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Automated teller machines get smart
Thursday, July 25 2002
by Ciaran Buckley

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A new generation of Web-enabled ATMs is emerging, letting bank customers buy everything from postage stamps to passport photographs from teller machines.

A new report from Datamonitor cited the example of Spain, where consumers already have the facility of making holiday bookings and paying their bills at ATMs. La Caixa has 6,500 ATMs, of which 1,300 allow users to perform some of these functions. Meanwhile all 3,300 of Caja Madrid's teller machines provide this functionality.

In the United States, the New York City transit authority has begun to make subway tickets available via ATMs, charging the price of the travel card to the consumer's bank account.

Datamonitor research reveals that more than 50 percent of ATM users in the US would like to be able to buy postage stamps and register their vehicle at a teller machine.

The brief also points out that ATMs can be used to spread the use of e-banking, by offering bill payment, balance transfers and by acting as a marketing channel for services such as loan application and information requests.

Advances in ATM technology are also addressing the issue of accessibility for customers with disabilities. In Australia, banks have already introduced machines with audio-assisted cash withdrawal and balance inquiry capabilities, and a number of US banks are in the process of rolling out audio-enabled teller machines

The researchers noted that traditionally it was difficult to upgrade ATMs, because of operating system variations between each type of machine; each time a bank added a feature, it had to install code in each of its machines. But the software on Web-enabled teller machines can be updated from the bank's server, which means that a single alteration is easily replicated across the entire network.

But consumers still have concerns about the reliability of Web software and networks, which are perceived to be less reliable than traditional ATM technology, the researchers said.

"People are still concerned about aspects of Web security and financial transactions have a higher rate of completion than other Web transactions," said Alex Boorman, an analyst in Datamonitor's financial service business unit, speaking to ElectricNews.Net. "It may make sense to keep financial services transactions out from the retail transactions that take place at ATMs."

A lack of channel integration could be another inhibitor to the proliferation of e-commerce through ATM machines.

"The success of ATMs as a channel depends upon banks integrating all of their channels, including branch, telephone, Internet and mobile banking," said Boorman.

The brief also finds that ATMs are no longer available only on the outside wall of banks, but are located in off-site locations like petrol stations, supermarkets and airports. In the UK, companies such as Moneybox, Hanco, TRM and Securicor have now deployed more than 1,000 teller machines in locations such as convenience stores, post offices, petrol stations and pubs.

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