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The Dash Card

Before I discuss what the Dash Card was and what it could be used for I will first give you some background details on how the card came about into existence.

The Gaudi Project. (Gaudi = Generalised and Advanced Urban Innovations)

Gaudi was a project funded under the drive programme of the European Community to examine different aspects of urban management. This project was based in six European cites, namely Barcelona, Bologna, Marseille, Rome, Trondheim and Dublin in Ireland.

Smart Cards are perceived as an appropriate tool for the implementation of transport demand management strategies, due to their secure data storage and processing capabilities coupled with their robustness and portability. The GAUDI project is concerned with the development of demand management and improved urban mobility. Each of the GAUDI sites is testing different aspects of this.

The key element of the Dublin trial was to examine the idea od using one smart card to pay for a wide varity of services. It was funded by the four participating service organisations and the EC. It was a research project which lasted for a threee month period and consisted of 2,000 participants.

The name of the trial was taken from the Spanish Architect Antoni Gaudi y Cornet, who was a pioneer of art in modern times.


The GAUDI Project Trial in Dublin (Ireland) Begins.

The project began early in 1993 when a questionnaire was distributed throughout Dublin City. In the questionnaire people were asked where they would like to collect the card, their bank details and other general pieces of information such as age etc. However due to a strike in Dublin Bus the trial's beginning was delayed until Feb1994.

When the trial finally commenced in Feb 1994 letters were sent out to participants explaining that they could collect their card at the location of their choice from 21st Feb. To receive the card the letter was signed and exchanged for the card. Each card came in a pack, which also contained a booklet detailing where the card could be used and for what services etc, a logistics letter and a numbered slip. The logistics letter was written by Telecom Eireann and explained some possible errors that may occur while using the card. To view this letter for yourself click here.

The GAUDI project in Dublin had concentrated on testing the concept of a multi-service Smart Card as a means of paying for and accessing a variety of city services. It aimed to demonstrate the ease with which an integrated payment system could be implemented in a variety of organisations, without interfering with the existing infrastructure or systems. The project also sought the views of card users regarding their perceptions and acceptance of such systems.

The field trial which lasted for three months involved four independent organisations:

One thousand cardholders - members of the general public - participated in the trial. A total of 1,540 cards were issued, one-third of which were never used. These are now valuable collectors items - a cautionary note for similar trials with low volumes of cards.

Standard "off the shelf" equipment was used in the trial. This was important to demonstrate the potential which exists for the implementation of such systems and the availability of the necessary components. Obviously as the intention was to test a concept, rather than a product, the system was neither optimised nor customised. Equipment which was adequate for each of the individual sites was obtained and interfaced with existing equipment, without modification to the existing equipment (the telephone was the only exception as internal modifications were carried out to an existing card accepting phone).

The card used, branded "DASH", was a Schlumberger ME2000 microprocessor card with 2K bytes of EEPROM memory and shown in Figure 1.

Fig 1 The Dash Card

The geographical coverage of the trial was restricted to one bus route (20 vehicles), one city centre car park (500 spaces, one entry lane, two exit lanes), one toll bridge (4 lanes) and twenty public telephones adjacent to the bus route. Four Point of Sale outlets, for recharging cards, were established for the duration of the trial. Figure 2 shows a card reader on a bus and Figure 3 a card reader at an car park exit gate.


Card Reader On Dublin Bus

Fig 2 Card Reader On Board A Dublin Bus

Card Reader At Marlborough Street Carpark


Fig 3 Card Reader Inside Marlborough Street Carpark



The means of payment available with the card were an electronic purse (accepted by all participating service providers) and fare products/service contracts issued by individual service providers and only acceptable on their services. At the time of service consumption the default payment method was always the service provider specific contract. If one was not present or was not valid, then the electronic purse was assessed and debited.

A clearing house was established for the apportionment of the electronic purse amongst service providers.

Due to the limited availability of the services and their geographical spread, the usage of the DASH card was generally limited to occasional customers. With 10,014 transactions recorded during the trial, this represented an average of ten per card over the fourteen week period. The multi-service aspect of the card was used by 46% of all card users, that is they used the card on two or more services. Given the degree of novelty of the system and its relative complexity, it was encouraging that so many voluntary cardholders used the card in what were apparently different systems (the equipment operated differently on each of the services).

While all cards were originally issued with free credits for each of the services, 16% of-cardholders recharged their cards at a POS outlet, some of these on numerous occasions. In retrospect, three months was a relatively short time for a casual user to use all of the free credits.

The equipment performed satisfactorily during the trial and demonstrated the feasibility of integrating Smart Card technology into a range of diverse sites, each with different installed systems and requirements. The main shortcoming was the slow transaction speed (for example 2.5 seconds for a contract validation on the bus). This could be improved by optimised accessing of appropriate contracts and utilising higher card-reader data transmission rates (the standard default rate of 9.6 kbaud was used).

Perhaps the most important aspect of the trial was the measurement of the customer acceptance of  the concept of a multi application rechargeable Smart Card. Two strands of market research were carried out. Firstly, an in-depth study was carried out with approximately 100 cardholders. These people were interviewed before, during and after the trial to determine their views of such systems. Secondly, a brief questionnaire was sent to 800 of the card users, in order to elicit very general attitudes towards this type of system. A 33% response rate (using Freepost envelopes) was achieved.

The in-depth research showed a general acceptance of the concept of a single card for multiple services, with particular attraction to the electronic purse as a means of payment. For customers who traditionally preferred to pay cash, because prepayment for specific services meant being tied in and restricted, the concept of electronic purse assisted in budgeting and money management while giving the freedom to consume the value on a range of services. Perceptions of prepayment (and by extension, card based payment) for services changed during the trial. Most of the cardholders were traditionally cash customers, but were more favourably disposed towards prepayment given the experience of the flexibility and choice offered by the DASH card. They generally found the card modern, convenient and easy to use.

The response from the mail-back questionnaire was also very encouraging. Most expressed a view that the system was easy to understand (87%) and easy to use (89%). In all, 91% of respondents found the DASH card a convenient way of paying for services, while 86% replied that they would use an electronic purse in preference to cash to pay for goods and services. When asked of their willingness to continue to use DASH if extended citywide, 91% expressed an opinion that they would use it. The main positive aspects of the trial system were the elimination of cash and the multiple uses of the card. The negative aspects of the trial related to the limitations of the scale of the trial (this could be taken as a positive reaction). It was also interesting to note that the cardholders were interested in having other services (not necessarily transport related, but generally traditional card-based) available on this type of card. Suggested services ranged from bank ATMs through parking meters to cinema and supermarket check-out.

The results of the trial show that the concept is attractive to customers and they are quite prepared to use it. The technology has been seen to operate reliably in diverse environments.

General awareness has been raised as to the potential of such systems and there is little doubt as to their acceptability. As a demand management tool, the multi-application Smart Card appears to fit the bill.


The Dash Card favoured well with most participants and proved a worthy early prototype for future expansion in this area, however almost 10 years after its initial idea the only other trial's to take place here in Ireland was the Visa Ennis Information Age trial and the much smaller scale ACC SmartCard trial. However it is a lovely card in my opinion and due to a low print run and the fact that most participants in the trial were actually callcard collectors they are extremely difficult to obtain...therefore this proves to be a true gem in anyone's collection.

Note I will be adding a few more pictures to this articles over the next couple of days.......

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2003 Steven Hanley

Additional Info & Pictures 2002 Smart Card News Ltd