ATMs: There’s more of them around these days, they’re smarter than ever, and they’re not just machines, but smart connected devices in the IOT, as George Zirkel, head of global payments strategy at comms specialist TNS, tells Internet of Business.
This summer, the automatic teller machine – or ATM – celebrated its 50th birthday in style. To commemorate the anniversary of the opening of the world’s first cash-dispensing machine at its branch in Enfield, North London on 27 June 1967, Barclays Bank installed a gold ATM at the site, along with a commemorative plaque and a red carpet for users.
The brainchild of a Scottish inventor, John Shepherd-Barron, the ATM has transformed the way that bank account holders access their cash.
Today, there are an estimated three million cash machines across the globe. The world’s most northerly machine, according to Barclays, can be found at Longyearbyen, a small coal-mining town on Spitsbergen Island in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. The most southerly machine, meanwhile, is located at the McMurdo Station, a US Antarctic research centre at the South Pole.
Not just machines
Over the intervening half-century, ATMs haven’t just increased in population, but also in sophistication, to deliver a wide range of services beyond dispensing cash. And these days, they’re not just owned and operated by banks, either, but by a wide range of independent ATM providers, and are popping up in airports, shopping malls and convenience stores, among other places.
Most importantly, they’re not just machines, says George Zirkel, head of global payment strategy at Transaction Network Services (TNS): “These connected devices are smart, intelligent ‘things’ in the Internet of Things,” he says.
TNS provides the secure communications for many of those off-premise ATMs that we now find in new locations and that often provide a more convenient place to withdraw cash than from the ‘hole in the wall’ at a local bank branch. Zirkel, for example, is a frequent user of the ATM found in the lobby at TNS headquarters in Reston, Virginia.
“These are very sensitive devices that collect important customer data, so the companies that own and operate them need to know they’re secure, have not been tampered with and are always on, so when a customer walks up to them, they’re ready to provide the required services,” he says.
So TNS provides the routers that go into these ATMs, as well as the necessary communications infrastructure to link them to back-end payments networks and the management consoles used by their owner/operators. “We provide that all-important link either through cellular communications, in the form of a SIM card that connects into our network, or via direct connectivity, in the form of an SSL connection or even a leased line, where high capacity is needed,” he says.
And more and more ATMs do need that high capacity, he adds, as they increasingly provide a wider range of more sophisticated, more data-rich services: cheque and cash deposits, for example, or loan applications. In the case of off-premise ATMs, he adds, independent providers are increasingly looking to generate more revenues from each machine, by offering new services such as mobile and gift card top-ups and person-to-person (P2P) transfers between multiple accounts.
“As these devices increase in their sophistication, it’s connectivity that is allowing providers to put them out into new and interesting locations – and more locations, too,” says Zirkel.
A great deal of engineering effort at TNS goes into making wider activation of ATMs possible, he says, but the company is also looking to expand features and functions, so that they can support other devices that might be loosely classed as constituents in a wider ‘Internet of Payments.’ These include parking meters, for example, and smart vending machines.
Says Zirkel: “This is a very exciting time for us as we explore the ways that our products might apply to new use cases – but the fundamental premise remains the same: helping organizations to roll out devices that handle sensitive payment data and need to be highly reliable and highly secure. And the end goal, too, is the same: helping consumers make payments seamlessly in the most convenient ways and most convenient locations for them.”
George Zirkel of TNS will be speaking at our Internet of Banking and Payments event, to be held at Canary Wharf in London on 21-23 November 2017.