How can I pay my car tolls with my smartphone?

By Pål Kastnes May 20, 2016 – Courtesy of

The Internet of Things (IoT) enables innovation everywhere. New products and services are constantly being developed under this broad umbrella. By connecting us to online services these products make our lives easier, especially for things we do on a regular basis. Nevertheless,
what might seem like a simple situation may be trickier than it appears, and some tasks require very clever solutions.
The process of paying your car tolls would seem like a perfect candidate for automating via a smartphone. Reality, however, proves much more complex.

Right idea-wrong solution

On the surface, this would simply call for a specialized app optimized for registering cars in high speed.

You could have all cars use some sort of a tag to identify them, and then some sort of a beacon at the toll plaza to broadcast messages x times per second. As your car arrives, the car toll app would receive this signal and then charge your phone bill.

Sounds perfect? Well, not really. By the time your mobile app had activated and was ready to receive the message from the beacon you would already be out of range. At the same time, looking for the beacon all the time drains your phone battery. This solution would also have very strict regulations to follow in regards to both privacy and security.

There are many different ways to solve this but you need to think outside the box to come up with an accurate, user friendly solution. One way is to let all cars in the area communicate with each other by setting up a small local area network that all the cars connect to. This would work better but the speed of the passing cars as well as the power drain is still a challenge. A second option would be to use GPS to track your location but again, power drain and privacy will be issues.

Make a wake-up call

There are companies in the transportation sector offering innovative solutions to let drivers pay car tolls via their smartphone today. One such company is GeoToll. Basically, their systems use location services in the phone to wake their app on the driver’s smartphone when approaching a toll plaza so that it’s ready to communicate at the moment the driver passes through.

Unlike the typical single system toll tags that are placed on the windshield, this solution allows a smartphone to act as a multiprotocol toll transponder. It consists of an app communicating with a toll tag sticker on the phone. This sticker provides the phone with an antenna for the wireless signals used by automated toll gates. The solution can work with any existing open or proprietary system.

The Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips within the toll tag sticker are read by the toll gate or gantry as the vehicle passes through and sent to the backend system. Photographs can be taken of the licence plate as additional evidence as the car passes through.

Near Field Communication (NFC) is used for communication between the sticker and the smartphone app, which then communicates with the backend system. The RFID read by the toll gate is matched up with the RFID sent by the phone app so that payment can be taken quickly and accurately. Payments can be taken by charging the user’s prepaid account, or by a digital invoice sent to their email address. The company are so sure of their system that they guarantee 100% payment for toll operators.

This system also allows the same user account to pay car tolls for several cars owned or leased by the same household or company, reducing administration for both the toll operator and the road user.


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