Civic Smart Card coming to Edmonton?

At today’s Executive Committee meeting Councillors will discuss a report on Smart Card Solutions, the result of an inquiry Mayor Mandel made back in February. You might remember that the Transportation & Public Works Committee had approved a recommendation that ETS implement a smart card solution. But why should ETS be the only ones to benefit? That’s the thought that prompted the mayor to ask for more information.


A civic smart card would be something like the cards pictured above, presumably more like a modern credit card with a little chip embedded inside. It could serve two primary purposes: payment, like a gift card you’d get at Starbucks, but also identity, like a digital driver’s license.

The new report sidesteps the question about what it would take to implement a civic smart card that would work for all City services, including the Edmonton Public Library, essentially saying that a business case would need to be made, and that more research needs to be done to find similar solutions implemented elsewhere. I suppose that’s prudent, but I would think based on the TPW report that they’d have some idea (the estimate for an ETS solution was close to $23 million, which would pay for itself within 15 years).

Some highlights from the report:

  • Administration would contact the provincial and federal governments “to investigate possible synergies in respect to pilot projects around identity management.” Apparently both have already started exploring similar ideas.
  • ETS, Community Services, EPL, EFCL, and the University of Alberta are just a few of the potential partner organizations mentioned.
  • In response to the mayor’s question about engaging the public: “For a civic smart card to be successful and fully adopted by Edmontonians, Edmontonians must be engaged in the design and implementation planning process as well as the actual implementation of a solution.” Administration would leverage “every channel from town hall meetings to social media.”
  • For the IT folks reading this: “Administration should also engage the IT community by creating a project advisory group made up of Edmonton’s best and brightest technology minds…”

By improving Edmonton’s livability, the civic smart card supports the City’s strategic plan. What are the next steps?

The Information Technology Branch will take the lead, working with city departments and external stakeholders to develop the value assessment to determine if this initiative should be considered in the 2012-2014 capital budget. This project will provide a test case for the new IT governance framework which is being designed to allow the city to make the right technology investment decisions.

I really love the idea of a civic smart card for Edmonton. A quick Google search reveals lots of examples of transit cards, and even some parking cards, but not much for city-wide cards. As Councillor Iveson pointed out back in October, when writing about a smart card for ETS, “this isn’t leading edge stuff anymore. This is now an established practice.” I agree – ETS absolutely needs this. Something city-wide is quite intriguing, however, and I think Edmonton would be one of the innovators there.

Let’s get it done!

If you want to follow along with today’s meeting, you can do so here.

9 thoughts on “Civic Smart Card coming to Edmonton?

  1. After a recent trip to Hong Kong, their octopus card is the model for an effective civic card. A simple prepaid card for (an amazing) transit system and even in store payments. I wonder though if in Edmonton if it’s a bit of overkill, especially with interac market share, canada’s most by far post popular debit payment system.

  2. The reports to council don’t really break down where $23m will be spent. Are they putting a card refill station on every block? What are the “licensing fees”.

    Does this require an RFP? Any idea where to find the EXACT requirements of such a project.

  3. I don’t know where to find the details Eric. I know he’s obviously really busy but I would think Councillor Iveson would know who to point you to.

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