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February 25, 2008 • Issue 08:02:02

NCR debuts SelfServ ATMs

By Tracy Kitten

NCR Corp.'s new ATM is touted by NCR executives for its ability to "heal" itself. Last week, the company announced the launch of its SelfServ ATM, a new line that features increased functionality, an upgraded Intel dual core processor, the ability to accept bulk-check deposits, and so-called self-healing technology.

The release marks NCR's first new ATM in a decade.

"We're going on about 10 years now since the release of the Personas range," said Brian Bailey, Vice President of Financial Marketing for NCR. "The good news was that range was one of the most successful deployed. We have nearly 500,000 of those ATMs installed worldwide."

Bailey said NCR hopes the SelfServ family will build on the Personas line's success.

Automatic reboot

One of the SelfServ's core features, the ability to self-heal, is its ability to recover from a system failure.

"We believed we could improve and increase both the availability and the reliability of the ATM, so what we spent a lot of time doing was looking at what causes downtime," Bailey said.

The primary culprit of downtime, he said, is software failures, which could often be repaired through a simple reboot. As a result, the new SelfServ family has been equipped with an automatic failsafe mechanism that can detect when an ATM is malfunctioning and cause that ATM to reboot.

"Several of the vendors have spent time on management tools and preventative maintenance, but what we're talking about here is a little different," Bailey said. "We're giving the ATM a chance to know that it's down, before a tech would even have to come out. Actually, we're taking it one step further - to eliminate any remote intervention needed."

Bailey said the self-healing technology can significantly reduce downtime related to "soft" failures such as blue screens.

"Some soft failures can take between three and four hours to repair," he said. "With self-healing technology, we can cut that time to between 10 and 20 minutes."

Increased functionality

The SelfServ also features a host of progressive functionalities, Bailey said. SelfServ ATMs can be configured to offer services such as bill payment, funds transfer, mobile phone top-up, and the dispense of coupons, vouchers and mini-statements. It uses dual-sided thermal-receipt technology and offers a dual receipt-roll option, all in response to the ever-growing consumer demand for proof of deposit, Bailey said.

But how unique is the new SelfServ line?

It is a new full ATM line designed for a global banking and retail market, and it is the first ATM line NCR has introduced in 10 years. But NCR competitors Diebold Inc. and Wincor Nixdorf International also have in recent years introduced new lines that purport to offer similar advantages.

Last week, executives from Diebold celebrated the fifth anniversary of Diebold's Opteva ATM family, an ATM line that Diebold executives say has stood the test of time.

"When we designed Opteva, we designed it with the globe in mind," said Ken Justice, Diebold's Vice President of Global Product Marketing and Management. "Diebold had made several acquisitions in the late '90s/early '00s, and in many of those countries, the companies had their own ATM products.

"We had to work through all of that to make a single offering for all of our customers - so we had to come up with something that was globally appealing.

"We also used a 2.0 platform that allowed us to bundle what we could offer for any country, and that allowed us to be flexible and grow." Justice said Opteva's open architecture made it appealing to customers because of the ease it offers for upgrades and adoption of emerging technologies.

"The variability in how you can configure it has allowed us to penetrate and work with customers [in other countries] we hadn't previously been able to sell to," he said. "In the U.S. five years ago, bankers were thinking about how to improve their operational efficiencies, trying to figure out how to migrate transactions from the teller line to the self-service line.

"We knew at the time that there were regulatory changes, like Check 21, that were taking place that related to truncating checks, so we were able to incorporate scanning into the environment and combine what customers wanted. In China and other parts of Asia-Pacific, cash recycling took off pretty quickly.

"Cash-recycling hasn't taken off here yet, but I think it will. And when it does, we'll be ready for that, because we prepared for it in China. So we have the capabilities to meet some geographies now and then meet some needs later."

Wincor Nixdorf shares similar sentiment for its ProCash ATM line, part of its ProClassic Enterprise suite, released in 2000.

The company continues to build on its open architecture, which it said continues to garner attention and attract new customers throughout the world.

At Wincor World this week, Wincor Nixdorf said it continues to build on its ProClassic suite, bringing in and incorporating new channels, such as the mobile channel, with the ATM and the branch.

Again, Wincor pushes its multivendor capabilities, which some experts in the market say will give it a marketing edge as it works to compete with NCR and Diebold on a global scale.

Alenka Grealish, Managing Director of Banking for Boston-based Celent LLC, would not compare NCR's technology with that of Diebold and Wincor, but she said all the bells and whistles of the new line pale in comparison to the simple fact that it offers bulk deposits - technology that isn't necessarily unique.

Both Diebold and Wincor have similar technology; NCR also offers bulk deposit/intelligent deposit on its Personas ATM line.

"It is the bulk-check acceptor which enables a whole segment of branch visitors - small businesses and single owner/operators who receive as payment checks and normally have to stand in line or have to dash before the branch closes - to be able to switch from that to self service via the ATM," she said.

But Bailey said he expects the new line to offer much more than mere check or bulk-note deposit, and he expects its diverse abilities to prove advantageous over time.

"This is not a product release for one specific market," he said. "This is a globally deployable range that has many options. NCR is really focused on delivering self-service transactions across all industries, and we are seeing more and more interest outside the financial industry.

"One of our customers is a telecommunications customer who is using billpay and intelligent deposit to serve its customers. We want to broaden our reach, and with this new line, we can meet the needs of many customers."

Note: Travis K. Kircher contributed to this article. end of article

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