National

JR East eyes introduction of 'walk-through' ticket gates in few years

Kyodo

East Japan Railway Co. is looking to introduce walk-through ticket gates at stations that will enable passengers to access gates via a specialized smartphone application instead of carrying physical prepaid commuter passes, sources familiar with the plan said Wednesday.

The company, also known as JR East, aims to launch the new system in two to three years, the sources said. Under the envisaged system, millimeter waves will be emitted from an antenna on the ceiling above the gate, which will open once data sent from the passenger’s smartphone application has been received.

Test runs at stations are scheduled for next year, after technical checks have been completed on the information-processing capability of the system and on the effect of its electromagnetic waves on human bodies. The health impact of the waves has been deemed to be one-tenth of the limit set by the government.

The next-generation walkthrough gates could also pave the way for facial recognition systems or other arrangements that no longer use gates at all. The current system, in which a card is placed over the reader, has been deemed inconvenient for those who are left-handed, as well as wheelchair and baby-carriage users.

“Ticket gates that are trouble-free and capable of handling the rush hour have been a longtime goal,” a JR East source said.

Gates in stations are replaced every 10 years or more due to wear and tear. The touchless gates are expected to replace the current ones once they reach that stage.

The company has worked to limit emission of millimeter waves to affect only smartphones passing through the gate below. The two-thousandths of a second needed for the process is the same as the signaling speed of next-generation ultrafast 5G communications networks.