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Story Filed: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 11:10 PM EST

Dec. 15, 1999 (EFT REPORT, Vol. 22, No. 25 via COMTEX) -- Manufacturers Explore Added Services, Inhibited By Broadband And Customer Patience

Automated teller machines might soon do a whole lot more than give people access to the cash in their bank accounts. The term "information kiosk" has become a buzz word, as manufacturers reveal plans already under way for ATMs that can provide real-time sports scores and stock quotes, dispense metro passes and sell concert tickets. The list goes on and on.

"Customers now know more about the services they want and how they want to invest their money," says Rob Evans, director of marketing for the self-service group at Dayton, Ohio-based manufacturer NCR Corp. [NCR].

"They have less time and much more disposable income. These three facts in the consumer's daily life dictate that the ATM has got to help maximize their use of time," Evans says.

ATM owners, on the other hand, are looking at declining cash transaction numbers. According to Beth Costa, director in Boston- based Dove Consulting's financial services group, transaction growth in the 1980s and early 1990s was in the double digits. Now it is zero.

"Deployers and manufacturers all are looking for new ways to extend the life cycle of the machines. Consumers, now that there is surcharging, are clearly voting with their feet," Costa says, explaining customers now take out more cash per transaction or are using their debit cards at the point of sale instead of taking out cash at the ATM.

Vendors Ramping Up

The idea is that an ATM with more services will drive consumer traffic back to the machines.

"Consumers will distinguish one store from the next when seeking out these locations," says Leonard Carr, senior vice president at Tidel Technologies Inc. [ATMS], an ATM manufacturer based in Houston. "It will make a difference for retailers, just like traditional ATMs did in their infancy."

Simple vending applications already are beginning to appear. NCR has a pilot at 40 7-Eleven [SVEV] convenience stores in Texas for ATMs to sell money orders. Customers can purchase them using their debit card or cash. In addition, NCR recently introduced the PersonaS 86, an ATM that will have duel dispensers. The second dispenser, available commercially sometime in 2000, can double the amount of cash normally stored in a machine.

However, it also could be used to sell metro passes, tickets to sporting events or concerts, stamps, and American Express [AXP] gift certificates, for example.

Ernest Burdette, president and CEO of Long Beach, Miss.-based manufacturer Triton, says his company will be ready to offer ATM machines that dispense prepaid phone cards within the first half of next year.

Tidel, meanwhile, is in the beta testing stages of an ATM that has check cashing and electronic bill payment capabilities and that also could dispense phone cards, Carr says.

More Advanced Services Will Take Longer

The more "Star Wars" type applications, as Carr likes to call them, are a little further down the road. Manufacturers already are displaying the hardware for these services at trade shows, but are finding the back-end systems, underlying technology, and necessary business relationships still need to be fine-tuned.

NCR, for example, believes it can add value to ATMs if they provide information to customers while they are waiting to receive their cash. For example, banks could give customers real-time sports scores instead of a wait screen. The company also envisions ATMs as stations where people could authorize stock trades.

The PersonaS 86, which is Web compatible, actually could handle these more advanced features. The hold-up for these services, in part, is cost-efficient broadband access from the telecom providers is not available everywhere, Evans says.

"It's a question of incremental improvements being made in the networks run behind the self-service devices," Evans says. "They need to be more robust with the kinds of data they can transmit. In terms of deployment, these services will crop up over the next two to three years."

NCR also is talking about working with mobile telephone companies. The company wants customers to be able to download stock information from their cellular phones or personal digital assistants into an ATM machine. The screens are bigger so the customer could read more information and could print a report, Evans says.

Triton is looking at providing advertising on a separate screen located above the one detailing the ATM transaction. The second screen also could be used to provide real-time information like weather or stock reports.

Clearly, you can let your imagination run wild as far as the real-time content that could appear there that customers would like in a retail setting," Burdette says.

Triton has the technology to display advertisements, but Burdette says the back-end information-processing systems "currently are not there." In addition, the company still is looking for the right organization to sell the advertisements that would be broadcast through the machines.

Tidel's Carr says his company expects to introduce new applications for its ATM product every quarter for the next year-and- a-half. Down the pike is an e-commerce function that will allow people to make purchases via the Internet.

"There is a certain sense of security people get from an ATM platform that they might not get from a regular kiosk," Carr says. "People are very comfortable with the security level at ATMs and are willing to do debit and credit transactions."

Will People Stand For It (Literally)?

The problem, says analyst Costa, is people trying to get cash out of an ATM machine might get irritated if they are forced to wait while someone makes a stock transaction or pays a bill.

"Our perspective is consumers will not be patient waiting in line for you to pay your bills for a half an hour," Costa says.

However, she adds, this does not mean the new applications don't have a place. The price of ATM machines have come down so companies can lease them for a "couple hundred dollars per month," she says. Therefore, it would be feasible to have cash-only machines alongside full-function models.

The manufacturers are aware of the problem and are working on their own solutions.

NCR says the machines could be color-coded so customers can distinguish which are for fast-cash. Deployers wanting only one machine could shut down the added functionality during certain times of the day.

"This would maximize the utility of the machine so they do not disappoint customers or raise the cost of hardware," Evans says.

The manufacturers also do not envision rolling out these new machines in all locations at once.

"Initially the corner store is not the ideal place for a full- functioning e-commerce ATM. In a couple of years or so ... you will find that they will be in the regular locations," Carr says. "Today, I don't envision buying lift tickets while some burly guy with a 12- pack is just trying to get $20."

Carr believes the full-service kiosks will begin appearing first in hotels, airports, and casinos. Once consumers are used to the idea, he says the advanced ATMs will begin spreading to other locations. People will begin to seek them out depending on the services they offer, he explains.

In a related announcement, Mosler Inc. has agreed to resell NCR's full suite of ATMs. Mosler specializes in physical security products and services like safes, vaults, access control, and alarm monitoring. The company believes its contract with NCR will allow it to offer a more "turn-key" solution to its financial institution customers. (Beth Costa, Dove Consulting, 412/486-2755; Leonard Carr, Tidel, 713/783-8200; Ernest Burnette, Triton, 228/575-3172; Rob Evans, NCR, 937/602-6563.) - Monta Monaco Hernon

Copyright © 1999, Phillips Publishing International, all rights reserved.

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