Talk about total adoption of technology!
Hong Kong has a population of just over 7 million I think. And guess how many Octopus cards are in circulation? 10 million! What the hell are Octopus cards? They are stored value Smart Cards and, as the name indicates, they have multiple uses. You can use them to settle fares on the MTR, buses, trams, the ferry, the Light Rail and mini-buses. They can also be used at supermarkets and in convenience stores and at fast food outlets like KFC. Negotiations are on for them to be accepted in cinemas, taxis and at tourist venues like Disneyland and Ocean Park.
The electronic beep of fares being deducted from these cards remains one of the most commonly heard sounds in Hong Kong. Virtually everyone in Hong Kong carries a mobile phone and an Octopus card.
How does the Octopus card work? The user holds it over an orange-colored scanner mounted on a MTR turnstile or at the front of a bus or tram or in a supermarket or store. The scanner reads the computer chip embedded in the card, deducts the fare, and flashes the amount of credit remaining. Presto – the whole transaction takes just a couple of seconds. That is the speed at which Hong Kong moves.
Advantages of the card: speed, efficiency, convenience, no need to fumble around looking for exact change, a discount is incorporated into the card compared to those who pay cash.
Disadvantages of the card: there is only one that I can think of. If you lose it, you’re lost.
Locals and tourists both use the Octopus card as a matter of course. Once you start it becomes a habit and like the AMEX card, you never leave home without it.
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