RFID solution cuts out fraud at petrol stations

16 Aug 2004

Irish motorists will no longer have to worry about credit card fraud and night staff at petrol stations may no longer have to handle card or cash payment transactions thanks to a new RFID (radio frequency ID) based technology being deployed by a Tipperary-based firm. It is envisaged that more than 400 forecourts around Ireland will have deployed the technology by 2008.

Thurles-based Eirpay has devised a new system that it claims is more secure and convenient than chip and PIN credit card technology. The solution, which works over O2’s data network, allows motorists to purchase fuel at the fuel pump using a special RFID swipe card and a secure touch screen system.

RFID systems are a new generation of barcode technologies that enable information such as identification codes to be accessed over the air without the need for direct contact or a direct line of sight. According to a recent briefing note from the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), the widespread application of RFID technology could provide significant business opportunities in the telecommunications industry.

It is understood that both O2 and Eirkey have so far invested €1.5m in the new payment system and it is hoped that the roll-out of the project over the next four years will net both partners combined revenues of €11.5m.

The system consists of a unique secure hand-held payment device called an Eirpay key. Initially it will be used to enable motorists to purchase fuel 24×7, eliminating credit card fraud and the need for night staff to handle payment transactions at retail fuel outlets.

The customer uses their Eirpay key to dispense the desired amount of fuel automatically using a touch-screen terminal. The Eirpay key uses a personal RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), which holds a digital signature detectable by the Eirpay Central Clearing Bureau (ECCB); customers simply wave their key at the Eirpay module on the pump.

The ECCB can then check their payment preferences and authorisation can be sought electronically from the customer’s bank or credit card company. This whole process takes only six seconds and fuel is then automatically dispensed and the transaction completed at the pump.

In order to guarantee security the company has forged a strategic alliance with another Irish technology company called EuroKom, following a tender process.

“Eirkey’s decision to adopt EuroKom as our data security provider was based on a solid design, speedy and efficient implementation, ongoing provision of fast, quality service and their commitment to satisfying customer needs,” commented Tim Fogarty, IT Manager for Eirkey. “We have the utmost confidence in the security they have integrated in our data systems, which is vital as security attacks that threaten all businesses are rampant.”

EuroKom supplied Eirkey with two dedicated leased lines – one for internet access, and one dedicated to transmitting data over O2’s GPRS network, together with two Symantec SGS 5420 firewalls which are clustered for redundancy.

“We proposed the use of two firewalls to provide the required level of redundancy,” commented EuroKom’s John Reilly. “If one firewall suffers an outage, the other automatically cuts in. We recommended the use of the Symantec Gateway Security 5400 Series, a next-generation firewall appliance that provides seven integrated security technologies for maximum effectiveness, while reducing the complexity of security management.

“The 5400 Series provides standalone management capabilities via a secure Web-based interface (SSL). Additionally, it integrates seamlessly with the Symantec Management Console. We also provided Eirkey with Symantec’s Host Intrusion Detection software, which provides an additional level of protection by constantly monitoring for any unusual activity that might indicate that a hacker has compromised the firewall. It does this by downloading and updating IDS signature files, which would identify such activity,” he explained.

A similar RFID cashless payment system is already in use in the US where four million users have already bought into the new technology.

The Eirpay system was originally tested at a site in Roscrea and plans are underway to roll it out to nine more petrol stations this year. The company hopes that more than 400 petrol stations in Ireland will have introduced the system by 2008.

Eirpay is a subsidiary of Eirkey Forecourt Advertising. Established in June 2001, Eirkey employs 20 people. The company operates two subsidiaries. Eirfuel develops systems and services for the commercial fuel management market while Eirpay is devoted to automatic forecourt fuel release and payment services. In both areas, Eirkey develops the software and much of the hardware required, providing a full installation and support service for complete systems.

By John Kennedy