After several years of watchful analysis, NCR Corp. this week jumped into Internet commerce with both feet.
The Dayton, Ohio, company announced a group of offerings that will let banks and other businesses securely tie NCR automated teller machines, data warehouses, and check processing systems to the Internet. Such ties would let banks cheaply deliver new services to both retail and corporate customers.
NCR officials said the announcement is timed to take full advantage of the cresting interest in doing business on the Internet.
"We found that in electronic commerce most of the Web sites were informational and not transactional," said Robert Samuelsen, senior product manager in the financial systems group at NCR. "Now we're making a strong entrance into transaction processing with servers for Internet commerce."
The new offerings from NCR are: an intranet access server, a group of high-availability Web cluster servers, Web-enabled data warehouse solutions, Web mining solutions, and a Web "transaction broker."
NCR is aiming its new products at three markets: communications, financial services, and the retail industry. Rather than set up a specific electronic commerce division, it will have electronic commerce experts working within each of the vertical market segments.
In its financial systems group, NCR is providing Web-enabled data warehouses, Internet access for self-service kiosks, Web ATMs, and support for electronic payment methods promoted by Mondex, Visa, and Proton, Banksys of Belgium's smart card product.
The new systems also can be applied to home banking, branch banking, and call center operations.
One of the first tests of the new products involves Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, which is operating an ATM with a Web interface. The so- called Web ABM was jointly developed by CIBC, Tandem Computers Canada, Applied Communications Canada, and NCR. The prototype machine lets customers buy theater and airline tickets, stock certificates, and savings bonds on-line.
Another pilot project is a PC-based home banking application for a $190 million-asset community bank, Nantucket Bank of Massachusetts.
Daniel Neath, senior vice president of operations and marketing for Nantucket Bank, said: "We beta-tested the product with 10 customers chosen for their technology expertise and then went live with the program in mid- April to 200 of our closed clientele."
Bill payment services will be added to the bank's Web site by yearend.
A number of major retail banks are expected to announce their participation in other NCR projects within a few months.
Though the pilots use ATMs and PCs as front-end access devices, the new systems are designed to support a wide array of delivery channels and applications.
NCR has enlisted several partners for help on building security into its systems. The partners include Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., the hardware firewall vendor, and Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., Ramat-Gan, Israel, which has a software-based firewall solution. On the browser side, NCR works with Microsoft Corp. and Netscape Communications Corp.
"We've built on top of our current computer platform to give business solutions for Internet space to enable secure Internet payments and home banking," said Steen Lomholt, marketing director of business development at NCR's financial systems group, headquartered in London. "Ours is an holistic approach across all channels," he said.
Mr. Lomholt maintained that financial transactions on the Internet are sparse because of users' concerns about privacy and security but that such concerns are slowly evaporating as better security emerges.
NCR executives said the company's primary competitors in the Internet arena are, in large part, the same companies it has traditionally competed with: International Business Machines Corp., Unisys Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., and Digital Equipment Corp.