and innovative solution, made for transport operators and driven by transport operators. Here are a few good reasons why customers choose Calypso technology:

Calypso uses up-to-date contactless technology to ensure a complete transaction in less than 200 milliseconds.

All ticketing transactions are run through a secure session that guarantees the integrity of the data written onto the card, even if the card is withdrawn too quickly. The Ratification anti-tearing function leaves the card in a safe state if the communication link is broken between the terminal and the card.

To avoid possible fraud or forgery, the secure session ensures that the card, the terminal, and the data are genuine, thanks to mutual authentication. Calypso’s high level of security is reached using microprocessor cards, Security Modules on terminals, and proven fast symmetric cryptographic algorithms using hardware accelerators (DESX, TDES, AES). The card, the terminal and all data exchanged between them are authenticated. These operations are carried out with a high-speed algorithm resulting in the shortest possible transaction time.

There are three main secret keys which perform a specific function: personalization, loading and debit. The secret keys inside the cards are uniquely diversified by the card serial number and the corresponding SAM master key: If a card’s secret keys is cracked, only the security of the attacked card is jeopardized, and will be invalidated by the system.

Calypso guarantees the uniqueness of the Calypso application serial number, currently for cards as well as for future applets.

Today, transport operators wish to deliver the best services and simplify people’s daily lives. Future tools may help them in reaching that goal: NFC phones will certainly become more widely used and stand out as the inevitable multi applicative media. Meanwhile contactless USB keys may increase home usage services, such as the reloading of transport rights.

Calypso is ready to accept these new challenges: a generic applet is already available, fully compliant with the GlobalPlatform API specifications, and is today widely used by SIM providers and bank card manufacturers. The applet is downloadable onto a Secure Element based on the Java Card environment and implemented in an NFC mobile phone or a contactless USB key. This enables new facilities for customers and retailers.

Rolling out an electronic ticketing project over time requires the ability to integrate new upgrade and technological capabilities on an ongoing basis.

Modern urban living is rapidly changing with new technological innovations, one of which is the possibility to integrate different electronic “on demand” services into one single medium. Therefore different applications can be brought together into one single device for the citizens of tomorrow in Europe or elsewhere: the "Urban Pass", will have the ability to integrate mobility and banking applications, local authority and public administration service access.

Calypso security technology and memory storage are tailored to meet multi-functional requirements. A transport application and a dedicated city application may, for example, safely reside on the same Secure Element of a portable object; moreover, they may live alongside third party applications, opening the road to the ideal urban pass.

Calypso implemented in front-end of AFC system, frees the back office from an important number of administrative tasks regarding control and recovery of failed transaction. Thanks to the Calypso secure session, all transactions performed off-line by the terminals are successfully completed and optimized and can be collected by the central system later on.

The high security level and the specified rules greatly simplify the design and development of all back offices and further assure the interoperability between ticketing systems from different suppliers.

The Calypso technology enables ticketing schemes to be truly independent from industry suppliers.

License and non-license holder companies (via the purchase of OEM licensed components) can promote the technology through tendering. The conditions are clearly non-discriminatory, allowing fair competition between those who already possess the necessary licenses and those who would have to acquire them if awarded the contract.

The technology is distributed through numerous licenses, offering a wide range of multi-source compliant cards and terminals.

Moreover, because of the huge variety of licensed companies in the market, this allows different parts of the ticketing system to be assigned to different suppliers. This competition leads to a significant drop in investment costs within the tendering procedures and also enables the possibility to tender for only single elements and components of a ticketing system.

If there is an unfortunate case of a licensed component manufacturer not performing efficiently, it is possible to take on a new supplier who will acquire the license and manufacture the component.

Calypso technology is able to satisfy the demands of interoperability while offering each operator freedom and independence. Wide Calypso interoperable networks have now proved this, gathering operators within a city or within regions: Lisbon: 8 operators, Paris: 3 major operators, Grand Montreal 20, French Rhône-Alpes region: 32 operators and authorities, and so on.

Interoperability between suppliers increases the need for security, confidentiality and integrity. The key to an efficient interoperable system is technical compatibility by adhering to international standards and the sharing of data model implementation.

Calypso follows this basic concept and is compliant with many international standards. (See the ticketing transaction layers).

Calypso can complement or ease the migration from any existing ticketing systems by using paper tickets, magnetic stripe tickets and allowing for a seamless move from one technology to a fully contactless system on a step by step basis.

There is no requirement to have a central system, a GPS-system or an existing data collection system.

Calypso is a fundamental step towards a Customer Relationship Management application. Transport operators may draw-up and store precise usage statistics on their network by storing “events” from entrance and exit gates. They could then tailor the network activity according to user demand. The statistics will remain strictly anonymous, thus preserving user privacy and adhering to data protection laws.


1- Two major patents are included in the Calypso licenses.

Setting-up a Calypso ticketing system requires using two patents:

  • Session patent, which guarantees the data integrity within the card in all possible situations, even if the card is put off the transaction area during the exchanges of information with the reader.

  • Ratification, which allows ending correctly a transaction even if any problem occurs during the final acknowledge of data transmission.

The fees resulting from the use of these two Calypso patents are known under the wording “Calypso license”.

2- Why a license to access to Calypso technology?

The Calypso license answers to two objectives:

  • It ensures, as it is usual in the industrial world, a return on investment for the expenses of Research and Development that have been achieved by the inventors, particularly the private partner, Innovatron in this case.

  • It ensures the main income for CNA, which represents the operators/users of Calypso, in order to allow them to keep control on Calypso specifications and security. It finances the development of complementary evolutions of Calypso, which are required to ensure the sustainability of this solution. So the incomes from licenses benefit directly to all the community of users of Calypso.

3- A license strictly compliant to all the rules imposed by the standardization bodies.

Calypso license answers to the rules imposed by the standardization bodies at European and global levels, which very often establish standards integrating patents and fees: the license has to be “reasonable and non-discriminatory”.  As such, Calypso license is recognized compliant with this rule. Like whatever industrial product which always integrates some fees resulting from patents, it concerns only manufacturers and not final users (transport operators for example).

4- Who is concerned by the Calypso license?

The users of Calypso (transit authorities, transport operators) have nothing to achieve about  this license, neither to negotiate or to buy. They only have to benefit, through really opened tenders, from the large industrial offer of Calypso products, which is the direct result of the strong willingness of the Calypso founders to avoid any monopoly.

Calypso license addresses manufacturers, both for terminal equipment (readers) and portables objects (cards, SIM, USB keys …).

In order to simplify the license policy, given the huge number of terminal manufacturers and given the diversification of portable objects (cards, mobile phones, USB keys), today the license addresses only:

  • The SAM (Secure Application Module), mandatory in a Calypso terminal or a system; the SAM is today provided by two vendors (Spirtech and ASK). The manufacturers of terminal have no license to acquire; they only have to integrate these SAM.

  • IC components used in the portable objects; the related fees are generally paid by IC manufacturers, or card embedders.

5- A license for the benefice of Calypso’s users.

Calypso license management is ensured by Innovatron, who co-financed in the nineties the R&D development of the Calypso solution. RATP, the proprietary of the Calypso patents, has delegated an exclusive mandate of gesture of Calypso license to Innovatron, who is consequently the only one able to negotiate and sale a license to a manufacturer. In counterpart of this exclusivity, Innovatron has no authorization to manufacture whatever Calypso product. In consequence, for Innovatron, the return on investment is ensured only through the selling of license, which guarantees to the users that they will benefit from the maximum of manufacturers in competition for buying their Calypso products. All the Calypso licensees benefit from the same conditions and fees, ensuring a true and loyal competition between them in tendering process.

Regarding the costs of the Calypso products, the fees linked to the Calypso license have no impact, or a favorable one: in whatever product, one part of the selling cost is always dedicated to the return on investment of the R&D program of the manufacturer who designed this product. For a Calypso product, this part of the cost is shared between all the licensees through the Calypso fee, which represent an amount less important than in the case of a product of a single manufacturer (there is only one R&D cost for all manufacturers selling Calypso products).

6- Calypso license for cardlets (or applets)

With the emergence of Javacard platforms for portable objects, there is an alternative to native Calypso components through the use of a purely software Calypso application, called “Calypso applet or cardlet”, which can be downloaded on a Java component, like a SIM card for example, through the use of standardized GlobalPlatform mechanisms.

First of all, CNA provides free of charge to all Calypso manufacturers or users the “Calypso applet”, realized under its responsibility (and developed by Trusted Logic company). CNA ensures the maintenance of the “Calypso applet”. A free of charge license has to be signed between CNA and the acquirer. It is possible to download the document of license and to register for receiving the software of the applet in the APPLET tab.

Secondly, the Calypso license process is adapted to the applet, because there is no physical component on which could be applied the traditional fee:

  • Activation module

When the Calypso applet is used to be downloaded and activated through GlobalPlatform mechanisms, by an entity (for example, a TSM-Trusted Service Manager) which is not a Calypso licensee:  an activation module is provided by Innovatron to the entity, which guarantees the unicity of the serial number of the application and allows to activate a fixed number of applets. The fees of license are consequently paid in “prepayment” by purchasing the activation module.

Of course, the fee due as Calypso license is paid only at the first activation within a package of the applet. If other instantiations are activated later, no fee has to be paid.

It is possible to register for purchase of activation modules on the Innovatron web site

  • Applet for a Calypso licensee.

When the Calypso applet is diffused and activated by an entity which is yet a Calypso licensee: in this case, the licensee follows the usual licensing conditions, in the usual post payment form based on the registration by the licensee of the sold products. This process can be consulted in the Innovatron web site.

Of course, the fee due as Calypso license is paid only at the first activation within a package of the applet. If other instantiations are activated later, no fee has to be paid.

7- Fees amount

The amounts of the fees of the Calypso license are indicated on the Innovatron web site.