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27 June 2010 @ 03:41 pm
I ride the T every work day, and most weekend days, and for all that I complain about how it could be better, I love being able to do most of my getting around on trains and buses. I don't, however, love having to keep track of my Charliecard, not specifically because of it but just because I have so many little bits and pieces of life I have to carry around every day: Charliecard, phone, wallet, keys, etc. Sometimes, I'd like to be able to leave the house with, say, JUST my phone and my keys. But I always want my Charliecard with me, because, hey, I never know when I'm going to want to hop on a bus and go somewhere interesting.

Wouldn't it be nice if my phone could be my T pass? Well, I realized, there's no reason it can't be. So I tried sticking the card under the skin I had on my phone, but it turns out the card is too big and bulky and is too stiff to conform to the shape of the phone. Rats. Except! I don't need the whole card, right? Just the RFID tag and antenna. So I set out to do that. Description and photos behind the cut.Collapse )
I'm feeling: accomplishedaccomplished
That Chick with the Evil Laughsparkymonster on June 28th, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)

You are v. smart
VanderVeckenxthread on June 28th, 2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's totally excellent.
Hmm, now I'll have to think about the radio properties of the antenna..

'Cuz if we're going to dismantle a charlie card and put it in a skin, clearly the next thing we need is to skin a charlie card, an oyster card, and a clipper card and put all of them into the same skin, so we can get out of the business of having another flipping card per system.
ruthless compassion: martini handsaroraborealis on June 28th, 2010 04:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I was wondering about that, too. I don't know enough about how the antennas work, but I suspect that having the antennas touch would be a problem. However, I believe you could reshape the antennas to make smaller loops and then easily fit 3-5 different tags/antennas under the skin of one smartphone.
VanderVeckenxthread on June 28th, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
Why use separate antennas at all?
ruthless compassion: martini handsaroraborealis on June 28th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)
For me, mainly because it means I don't have to muck around with any wiring! Would it be easy to have multiple RFID tags on the same antenna?
VanderVeckenxthread on June 28th, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC)
It should be - I haven't read the relevant rfid radio specs in a long time, and I am not a radio hacker (we keep hams and EEs around for that), but I expect it should be fairly trivial to attach multiple chips to the same antenna. The two questions that come to mind are what are the relevant wavelengths (which would control minimum antenna size and possibly spacing of the rfid chip attachments from each other) and if the signal could be attenuated by having parallel circuit paths to the different radios, but I think that last isn't actually a concern (and actually comes from a slightly broken understanding of the relevant physics). But it's early yet, and I haven't had my coffee, and we should find a radio geek and ask them.

And then try it.
Bendeguspice on June 29th, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
They're heading in that direction. With the Near Field Communication standard. They want to embed a two-way RF device in cell phones (and other devices) that can emulate an RFID tag such as a Charlie Card, or be used to exchange money between two NFC devices.

With NFC technology, you could have various cards embedded in your cellphone (Nokia came out with an NFC cellphone in 2007).
Nathannathanw on June 30th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
Power would be an issue - recall that the chips draw their power from the signal the antenna picks up, and the system as a whole probably doesn't have a lot of margin. So powering up the T's Mifare Classic chip is OK, but powering up two or three of them might not work very well.

Getting past that, it would also be a problem if more than one tried to transmit at a time. Low-power RF systems like these often use backscattering for chip-to-reader communication - they don't actually transmit a signal of their own, they wait for their turn to speak, the reader keeps transmitting CW, and the chip tweaks the antenna's circuit so it's a bit more or less reflective of the incoming signal. Both having extra loads in the form of other chips, or having multiple chips manipulating the antenna's impedance, could make that work very badly.
RKOVparadoox on August 6th, 2010 03:47 am (UTC)
I tried having a Charlie Card and an Oyster Card in the same Oyster Card holder and it didn't work unless I flipped the holder open with one in each half. Even then, I think I had some problems (it might have been just remembering which half was which), so I "solved" the problem by keeping the Charlie Card in my wallet and the Oyster Card in its holder.

OK, somoene is going to ask why I carry my Oyster card around with me. I'm the type of person who carries my passport around with me. At least that way I know where the Passport and Oyster card are. And it makes urgent business trips easier.

Which reminds me of the time I accidentally scanned my Staples card (key-tag) at the Star/Shaws self checkout line and it set off the unknown item warning which a manager had to clear before I could finish checking out.

Edited at 2010-08-06 03:49 am (UTC)
unintentional baitredheadedmuse on June 29th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
LOVE THAT. SO COOL! I want to do it Right Now.
regisrmd on June 29th, 2010 06:12 pm (UTC)
fuckin awesome.
(Anonymous) on June 30th, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)
Just a quick note, don't forget to jot down the number of the Charlie Card before you go eating it away with acetone. You can register that number online with the MBTA and then track it and refill it online. You never have to use a fare station again. Additionally, if you lose your card, you can at least cancel your Charlie Card online so people can't leech off of you.

ruthless compassion: martini handsaroraborealis on June 30th, 2010 04:46 pm (UTC)
Re: charliecard.mbta.com
This is a great point, and is, in fact, one of the steps I took but didn't mention! I'll put a note in the main post about this, thanks.
(Anonymous) on July 1st, 2010 01:43 pm (UTC)
Re: charliecard.mbta.com
Of course, if you care about your privacy, or the secrecy of your travels, you don't want to register the card with the T. For my part, I always use cash at the kiosk and never register. Because I only put $20 on at a time, that's my maximum potential loss. (I recognize this might not work for commuters who need more than that on their cards.)