NCR has launched automated-teller-machine software that it says is radically different from existing offerings in three ways: it's easier to install, cuts costs and simplifies ATM management.
The Duluth, Ga., manufacturer, which claims about 30% market share of ATMs in the U.S., estimates the new software will save banks 27% to 40% annually on ATM costs. Today, the company said operators can cough up about $2 million a year for a 100-ATM fleet.
The cost savings are tied to the change in technological approach: the new ATM enterprise software, called NCR Kalpana, uses so-called thin clients that run ATMs remotely instead of each box operating like a separate computer with thick-client, PC-based software and hardware technologies located inside. The NCR software is initially running on Android but will ultimately be available for a wide range of operating systems.
"This isn't a little performance improvement to bring to the market," said Robert Johnston, NCR's director of enterprise software marketing.
Johnston said the majority of ATMs run Microsoft Windows PC. To be sure, upgrades of rival software can be delivered remotely, but NCR argues that current ATM networks come with a variety of configurations and multiple layers of software. Their complexity limits the cost savings they offer, says NCR, which estimates the savings from deploying existing ATM software remotely is at most $50,000 each year while the Kalpana model could reduce maintenance costs by up to $800,000 a year for a 100-ATM network.
"Fifteen years ago, [upgrading ATMs machine by machine] looked like a reasonable way of doing things," said Johnston. "The world has moved on quite considerably since then. It's becoming a big headache."
Cardtronics, a large retail ATM operator, will be running a Kalpana pilot this spring in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The software's debut coincides with a difficult period in ATM management. Microsoft a year ago dropped support of Windows XP, the operating-system version used by most ATMs, handing banks the arduous task of having to upgrade their ATMs to Windows 7.
"It's been a painful process for many financial institutions," said Jim O'Neill, a senior analyst within the banking group of research and consulting firm Celent. Thin-client ATMs could be one way to avoid repeating that process, say, seven years down the road. NCR also believes Kalpana is less vulnerable to Windows PC attacks such as so-called man-in-the-middle intrusions by hackers.
Ed O'Brien, director of the banking-channels advisory service for Mercator Advisory Group, cites lower cost of ownership and quicker deployments among the expected benefits of a thin-client ATM model.
ATM manufacturer Diebold said it already has thin-client ATM software.
Still, banks have a reputation for moving slowly on tech projects. Microsoft, which warned banks about its software change for two years, still had banks racing for the update at the drop-dead deadline or extending their service contracts.
But NCR says it thinks the benefits of the new technology are worth the investment. Beyond the expected significant cost savings, NCR believes the new ATM approach will also help deliver new features such as paperless receipts and the ability to use a mobile app to withdraw cash. And Kalpana has the ability to display "be back soon" type of messaging should a network outage occur.
"This is a market-ready product," Johnston said. "This isn't a lab prototype. We are looking for more than customers to kick the tires around and experiment."