EDM makes the ticket to ride

Electronic Data Magnetics moves toward RFID

When Richard Hallman and other former employees of National Electronic Computer Supplies, Inc. founded Electronic Data Magnetics, Inc. (EDM), High Point, NC, in 1983, the company initially specialized in manufacturing computer tabulating cards, punch cards that aided in data processing. Such cards were prevalent in transit at the time, so EDM, formerly Southeastern Data Media, Inc., provided the necessary technology for processing fares.

EDM manufactures cards and tickets from materials such as standard paper, direct thermal paper, polyester, direct thermal polyester, synthetic and synthetic direct thermal.

As the transit industry began the transition to magnetic stripe cards and tickets for fare collection, EDM shifted its practices accordingly. The new company quickly acquired the West Coast-based Amico Inc. and moved into the world of manufacturing magnetic stripe technology, still manufacturing custom magnetic stripe cards and tickets for the transit industry nearly 30 years later.

Its magnetic stripe products are prevalent in the airline, parking and entertainment ticketing industries. In addition, the company’s scope has expanded to include smart cards and tickets equipped with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.

As the magnetic stripe signaled the demise of data punch cards in the 1980s, so too will RFID move to replace the magnetic stripe.

“A similar transition is taking place with RFID now,” says Brian Hallman, son of Richard Hallman and senior vice-president, Sales & Marketing at EDM. “All of these smart cards have a computer chip inside that attaches to an antenna. A reader at the turnstiles sends out a radio wave that hits the antenna, allowing it to capture enough energy to power the card’s chip and send a message back to the reader.”

However, Hallman says the industry may never completely move away from limited use magnetic stripe cards, as the cost for a standard thickness 30-mil card order may prove too much for some riders.

“I think there will always be a need for fare media, both permanent and limited use. Though it may diminish some in the next 20 years or so because of technology advances,” he says. “Most operations will use either magnetic stripe and RFID cards depending on rider demand and preference.

Hallman says most new installations have both.

“The MTA in Boston has the 30-mil smart card for everyday riders, as well as magnetic stripe cards or a RFID hybrid system for visitors who are not daily-use customers to use temporarily,” he says. “This type of transit card basically says, ‘I’m card number one, I boarded the bus here and I’m good for the day, or the week,’ and so on.”

EDM manufactures cards from a variety of materials such as standard paper, direct thermal paper, polyester, direct thermal polyester, synthetic and synthetic direct thermal.

Hallman says EDM is currently working with about 500 transit customers, manufacturing cards for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (NY MTA), New York, NY. The company serves many smaller transit agencies as well, in which annual card requirements typically range from 50,000 cards on up into the hundreds of millions.

EDM also serves Cubic Transportation Systems and GFI Genfare, two of the most prominent equipment suppliers to the US transit industry. EDM says it is currently the only domestic approved supplier authorized to provide Cubic’s “Limited Use” smart card, and the company’s product achieved the highest quality rating that Cubic can bestow on a vendor. BR