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Smart ATMs

How Smart is An ATM?

How Smart is An ATM

Thanks to digital technology, automatic teller machines, like so many gadgets we use in our daily lives, are getting smarter all the time. A few years ago, the only relationship between ATMs and smartphones was the fact that you could use a phone app to locate the nearest ATM. Now, however, smartphone apps in many instances are replacing ATM cards altogether.

Consider, for example, the ATM program that the self-service software company NCR has introduced recently. ATM users who have smartphones with cameras can approach an ATM and complete the following process:

  • Activate their NCR app
  • Enter their PIN number on their phone
  • Choose the account from which they want to withdraw money and the dollar amount of that withdrawal
  • Scan the QR code that the ATM screen displays

After doing these things, the money comes out and a receipt is sent directly to the smartphone. NCR says that this withdrawal should take a customer about ten seconds. It helps people avoid the threat of skimming, and takes away the fear that they might lose their ATM card or have it stolen.

Diebold, an Ohio-based company that also specializes in self-service systems, has likewise found a way to combine smartphones and ATMs to eliminate the need for an ATM card. Their program works in a way similar to NCR’s:

  • An ATM user scans the QR card on a smartphone.
  • An ATM screen appears on the phone, allowing that person to choose a dollar amount to withdraw.
  • A code appears, which the customer types on the screen of the ATM.

The cash is dispensed, and transactions are complete when customers receive the electronic receipt on their phones. Note that customers receive different codes every time they use this system; as soon as a transaction has gone through, that code is voided. This system not only makes ATM transactions more convenient for customers, but it benefits banks as well, in that it uses a cloud server rather than a bank’s computer. As a result, banks don’t need to use as much power on any given day. Further, banks do not have to pay for paper and printer ink to print out receipts.

The Diebold system also allows people to use their smartphones to “wire” money to others. Let’s say your son is on a spring break trip and loses his wallet and all his cash, and he has no bank account from which to withdraw money. All you have to do under such circumstances is use your ATM app to select an amount of money to withdraw. You will receive a code which you can send to your son’s smartphone. He can then go to an ATM, enter that code and withdraw the amount of cash you selected. Again, this code is a one-time-only code.

It may surprise you to learn that banks generally do not have to do much work in order to make their ATMs compatible with smartphones. In most cases, all a bank must do is update its ATM software and add a barcode scanner to each machine.

In the future, automatic teller machines might become even more interactive. The aforementioned company NCR is teaming up with a company headquartered in Utah called uGenius Technology to develop ATMs with video screens. These screens allow customers  interact with bank tellers; the tellers are on hand to guide ATM customers through complicated transactions – transactions which, in the past, usually required speaking with a real live teller at a bank. If this technology catches on, it might mean that bank branches will not need to hire as many tellers, as a smaller number of tellers will work in central locations and help customers remotely.

ATMs for the Visually Impaired

Blind people, and people with visual impairments, can go into any bank in the United States and use an automatic teller machine unassisted. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act makes it a requirement that financial institutions be equipped with ATMs for the visually impaired. That’s because, under the law, having to wait in line to speak to a teller and ask for assistance with an ATM machine places an undue burden on visually impaired people. Not to mention, getting a teller’s assistance with an ATM requires customers to say all of their personal banking information out loud. And doing makes the customer vulnerable to thieves and skimmers.

How Are the Visually Impaired Guided Through an ATM Transaction?

ATMs for the Visually Impaired

ATMs for the visually impaired include Braille, both on the keys and Braille instructions. The keys of an ATM are designed in a certain way to assist the blind. Keys are raise, not flat against the keypad. The numbers are set up in a way that makes them easy to find, too. They’re arranged in order – either ascending order or descending order – and the number five has a tiny raised piece on it to help those with visual impairments orient themselves.

Most important, these ATMs “talk”, they deliver through voice recordings all the information that seeing customers read. These pieces of info include:

  • instructions for making transactions
  • error messages
  • the date
  • the time

Visually-impaired people listen to ATM voices through headphones. Banks provide headphones, but in order to avoid germs, customers can bring their own headphones to the bank. (These machines work with most standard versions of headphones and earbuds.) That way, these customers can keep private their personal information, items such as:

  • their monthly bank statements
  • the balances in their various accounts

What’s more, these ATM voices are not simply recordings that are played back at the touch of the button. They are more sophisticated than that. For example, customers can ask that the voice repeat a certain sentence. And some ATMs speak in voices that sound human, as opposed to the emotionless, non-modulated voices of many computers. Customers can adjust the volume of an ATM voice.

How are these ATMs Helpful to Others Not Visually Impaired?

Senior citizens who are not legally blind but who have issues with their eyesight can derive benefit from talking ATMs. That’s because these machines employ contrasting colors to make various keys stand out, making them easier to spot. In fact, everyone is allowed to use a talking ATM. Therefore, you can use one of these machines if you have 20/20 eyesight but you simply do not like to use touchscreens for whatever reason. These machines also provide assistance to people who are illiterate or who have reading disabilities.

History of the Talking ATM

The talking ATM made its public debut at San Francisco City Hall on October 1, 1999. Today, there are more than 100,000 of these machines in operation in the United States, with more coming all the time, and they can be found in nations all over the world. Indeed, they are more affordable now for banks than ever. Some companies that make ATMs even offer trade-in programs, whereby a bank can swap an existing ATM for a talking ATM, and thereby obtain the talking ATM at a reduced rate. Or banks can simply purchase conversion kits for the ATMs they already have; these kits include the voice software that makes the ATMs talk. Banks also have the option of setting up talking ATMs that speak languages in addition to English. Bank of America, to take one example, has owned and operated thousands of bilingual ATMs for almost a decade.

As a final warning, realize that many standalone ATMs – the kind of ATM you find on street corners and inside or outside non-financial institutions like convenience stores – do not talk. But as these ATMs age and are replaced, the financial institutions that operate these machines often replace them with ATMs that do have voice capabilities.

ATM Placement

Where Should I Place My ATM?

Where Should I Place My ATM

To really maximize the profits you earn from your business’s automatic teller machine, you need to place that machine in the right location. ATM placement is an art, not a science, however, even experts on the topic can sometimes disagree about ATM placement strategies. So consider the following an introduction to the factors that go into this important decision.

First and foremost, your customers won’t want to use your ATM unless they feel safe doing so. Therefore, install your ATM someplace in your business that’s lit brightly, somewhere under the watchful eye of a security camera, perhaps with a visible alarm system within arm’s reach.

You also have to decide whether to install your ATM indoors or outdoors. Outdoor ATM’s can be accessed twenty-four hours a day, of course, but they’re more vulnerable to vandals and thieves. You’ll have to invest in a first-rate (in other words, expensive) security system. There might even be specific safety/security laws in your state and municipality dictating the kinds of security measures you’re required to have in place for an outdoor ATM. In addition, during the day many customers prefer using indoor rather than outdoor ATM’s, as they feel safer doing so. In that regard, you might actually lose some ATM business if you place your automatic teller machine outside.

If you manage a large complex, such as a shopping mall or a resort hotel, then choosing the spot in which to install your ATM becomes significantly more challenging. Many such facilities set up an ATM in the lobby, believing that customers expect to find ATM’s there, and also believing that a lobby is a safe place because it receives so much traffic all day long. And many hotels, malls and even hospitals decide to maintain more than one on-site ATM. For instance, a hotel might find it worth the investment to put an ATM on every floor. If you decide to go this route, it probably makes sense to put the ATM at the same location on each floor – just to the left of the elevator, for instance.

You don’t have to run a business with multiple floors in order to derive benefit from multiple ATM’s, though. Even if you own, for example, a fairly large, one-story convenience store, you might find that if you purchase more than one ATM, and place those ATM’s in opposite sections of your store, those ATM’s will increase your profit margins each month.

One of the longest-running debates when it comes to the placement of ATM’s is this: Should you put an ATM right next to the front door of your establishment? There are passionate advocates on both sides of this argument. Those who say that an ATM should go beside the front door can site statistics indicating that putting an ATM here greatly increases the usage that ATM will get over time. Some studies have even said that an ATM beside the front door gets twice as many transactions as an ATM placed in, say, one of the far corners of a business’s interior.

On the other hand, the case against putting an ATM by the front door is also convincing. First, if you attract lots of customers each day, an ATM next to the door could cause congestion around that door. People lining up here might even block the entrance. And if potential customers walking by on the street see this commotion, they might be discouraged from entering your establishment, thus costing you business. Even worse, a line of customers near your front door might constitute a minor fire hazard, should that line be thick enough. And if your front door is glass, it might be tempting for drug addicts and other amateur robbers to break the glass at night, step inside and try to loot your ATM.

If you have no idea how many ATM’s to buy, or where to place them, you can always contact experts at an ATM consulting service. They’ll be able to analyze your floor plan and your flow of traffic and tell you the best place to put your machine(s).

Mobile ATMs

 Conveniences of a Mobile ATM

Conveniences of a Mobile ATM

A mobile automatic teller machine is an ATM on wheels, one you can rent for a special event such as a county fair, music festival or circus. You could even set up a mobile ATM at a more solemn occasion, such as a graduation or a civic ceremony honoring military veterans. Really, any event at which merchandise is sold or donations are collected – that is, any occasion at which attendees might suddenly realize they need extra cash – is an event that can benefit from the presence of a mobile ATM.

Mobile ATMs usually use wireless technology –not telephone lines – to send and receive information about customer accounts, so they know how much cash they can dispense to various individuals. Sometimes these ATMs do require a power source, however, so make sure you have an extra electrical cord handy, one that will be long enough.

Increasing Your Business

In fact, so many mobile ATMs have been appearing at large and small events in recent years that many attendees come to rely on them. Some people are loath to carry more cash than is absolutely necessary. In many cases, these people figure that if they see souvenirs or other items at an event that appeals to them, or to their children, they can simply head to a mobile ATM and get the funds to buy those products. Therefore, if you do not have a mobile ATM at your event, you will lose out on all of that business. In addition, customers with easy access to cash tend to stay at events longer, and in the process, of course, spend more money. Furthermore, if your event relies on third-party vendors, you want to make sure those vendors make as much money as they possibly can, lest they decide not to return to the event the following year. On top of all that, it can be easier and faster for customers to pay with cash at outdoor events than with personal checks or credit cards. And when cash is used, event organizers do not have to worry about checks that bounce, and you and your vendors are not responsible for credit card processing fees. (In fact, many event vendors refuse to accept any credit cards.)

Safety and Weather Concerns

Mobile ATMs are designed with customer safety as a top priority. They come with bright overhead lights to ward off criminals who would lurk in the shadows, and sometimes they include visible security cameras as well. As the planner of an event, you can further increase your mobile ATM customers’ feelings of security by putting the machine right in the middle of the action – in an area that you know will be heavily-trafficked, as this placement will certainly discourage would-be thieves as well.

One especially helpful feature about mobile ATMs is that event planners don’t have to worry about the weather when they order them. Mobile ATMs, just like the stationary ATMs you find out on the streets, are built rugged, more than able to withstand all kinds of weather conditions, including driving rain and heavy snow. They are water-resistant, too, and usually they include advanced temperature control systems to heat them up or cool them off as conditions require. If the weather is going to be horrendous, however, you could always elect to set up a mobile ATM indoors.

Choosing a Rental Company

When you’re looking for a mobile ATM rental company to patronize, look for a company offering the following:

  • strong encryption measures to safeguard passwords and user data – triple encryption is recommended
  • excellent references
  • at least several years of experience
  • signs that will guide customers to the mobile ATM

ATM Cash Replenishment Tips

The process of loading your automatic teller machine with new bills is called ‘ATM cash replenishment’ (and not, for whatever reason, ‘ATM cash replacement’). It’s important to replenish your ATM’s cash as soon as it starts running low. If people find that your ATM does not provide them with sufficient funds, your business’s reputation may falter. You might even start losing customers.

What is the process for ATM cash replenishment?

ATM Cash Replenishment Tips

Once you’ve been operating one or more ATM’s for a while, the cash replenishment process will become routine. But there are important procedures you should always follow whenever you’re replenishing your ATM’s supply of money. They will protect your money, your ATM and most important, your safety and your employees’ safety.

  • First, try to vary the times at which you replenish your ATM cash. For instance, you could replenish early Tuesday morning one time, late Friday afternoon the next time, midday Monday the next, and so on. Don’t stick to a pattern of replenishment times, either. Instead, replenish on a completely random basis to the greatest extent possible. Not to induce paranoia, but thieves could be staking out your ATM at this very moment. They could be trying to discern when it is you do your replenishing.
  • Remember that you should replenish your ATM’s one at a time. You should replenish your cassettes one at a time as well. There should be no customers inside your place of business during a cash replenishment procedure. Shut your doors and shut your blinds to shield this process from the view of people passing on the street. Have on hand an alarm system, too. One you could strike at a second’s notice to automatically contact 911 in the event of a robbery attempt.
  • Before the new stacks of cash enter your automatic teller machine, take the time to flip through them. Look at each bill to make sure everything seems OK. That is, check that none of the bills is counterfeit or torn and that none contain markings indicating they might have been stolen. Also, make certain that each of the bills is the denomination that it’s supposed to be. If you find any problem bills, contact your bank’s manager at once, and don’t let them go inside your ATM.
  • If you have a safe full of cash on your premises which you use during cash replenishments, change the combination of that safe after each replenishment. Don’t use a master key with this safe, either. You’ll greatly increase your risk of theft if you were to ever misplace your key.
  • You should take enough time during an ATM cash replenishment to ensure you don’t make any mistakes, but at the same time, you should work as quickly as you can so that the process takes no longer than it has to. Also, never place any container holding cash on the floor, and certainly never take your eyes off of such a container, even for a split-second!

Secure services are available to take care of ATM cash replenishment

There are plenty of companies you can hire to take care of your ATM cash replenishment needs for you. A good service will order all the cash you need, and bring that cash to your place of business in an armored vehicle. They’ll also carry the cash from that armored vehicle to your ATM in a secure container. Further, that company may deploy an entire team to take care of these duties, including:

  •       the armored car driver
  •       at least one armed guard
  •       at least one experienced technician to actually replace the money

All these employees should present identification to you before you admit them into your business. In some cases, the ATM company will give you a list of employees along with samples of their signatures, so you may compare a signature on an ID card to a signature on your list.

Some of these companies are available to replenish ATM cash seven days a week, 24 hours a day. And in many cases, such companies offer ATM maintenance services in addition to cash replenishment – freeing ATM cards when they get jammed, for example – as part of a package. Hiring one of these companies to take care of your ATM cash replenishment needs will not only save you and/or your employees time, but it may eliminate a source of anxiety as well.

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