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Payment Terminals – Where is TNG?

So at least you’ve started reading this blog entry to find out what TNG means!  I’ll make you wait until later if you don’t know the acronym. (That would actually be a good idea if they had not yet invented the scroll bar).

Closet Star Trek fan. TNG = The Next Generation

Payment terminals, signature capture devices, pin pads. They are all different, yet are all the same. It’s the bits of technology that the customer actually has some interaction with, apart from the associate, in getting their transaction complete. They are all different, all having different keyboards (even keyboard layouts), screens, and when swiping the card, I’m ALWAYS looking for that little metal curved shiny bit down the slot, because I cannot work out the ‘put your card in this way’ picture and I’m a bit of a geek, and know what the mag-stripe reading bit of the reader looks like.

My reason for blogging about this subject is, that I don’t get it. How is it that a piece of technology that a customer actually interacts with is held with such low regard?  The manufacturers only do an OK job of getting the devices to look great, with only recent examples like the Verifone MX870 (http://www.verifone.com/industry-solutions/retail/payment-solutions/mx800-series.aspx) looking anything like what they should.  Where was the word ‘COOL’ when the designs were being put together?  Why do the numeric keypads on them resemble a calculator from the 70’s and not looking anything like the keyboards people use every day?  Why is the software running on them so proprietary meaning that the investment beyond the basics never happens due to its proprietary nature?  Its questions like these that keep us talking about them for specific functions rather than a generic term that allows us to do lots of things with them, in a standards-driven way, that allows us (i.e. the retail people who put stuff on them and use them) to take them to the next level without it costing an arm and a leg and not being able to reuse work already done for POS?

OK, this isn’t a beat up the hardware vendor blog, but I am looking forward to the introduction of the …
…wait for it…

The Customer Intimate Transaction Terminal (CITT)!

This device will have broken the mold, captured the requirements of partial sighting laws, have industry-wide way of rendering applications on it (e.g. Windows Mobile) and retain all the security goodies we need in place in this security frenzied world, and importantly, would be ‘cool’ and customers would be wanting to use it!  I would be able to use CITT to communicate with the consumer, through my own screen designs, execute functionality on it while the associate was recording my transactions, maybe even sign up for mobile shopping and auto-charging to my phone so my next visit is even less superbly convenient as it is today.  It will have a nice easy ‘dipping station’ on it to dip my card into (because the whole world will be doing chip based cards by then.  Swipe will disappear from our language lexicon and be replaced by dipping, which sounds more like a fun thing to do and less like theft) and the device will immediately start talking to me (maybe just in text and picture form to start with) collecting survey data from me, showing me related products to this purchase, or even the last one before today, and very nicely showing all the discounts I’m getting today just by buying stuff, and all of this is just using code and configuration that I’ve already got on my POS.  No customizations, no tricky apps that have to navigate their way around PA-DSS (because they are in a secure separate bit of CITT), and changeable through some help from the IT team, but not a complicated project.

Can we do this today... Yes… is it easy to achieve and able to be leveraged easily… Nope, I’m afraid not. There are SOO many hurdles in the space today, ranging from adoption of competing future payment requirements (a future blog entry), new card types, and the evolving PCI requirements, and yes, the proprietary devices, that the investments are being spent on just keeping up, and the ability to excel and agree is on the backburner.

So, I’ll be patient, but I’ll still be dreaming of CITT (pronounced like KITT… I was a Knight Rider fan too. Original series… Hasselhoff… OK… enough said there).

Posted by Duncan Taylor, Director of Product Management, Epicor

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