Octopus card as a fare collection system has been monopolized for all public transportations including MTR, buses, and ferries in Hong Kong for a couple of decades.

In 2018, Hong Kong has established an aggressive Smart City blueprint including smart payment using mobile phones.

Hong Kong goes QR code-based mobile e-payment

In the same year, the subway MTR has invited tenders for QR code-based payments for its transportation systems.

According to information posted, the new and upgraded AFC Gates are required to accept a number of ticket media and electronic payment means including but not limited to the following: Octopus, ride based smart ticket, ride based QR Code paper ticket, QR Code based mobile e-payment, contactless EMV cards in physical card form or embedded in mobile devices.

QR code-based mobile e-payment is definitely tailored for the Chinese giants Alipay and Wechat Pay especially for over 50 million visitors from mainland China every year.


The issue with QR code-based mobile e-payment

The use of QR code as payment requires online real-time authentication. A typical transaction may take over 3-5 seconds which may not be acceptable for public transportation particularly for the subway with a lot of passengers.


Mobile Phone Law in Mainland China Helps

To overcome the long transaction time, Alipay and Wechat Pay work off-line for public transportation in mainland China. They just trust that the users have enough money in the wallet to pay or will pay back later if fund is not sufficient.

It will work in mainland China because by law all phone users required to register their personal information including national ID.


Privacy is no compromise in Hong Kong

With the same mechanism working off-line Alipay and Wechat Pay may not be able to get the money back from users. There is no law to enforce users to register their personal information and banking information. People in Hong Kong have been educated to protect their private information.



If the system does not support the local Hong Kong users, Hong Kong just can’t claim as a leading innovative Smart City in Asia.


The writer has been involving automatic fare collection for more than a decade. His new plan to address the automatic fare collection market in the under developing countries can be found: autofare.net

Post Author: Keith Lau

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