By Eddie Johnson
There's no denying the payment industry is eager to put new payment-related functions into the hands of merchants, many of whom are looking for more innovation to help them meet the expectations of consumers, and to help run businesses more productively and profitably. That means bringing more applications to the merchant countertop, but it shouldn't mean added layers of complexity for ISOs and other merchant payment solution providers.
Today, acquirers and ISOs have the ability to choose from an increasingly diverse universe of payment solutions that can deliver new capabilities to merchants, and new customer-facing features and services to consumers. This is an opportunity to move beyond the traditional point of sale (POS) and create points of interaction (POI) that will delight shoppers and ensure that brick-and-mortar stores are better able to compete with well-resourced tier 1 retailers.
Ultimately, acquirers and ISOs should have the ability to offer their merchants multivendor solution sets, and utilize devices based on the best fit for purpose rather than being locked into limited, proprietary choices. But that requires an agnostic platform that can provide robust device management and application management across an installed estate.
Traditional terminal management systems (TMS) fall far short of that promise. The classic payment terminal is essentially a single-application, single-purpose device that runs one very highly customized payment application; it may be able to handle one or two additional applications, such as loyalty or time management, but it is limited in its ability to easily swap in new apps, or let them interoperate.
The traditional TMS function is to manage the core payment application on the device, push payment configuration, and update encryption keys. Most TMS were not built as true device managers. Generally, their designs have a limited concept of mobile application management and application versioning.
Today, we're on the cusp of a transformation to multipurpose, multifunction smart POS solutions. Typically based on Android platforms, these solutions are likely to be provisioned with 10 apps or more, including the core payment app, systems apps to handle tasks such as printing and connectivity, POS management and inventory, loyalty, customer relationship management, and more. That's many more apps to manage, more complex interactions between those apps, and likely greater frequency of app update cycles than acquirers and ISOs are accustomed to.
This new world of app-oriented payment devices requires new levels of estate management that incorporate mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM). MDM and MAM are widely in use in the business world to enable effective management of laptops and smartphones, essentially integrated management of all endpoints.
Major hardware vendors, certainly, have taken note of the need for more payment endpoint management capabilities and have striven to extend capabilities of their TMS in that direction, but only for their own brand devices. Some newer smart POS providers are offering device management capabilities, so long as you use their devices.
The world of merchant payments, though, is opening up to encompass flexibility and freedom of choice for acquirers, ISOs and their merchants to select the best device and the best apps for the desired tasks, regardless of who the manufacturer or developer is. Instead of managing a limited set of payment terminals with one app and one set of parameters, the next generation of acquiring will involve setting up many apps in many configurations for different merchants, with each app requiring its own parameters and setup.
Thus, we as an industry must get smarter about how we deploy and provision new smart POS solutions. This means more robust and automated estate management that encompasses:
We envision payment endpoint device management incorporating one-touch provisioning to ensure minimal human interaction with the device, reduced potential for human error, integration with existing acquirer sales platforms, and very little merchant-facing interaction.
This is the only way to increase capabilities of acquirers and ISOs and fulfill the expectations of merchants and their customers. Automating the previously manual provisioning processes is essential to lowering costs and competing better against fintech solutions that aim to disintermediate traditional merchant payment solution providers.
An agnostic platform that welcomes any hardware provider that wants to play in a bigger sandbox is the wave of the future. The days when you could expect to lock in merchants, and block out hardware alternatives are numbered. As payment solutions become more robust and sophisticated, it is crucial to provide acquirers and ISOs with simpler ways to manage the inherent complexity of payment endpoints.
Eddie Johnson is product manager with AEVI, where he works with the product team to bring to life the promise of choice and flexibility in an open ecosystem. He has an instrumental role in fulfilling the potential of Android payment devices to deliver the next generation of acquiring services. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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