When members of BECU visit the credit union in person, chances are they will use an automated teller machine — because it has only two branches, BECU puts ATMs in the pilot's seat when it comes to the customer experience.

In an attempt to ensure quality service, improve monitoring, anticipate the need for adjustments and take full advantage of upgrades to image-enabled machines, the 650,000-member credit union has licensed an ATM management product from NCR Corp. that provides online operational information, performance measurements and inventory analysis.

"The ATM is our teller, and making sure our entire network is providing services and that machines are up and running is critical to our operation," said Shirley Taylor, the virtual banking channel manager for BECU, formerly Boeing Employees' Credit Union, which has just less than $9 billion of assets under management.

Called Aptra Vision, the NCR product retrieves both operational data and inventory information from BECU's self-service network.

"We can select an ATM, drill down and see that it's fully up and that it has enough cash," Taylor said. "Or if there's a member that needs cash and the ATM he visits is 'down,' I can look up the next nearest [fully operational] ATM and tell the member to go to that location."

The credit union is upgrading its ATMs to accept image-enabled multiple-check deposits, raising the stakes when it comes to making cash machines a relationship tool. The first financial institution to license Aptra Vision, BECU has about 85 full-service ATMs that can accept multiple image-enabled check deposits, plus about 100 other envelope-deposit ATMs and a handful of "cash only" ATMs located at sites throughout metropolitan Seattle and Chicago. The credit union's goal is to make all its ATMs capable of accepting multiple-check image deposits by 2012.

A feature of Aptra Vision that can help manage initiatives such as expanded deposit capabilities is its ability to track the number of times an ATM has "self-corrected" a cash jam or check jam — so that more extensive maintenance can be scheduled for that machine.

Aptra Vision also offers visibility into the parts and software that make up each of the company's ATMs. This makes upgrades and audits more manageable, NCR said. Aptra Vision's interface is customizable for employees in different roles.

Bob Meara, a senior analyst at the market research firm Celent, said, "The product puts the ATM into a business context so banks can understand the ins and outs of the ATM channel."

The product's architecture extracts data from multivendor ATMs, as well as self-service kiosks and teller applications. This data can be combined with information on transaction volume and types of transactions and then overlaid on maps to model geographic trends, which can help the institution perform predictive analysis and identify new sites for ATMs.

Nicole Sturgill, a research director at TowerGroup, said, "There's so much more to track at an ATM than if it's just 'up' or 'down.' "

The ATM data also lets the credit union track which features the institution has deployed at specific machines and how many customers are using each of those features.

This information is presented to the institution's staff as a visual representation of the credit union's geographic footprint, identifying where specific ATMs have been placed.

Bob Tramontano, a vice president at NCR, said BECU employees "have a picture of the Seattle area; you can see roads and mountains and towns and where the machines are."

Rival Diebold Inc. also offers a range of monitoring technology — including cash optimization, remote problem diagnosis and recovery and the ability to push specialized content out to its ATMs.

Paul Mercina, Diebold's director of software and service product management, said, "The end device can be a revenue stream in terms of fees and customer loyalty."

Diebold, which says it has "hundreds" of ATM clients, offers its monitoring technology within that customer network, though Mercina said it recently began extending its reach to other ATM manufacturers' platforms.

Mercina also said Diebold is developing a predictive model that can analyze ATM data and spot trends.

Other technology companies that offer self-service device monitoring include Fiserv Inc., whose clients include Cardtronics Inc., International Business Machines Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co.

Brian Jorgenson, the vice president of product management at Fiserv, which offers dashboard and forecasting technology for ATMs and other self-service devices, said the "device agnostic" capabilities of monitoring are becoming table stakes.

"What's new is the ATM software that can work on a Wincor Nixdorf or a Diebold or an NCR device," he said.