By Tracy Kitten
For an industry that is slow to change, selling the notion that advanced functions are the way of the ATM's future hasn't been easy for Tranax Technologies Inc. Equipment expense, consumer adoption, software enhancements and transaction complexity have all hindered the adoption of advanced ATM functions.
Though consumer savvy and software capabilities have improved since ATM deployers first tried their hands at things like ticket dispensing some five years ago, ISOs have remained gun-shy.
A number of the distributors at Tranax's 2007 Summer Summit, which ran July 12 to 13, 2007, said basic cash-dispensing ATMs are still their No. 1 interest. But even the most reluctant agree times are changing.
Moving the ATM beyond basic cash dispense is something leaders at Tranax have been talking about for a long time. It's a concept Dr. Hansup Kwon, President and Chief Executive of the Newark, Calif.-based ATM and kiosk provider, has spent the last several years working to perfect.
"Our vision is very simple," Kwon said. "We design products that meet the needs of the customer."
Like the ATM, Kwon said financial kiosks can provide convenience, if the services make sense.
For the last three years, Tranax has worked to identify and perfect financial services that make sense for the self-service channel. And Kwon said Tranax's experience in the market has given it a true advantage.
"These aren't things we're just talking about," he said. "These are things we are doing now with partners in the market."
Partners like TIO Networks Corp., Vero Inc., Columbus Data Services and Livewire International are working with Tranax to perfect self-service bill-payment, check-cashing, card-dispensing and ticketing offerings.
During Tranax's 2006 distributors' conference in Lake Tahoe, Nev., Kwon said Tranax had some real-world deployments that build on those services that were gaining traction -- proving that the right types of advanced functions could be deployed successfully in the market.
During Tranax's 2007 conference, the self-service message was the same.
"The biggest difference this year (at the conference) is that everything we are presenting is our own product line," Kwon said. "For the first time, we have more self-service terminals than ATMs. And all of the ATMs we have here, with the exception of the Mini-Bank 1700, are now self-service-capable. That's a big difference."
Jeffrey Lee, Tranax's Director of Product Management, said Tranax has found a way to bridge the functionality gap. "We're bringing kiosk functionality to the ATM," Lee said.
During its Summer Summit, Tranax unveiled a line of upgrade kits it soon plans to release to the market. The company would not give a specific release date, saying the launch of the kits would depend on feedback from distributors.
The kits can be used to upgrade existing ATMs, including those with embedded boards or Windows CE, to provide advanced self-service offerings.
ATMs already running Windows XP won't require much of an upgrade, Lee said, since the platform that Tranax uses to connect to its service providers runs on XP.
"The whole challenge in enabling the ATM for SSD [self-service-device] capabilities is that different Tranax ATMs will have different requirements to upgrade them," Lee said.
ATMs running XP will basically only need to add a sidecar, Lee said.
But the upgrades go beyond just so-called SSD capabilities. Tranax is providing upgrades for the addition of touchscreens and color displays as well. By the end of the year, the company expects to release upgrades for most of its CE ATMs. Lee said the enhancements will offer ISOs more advertising opportunities.
"This will solve a lot of problems," Lee said. "You don't have to make the machine a PC, you just have to add a screen. It's going to be a very easy fix."
Selling upgrade kits for advanced functions is a revolutionary notion that answers many market demands, including the need to keep the cost of providing advanced functions low.
Kwon said Tranax has worked to respond to market demands. "Over the past several years we've been emphasizing SSD capabilities, and all of Tranax's ATMs are now SSD capable," Kwon said. "The current and future products are SSD-capable, and that is the differentiator for us. This is a very important strategy."
The following products were on display at the summit:
The kiosk runs on Windows XP and can come equipped with the ability to accept bills, dispense cards and print tickets. It comes standard with a card reader, 15-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) touch screen, digital security camera and topper.
Tranax recently partnered with Columbus Data Services to offer Zippay, an ATM-based gift-card program that allows consumers to buy gift cards with cash, debit or credit at an ATM.
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