Mobile phones are all the rage these days and, by extension, so are mobile payment terminals. It follows that terminal providers and manufacturers are integrating the various functions of personal digital assistants (PDAs) with payment acceptance software in increasingly creative ways.
Payment terminal manufacturer Ingenico entered the fray with a new offering, the iPA280 (colloquially, "The Pay PDA"). Yet, the iPA280 is unique in that its hardware is compartmentalized and interlocking, with separate, attaching (and removable) pieces for PDA and card payment acceptance functions.
"In essence there are two [independent devices] which fit together, and on one side we have the secure payments system, and on the other side we have the PDA element of it," said Duncan McLauchlan, Product Manager, Integrated Solutions for Ingenico North America. "Think of it as a hand-held PDA facing you, and then flip it over and you'll see the PIN pad section. So it looks like two halves glued together. But they come apart."
According to Ingenico, this separation of technological powers is a good thing - and for one very significant reason: It creates an extra layer of security for the payment terminal, a sort of physical firewall in addition to the barriers and encryption schemes within the terminal itself. If hackers access the device's Microsoft Corp. Windows operating system, they have virtually no way of getting into the separated terminal where payment data is stored.
"With other solutions that integrate the payment into the Windows CE, the application can put the credit card data at risk," said Lisa Shipley, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing for Ingenico North America.
"This is two separate screens, two separate keyboards. ... So I can take a customer's secure application on one of our devices, download it to the payments side and be up and running. Yet on the PDA side they can have their Web store, inventory and Global Positioning System."
Though Shipley said the terminal is well fortified and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard 2.0-certified, it has the flexibility to export information for merchant reporting. The user enjoys the same range of functions that other PDA users do, including programs that interface with the payment terminal to produce things like e-mail receipts, virtual coupons and automatic loyalty updates through merchant Web sites.
"There's huge flexibility in getting the data from the payments side into the merchant's own database and being able to do marketing programs based off that data," Shipley said.
The device is also good for a host of other functions. For one, users can buy a triggered ("pistol grip") handle that attaches to the module, converting it into a bar code scanner. Merchants using the scanner can tag customer items, read the prices as they pop up on the module's screen and then accept a card payment for those items moments later using the magnetic stripe card reader built into the side of the device.
"You can use [the scanner] for bar coding, line busting and taking inventory," Shipley said.
The iPA280 is equipped with an on-board printer and supports signature capture software for signature payment authentication with a stylus. On top of that, it accepts both Europay/MasterCard Worldwide/Visa Inc. chip and PIN cards, making it usable internationally, and contactless "touch and go" smart cards (used mainly by loyalty programs) that rely on contactless payment technology.
According to Shipley, the iPA280 can operate in three different wireless environments: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for short-range communications, and General Packet Radio Service. for long-range ones.
"This is mobile on steroids," Shipley said.
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