Automated teller machines have looked and worked pretty much the same way for many years, but now, in a burst of activity, manufacturers are introducing a new generation of machines that work faster, look better, and do more sophisticated things.
The new lines of ATMs have larger screens, which can accommodate high-resolution advertisements and full-motion video. The screens are flatter than the old models to prevent washout from direct lighting and use liquid crystal displays (like those in modern laptop computers) as opposed to cathode ray tubes (like those in most televisions or desktop computers). ATM executives say the improvements serve several purposes. The technology upgrades and aesthetic changes are meant to prepare the nations ATM fleet for the day when most terminals become Web-enabled. The larger screens will help deployers sell more advertising and collect more revenue. And the new products will help the manufacturers themselves, whose sales figures have suffered from the nations ATM glut.
Making the screens bigger increases the reality of the experience, said Ken C. Justice, director of market intelligence and global marketing for Diebold Inc. of North Canton, Ohio. A larger screen becomes quite a medium to interact with your customers.
NCR Corp. is selling an ATM with a 12.1-inch flat monitor, the Personas 90, and has booked several hundred orders for it, according to Steve Kremer, director of marketing for self-service for the Dayton, Ohio, manufacturer.
The Personas 90 is meant specifically for drive-through locations. This one doesnt have to be encased in an island, so you can brand the actual machine, Mr. Kremer said. The model is Web-enabled, and its screen can produce 1,600 colors and shades. To spur sales, NCR is offering banks trade-ins on older ATMs, both its own models as well as competitors.
Banks will be able to solicit advertising on the Personas 90, but deployers advertising their own products is an even more lucrative way to use that please wait time, Mr. Kremer said.
While ATMs with broad, flat screens are more expensive than other terminals, they have a number of advantages, the manufacturers say. The flat screen offers less distortion of a projected image, produces less heat, is easier to read in sunlight, and requires less power. Flat monitors can be as thin as a half-inch, while the traditional cathode ray tube monitors run anywhere from 12 to 15 inches deep.
Because flat monitors have no depth to them at all, they free up a lot of space in the ATM, so now I can offer other services or peripherals, Mr. Justice said.
Triton Systems of Long Beach, Miss., which makes cash dispensers and ATMs for convenience stores and other retailers, says it is preparing to offer a 12.1-inch flat screen to its larger retail chains, which have been making a lot of requests to increase the size of our machines, said Bill Jackson, its chief technical officer. The larger screen allows you to do advertising on the screen at the same time as the transaction.
Not every retailer will want such capabilities, he said. It could be distracting to the customer, and the goal is to get the transaction done as fast as possible.
Tritons smallest monitor has a screen that is only 5.6 inches wide, and the company will continue to make that model, which is popular in convenience stores. To dispense cash doesnt require a big screen, Mr. Jackson said.
While more and more ATMs are being equipped with Internet technology, in most cases this is simply a plumbing issue. Manufacturers say the technology is meant to make the machines work faster and do more things, but not to let people stand there and surf the Web or read e-mail.
We struggle with what Web-enabled is, Mr. Jackson said. It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It takes advantage of Web technologies, but that doesnt mean the ATM would be on the Web.