The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has purchased $5 million in check processing hardware and software from Unisys Corp.
The bank, which processes about 3.5 million items daily, had been on an International Business Machines Corp. platform since the mid-1970s.
Blake D. Prichard, a senior vice president in charge of the bank's check services, said the platform paves the way for "new classes of customer services in the future, like image-based item processing and electronic check presentment."
"Our imaging would be bulk image services for payor banks. We'd be the capture site for banks that perhaps can't afford image yet," Mr. Prichard said.
The Fed will make check images available to banks on CD-ROM daily.
Philadelphia Fed officials hope to begin offering imaging services early next year.
Its payor bank services also will be enhanced on several fronts, Mr. Prichard said, because the new platform gives Fed member banks on-line access to check data for the first time.
The Fed's payor bank services, which it hopes to integrate with its future imaging capabilities, are transmissions of account summary totals, or magnetic ink character recognition details of checks it has received.
These services help banks keep their Federal Reserve accounts properly funded.
Another service the Fed will develop is an Electronic Cash Letter, which allows banks to electronically transmit items they will deposit at the Federal Reserve ahead of the paper.
The Philadelphia Fed provides member banks with an "extraction program," which puts the data into a flat file format, and sends it over FedNet, the Fed's communications network.
The Philadelphia Fed will encourage member banks to send these electronic transmissions with price concessions and perhaps Regulation CC deadline extensions for crediting accounts.
"We would use that data to help streamline our actual processing of those checks," Mr. Prichard said.