BBC News (Scotland).
Wednesday, March 29, 2006.
Smartcard technology which will help run Scotland's free bus travel scheme for pensioners could be used in a large variety of other services.
>From this weekend pensioners and people registered disabled will be able to travel free on all Scotland's buses.
The National Entitlement Card means that schemes operated by the 32 councils can be brought together.
Developers said it could be used for libraries, leisure centres, home meals and even a bus stop audio service.
Colin Mair, chief executive of the Improvement Service, jointly run by the Scottish Executive and the councils, said: "The cards that will be issued for travel purposes on 1 April will also be able to be used for a wide variety of other purposes.
"We have been giving advice to our colleagues down south but also internationally - Canada, America and so on.
"The speed at which we've moved on this one and the rate of development is regarded as particularly impressive."
In Dundee, they are also being used to help the blind or partially sighted by providing a bus stop audio service.
Sandra Boyle, from the Dundee Blind Society, said the way the technology had been used in the city was a godsend.
She said: "It's made a tremendous difference. It's given them freedom, independence.
"They don't need to ask people when the next bus is coming and what's the number. It's been a really marvellous thing for them."
Scotland's Finance Minister Tom McCabe said the way the cards could be used were only limited by the imagination of councils.
"It can be quite a task sometimes trying to access different services," he said.
"The fact that they can access a whole range of services not only in person but online too eventually is going to be quite an important step."
The new card features the Saltire across the front, with the addition of the logo of the issuing council.
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