RFID system crash costs Tokyo trains millions

Network failure in Japan exposes flaws in IC technology

It's no secret that we're fans of the myriad of uses IC tags and RFID technology in general, particularly the way they have flourished in Japan, but progress isn't always smooth, as illustrated by a major IC hiccup in Tokyo that caused disruption to thousands of people there this morning.

During Friday morning rush hour, the system that powers the RFID readers on ticket gates at almost all Tokyo train stations decided to stop working, resulting in a sticky moment for railway operators, as the masses threatened to overrun 650 crowded station concourses.

Free for all

Faced with the choice to either ask hundreds of thousands of busy commuters to put away their IC card travel passes and phones and get in line to buy traditional tickets, the companies - led by Japan Rail East - opted instead to open the gates and let passengers enter the stations and travel for free.

Although the highly blame-oriented nature of Japanese society means that the maker of the faulty ticket gates, Nippon Signal, is sure to feel the heat from the problem, the fact that the RFID readers were back online by 11am will ensure the technology marches ahead.