Tokyo subways to test how mobile content affects passengers

Tokyo Metro, which runs the underground trains in the city, will test how riders react to a new mobile portal

Tokyo's subways will soon offer a new mobile app with free Wi-Fi access, then track if the information it provides changes passenger habits.

Tokyo Metro, which operates the city's subway system, said the new portal service will act as an online subway guide that updates automatically as passengers move between stations. It will provide schedules, station maps, and information on crowded areas and which train cars to board for the best access, as well as news and "entertainment information."

The company said it will test whether passengers react to the different types of information it provides. A Tokyo Metro spokesman said it has not yet determined exactly the ways it will track passengers.

In addition to access to information provided by the app and Wi-Fi connections, Tokyo Metro also has access to data from its ticket gates in stations across the city. Many riders use NFC touch-card technology built into their mobile phones in place of train tickets and passes.

The service will begin as a trial, running from Thursday through the end of July. It is called "MANTA," short for "Metro Amusement Network Trinity App," and will be accessible through mobile apps for Android and iOS.

As part of the trial, Tokyo Metro will provide free Wi-Fi for accessing the app. The Wi-Fi can also be used in short bursts for browsing and mail between trains, providing 15-minute connections up to five times per day.

The free Wi-Fi will initially be offered at some of Tokyo's famous stations, then gradually expanded during the trial. The first stations to get it will include Akihabara, Roppongi, and Shinjuku, as well as all stops on the often-crowded Ginza line.

Tokyo Metro said the Japanese app will also include English, Korean, and Chinese versions. It will be available initially for Android devices, with an iOS version to follow soon after.

Japan's major carriers have recently begun offering cellular service on underground rail systems in major cities. Some longer train routes offer paid Wi-Fi services, including some of the overland "Bullet Trains" that run the length of the nation.

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