JR East workers use Suica cards as ID

by Kaho Shimizu

They look like commuters passing the ticket wickets at train stations, flashing their electronic train-fare cards at a scanner.

But they are, in fact, East Japan Railway Co. employees entering the firm’s head office, using their Suica commuter passes as ID cards.

Guests who do not have a Suica card can borrow one from the front desk.

JR East introduced this system at its head office in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, in late February at a cost of 120 million yen.

It is now trying to sell the system to other companies to cultivate a source of revenue and expand the use of its Suica cards at the same time.

“Users do not have to take the trouble of carrying so many cards” once their office buildings adopt this system, said Takahiro Shimizu, project leader of JR East’s information-technology business.

The system can take the form of either a wicket or a door. It would cost about 100 million yen to set up the system in a 30-floor building, almost the same as systems that use other types of IC cards, Shimizu said.

The Suica card features a built-in integrated-circuit chip that activates the wicket system without insertion. About 8.3 million Suica cards have been issued since its debut in November 2001.

The card can now be used for shopping and dining at 196 places in 64 JR stations, starting last week.

JR East plans to make Suica compatible with Icoca, a similar IC card issued by West Railway Co., by summer. It also intends to expand compatibility to other railway and bus companies by 2006.

JR East has been asking building developers and management companies since May to adopt its Suica system when upgrading their existing systems or planning new buildings, but it has yet to receive an order, the carrier said.