Platform Approach to the POS, the Perfect Storm

History tells us interesting things about the technology business. OS has been more important across industries than the device itself (think Microsoft in PC era and Android in mobile). So why should the payment terminal business be any different? I think operating systems for payments terminals done right is a great business to be in.

Ingenico recently launched Telium Tetra, a fully integrated commerce ecosystem. It provides the new Telium Tetra Operating System, which incorporates the power and flexibility of web HTML5 technologies for the development of rich business applications. Included in the new range of EMV/NFC native terminals, this new OS enables hosting of both secure acceptance applications and open-world business app interfaces. Banks and merchants can easily manage and remotely update their system footprints during POS life cycle, through enriched functionalities available on the Estate Manager platform, including provisioning, connectivity, security and maintenance.

Another big step in this direction was taken by Osama Beider, an old-timer in payments, who did it with Poynt. PoyntOS is an Android platform which can be touted as the world’s first payment terminal operating system, empowering developers with tools to build applications for merchants. Small merchants today use a multitude of solutions running on various devices including outdated terminals, tablets, PCs, and phones. This not only creates a fragmented experience, but also adds up to additional costs in order to acquire the necessary hardware in addition to the apps.

Applications built on PoyntOS can run on Poynt Smart Terminals or in the cloud, providing an integrated and one-stop experience for the merchants. PoyntOS consists of an Android-based application platform and RESTful APIs for integration over cloud. PoyntOS helps developers integrate products and services into the same devices which banks distribute to merchants. This enables Poynt to bring the latest tools and technology, developed by third-party developers, right to the merchants.

Poynt’s developer partners include Vend, Kabbage, Swarm and Boomtown. Poynt is also offering the open platform as an SDK to other third party developers. With PoyntOS SDK, developers can bring the capabilities of large merchants down to small businesses. These capabilities include support for NFC, QR and mobile wallet services like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and others. New solutions can also be designed that can range from loyalty and CRM, to inventory and employee management as well.

Here is an illustration highlighting PoyntOS core structure:

We do believe that this trend is not new. The innovation quotient might not be high but the way its being done now is great. We had featured Leaf in the past which created LeafPresenterTM, a tablet specifically designed for commerce. The company had come up with a tablet designed to be used as POS device. It runs Leaf’s own version of Android (Leaf OS), and supports features like NFC, Europay, EMV and gift card. Leaf targets restaurants, retailers and coffee shops. Leaf provided Open APIs for developers to develop further features on top of their own. There is an app store, and it allows developers to build on top of the company’s tablet platform, using the company’s merchant data, and bundle their services with the Leaf’s hardware.

But Leaf was not very successful with its open APIs and limited opportunities for developers. The co-founder and past chief executive Aron Schwarzkopf had left the company and its now being run by Sarah McCrary, who joined the company from Heartland Payment Systems.

With September 2015 as the stipulated time for liability shift and with Apple Pay, merchants are definitely thinking of upgrading terminals to EMV and NFC (wireless EMV) in a big way. And a platform approach to POS comes at the right time and is in the right fashion. It’s a perfect storm.