NCR hatches new ATM concept

Bringing mobile technology and automated teller machines (ATMs) together to lower costs of delivering transaction capabilities to convenience-seeking customers is a cracking good idea, according to NCR Canada Ltd.

On Thursday, NCR unveiled a brilliantly red egg-shaped ATM that had no screen, keyboard or card but instead responded to consumers entering their PIN on a mobile handset, then pointing the handset at the ATM to withdraw cash. The concept ATM displayed at the NCR Toronto head office used infrared to receive transaction and security details from a personal digital assistant (PDA) device, but Bluetooth can also be used.

The ATM processes the transaction, dispenses the cash and forwards an electronic receipt to the mobile device. The user’s new account balance is automatically updated.

NCR named its concept ATM Freedom and claims it opens up the possibility of a range of services the machines could deliver via wireless handheld devices. In addition to dispensing cash, the secure ATM channel could be used to dispense tickets, information, electronic books, music and so on.

The sleek, smoothly rounded machine on a pedestal is a departure from its traditional look and feel.”Why do ATMs have to look like a great big grey box,” Tim Wiggins, senior marketing manager, self-service strategic solutions, asked rhetorically. “I see no reason why you couldn’t have one shaped like a Starbucks mug or a Texaco star,” he added, and said companies may in future brand their own ATMs. “For too long, we’ve been fixed on how an ATM looks or how it is used.”

NCR developed the software and interface between the mobile device and ATM, and also designed the ATM at NCR’s Advanced Concept Lab in Dundee, Scotland. Wiggins predicts that the wireless technology will be used at existing ATMs before we’ll see the likes of Freedom on the street.

He would not reveal company names, but noted that banks and other organizations NCR has approached with the new ATM concept were very receptive. The absence of screens and keyboards lowers the cost of maintaining them. It also makes them more rugged for boisterous users at sporting arenas and other venues.

This past June, NCR partnered with the Royal Bank of Canada to conduct a focus group to assess so-called “@ccessible @tm” design for ATM users who have vision or hearing disabilities, or who are in wheelchairs or have otherwise limited ability to move around. Individuals with physical challenges were invited to the Toronto NCR head office to comment on a range of @ccessible @tm design features proposed by NCR.

NCR Corp. is at www.ncr.com