ATMs will get smarter thanks to new software

New software from NCR Australia will allow more advanced banking applications on automatic teller machines (ATMs), including potential web-enablement, so customers can use their internet banking facility through the ATM screen.

New software from NCR Australia will allow more advanced banking applications on automatic teller machines (ATMs), including potential web-enablement, so customers can use their internet banking facility through the ATM screen.

Most ATMs still run the OS/2 system. NCR Australia northern region manager Jeff Davies says the limitations of the aging Microsoft/IBM operating system and a centralised network architecture for ATM management have been acting as a significant obstacle to ATM advancement.

NCR has come up with a solution called eRIC – an applications suite based on NCR's Aptra architecture, which allows the ATM to run under NT, letting banks exploit the considerable processing power now in the machine. Messages are converted to OS/2 format so the central network host still “thinks” it’s talking to an OS/2 terminal.

Most ATM tasks today are performed from the bank’s or switching company’s host. “The host or switch treats the ATM as a dumb terminal, which is one reason ATMs are still doing much the same as they did when they were introduced about 15 years ago,” says Davies.

Nowadays, the ATMs contain Pentium processors and memory and disk equivalent to a sizeable desktop PC, yet it is still difficult to program them to do more intelligent and customer-sensitive tasks, he says.

The eRIC software, developed for the credit unions providing ATM services to the Sydney Olympic Games last year, provides for more advanced banking applications, including potential web-enablement. A barcode reader allowing the customer to pay household bills through the ATM has been successfully tested.

The eRIC ATM can also potentially recognise the card of a customer with a disability and provide an appropriate interface, such as large text, a simpler screen and button layout or spoken responses – delivered to a jackpoint for the user’s own earphones.

The eRIC software was built urgently for the Olympics in a preliminary and user-specific form, but has now been “shrink-wrapped,” Davies says. It is already being used in a trial by a large Sydney-based bank, and the display manager side of eRIC is used by NCR in Canada to support more advanced displays on ATMs.

IBM is planning to withdraw support for OS/2 at the end of 2004.

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