Calypso (RFID)

Calypso (RFID)

Calypso is the international electronic ticketing standard for microprocessor contactless smartcard, originally designed by a group of European transit operators from Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and Portugal. It ensures multi-sources of compatible products, and makes possible the interoperability between several transport operators in the same area.

Designed to rise to the challenges of costs and service quality that transport companies will be tackling tomorrow, Calypso aims to:

  • Fight against forgery and fraud
  • Productivity gain
  • Diversification of the sales network (reloading on Internet, cell phones, and so on)

Operators must make the right choice in ticketing technology because the electronic ticketing system has to meet its requirements to last 15 years or more. In the choice of technology, the card is the key component of an electronic ticketing system, because the card determines the system performance and the global security level.

That is why Calypso has focused on card specifications and made the following choices:

  • Multi-source: Giving competition a free rein and guaranteeing lower costs
  • Security: Fighting against counterfeiting now and in the future
  • Compliance with current standards (ISO 14443, ISO 7816 1-4, EN 1545): Ensuring the development of future compliant products
  • Common interface for a range of cards: Providing all passengers with a contactless solution (occasional and regular customers)
  • Open platform for other services: For adding an electronic purse, customer loyalty programs, targeted marketing information, etc.
  • The respect of individual freedom: Through a decentralized security system management (no central account required)
  • Reliability: Through the development of operational products including CALYPSO specifications

The radio transmission of ticketing data at the control gates saves time and eases the user experience when entering the transit networks. Entering is over four times faster than with a magnetic ticket.

In order to be validated, the card must come near the terminals. The antenna of the terminal allows to validate even if the card is enclosed in a purse or in a pocket. On the other hand, bending or folding the card weakens it and may damage it. It is therefore recommended not to store it in one's pants...

Terminals are present at the network entrances, and in closed systems at the exits.

Portable control equipment may be used during the travel to check the owner's rights through the contact-less interface too.

The cards may be refilled with additional books of tickets, or with a new season ticket. In order to protect the private life of the customers, the transaction data are usually kept only for two to three days before deletion, just enough for fraud detection and control.


Calypso was born in 1993 from a partnership between the Paris transit operator RATP and the Innovatron Group (company founded by the French smartcard inventor, Roland Moreno). The creation of this technology was patented to allow enforcement of a technical interoperability and to finance the developments through an open license scheme.

The international standard ISO 14443B defining the contactless communication interface, as well as the European standard EN1545 defining the ticketing data for smartcards were a direct result of this work.

The first use of the technology happened in Europe from 1996. During year 2001, the system was being used in major European cities such as Lisbon, Paris, Venice, later followed by Milan, Porto, Marseille, Lyon, Turin and many smaller cities. Calypso is being extended now in other countries such as Belgium, Israel, Canada, Mexico, etc.

Calypso is based on two main technologies:

  • The microprocessor smart card, widely used in many monetary transactions;
  • The contact less interface for data and remote powering RFID.

A Calypso card, whatever its form (card, watch, mobile phone...) has a chip which contains all the information related to its owner rights for the application. It also has an antenna which allow the communication with the terminals.

A non for profit association, Calypso Networks Association (CNA), is opened to all operators or transit network operators supporting Calypso, and to suppliers of Calypso compliant equipment. The main tasks of Calypso Networks Association are:

  • Establish long lasting relations with all the partners using the Calypso specifications.
  • Define and direct the reference specifications.
  • Implement a certification policy, to guarantee the compatibility of all current and future products.
  • Establish a Calypso label issued by an independent organization.
  • Promote Calypso to operators and manufactures to yield its distribution.
  • Contribute to the international standardization process.
  • Facilitate and harmonize the shared members' needs and experiences.
  • Encourage all actions of mutual assistance in the implementation of Calypso e- ticketing systems.

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