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R&D Story
Touch-and-go through the gate Following the track leading to Suica

2. Read-only or read/write?

IC cards fall into one of two categories, contact and non-contact types. Each has its advantages and demerits. But for passengers to go through automatic ticket gates with their passes in their holders, the IC cards had to be non-contact type cards.

Furthermore, systems that read ID data from read-only cards and interact with the main computer each time someone goes through the ticket gate could not keep up with the enormous volume of data processing transactions in rush hour. So Miki and his fellow researchers perceived that the cards must be read/write types.

Non-contact read/write IC cards were not yet in practical use. Manufacturers stressed that communications infrastructure in the future would reach speeds unthinkable at that time. That would make it possible to process by a central computer though a high-speed network, and allow read-only card applications. But Miki countered by pointing out that JR East handles 15 million passengers a day in the Tokyo area alone. An enormous amount of communications traffic would be generated by their passing through ticket gates. No matter how much network speeds improved, practical application in that way was impossible. After repeated discussions, the manufactures eventually accepted that theory. And they got to work on joint development of high-speed read/write cards.

Manufacturers were able to provide prototype cards in 1988-1989. Miki and his compatriots used those cards for basic research, and made improvements.

Miki later moved from the Railway Technical Research Institute to JR East. There he worked to put automatic ticket gates with IC cards into practical use.