Point of sale terminal manufacturers are laying the groundwork for a futuristic world in which all merchants have Internet-connected devices on their counters, and customers can use handheld gadgets to zap payment information to them without swiping a card.

Some of this equipment is available today — Hypercom Corp. has been particularly aggressive in marketing Internet-enabled terminals, which can help merchants with record-keeping and other historically paper-based tasks — and some is in development. Verifone said last week that it had agreed to work with Palm Inc. to develop a system that would let people who use Palm personal organizers transfer payment information from their devices to Verifone point of sale terminals using infrared technology. Retailers could then beam a receipt back to the Palm organizer.

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