Ollie's World - 2007: The Year of the HHT

I made three mistakes this weekend, the first was agreeing to go shopping with my wife, the second was opting to drive into central London on a drizzly day near Christmas and the third was entering one of London’s biggest department stores on a drizzly day near Christmas.

Said department store was packed to the gills and queues for the tills were backing up along the aisles, which made actually finding something to buy an arduous task in itself. I know that I wasn’t the only person to give up as the pub opposite was full of people on their own, just like me, waiting for their primary shopper to finish.

2007 was earmarked as being the year that converted the most ‘traditional shoppers’ into ‘internet shoppers’ and I have to say that as a consumer I am in favour of this, obviously with my ‘Payments Industry’ hat on this is quite a concern and definitely something that most retailers can ill afford.
If high street retailers are to retain their market share, they need to ensure that the shopping experience as a whole is made more pleasurable for the average shopper.

The most obvious way to do this is to reduce queuing and this is where the Hand Held Terminal (HHT) comes in to play. Imagine if you will, a busy shop on a Saturday afternoon, all the tills are open and sporting fifteen minute queues, despair sets in and all hope of beating the traffic home is lost.

All of a sudden a handful of additional checkout clerks appear armed with next generation HHT, and the redundant space near the front door is turned into an effective, productive checkout. These roaming queue busters have sprung into action, and completed everything that the static tills can do, the queues dissipate and blood pressures start to drop again.

These HHT’s are essentially a fully functional till, running identical EPOS software to the static till, communicating with the same back office systems as the static till (via Bluetooth, WIFI or GRPS) and are able to process EMV (chip & Pin) payments quickly, easily and securely. This functionality is made possible through the use of the STS software SmartNS. One of the plug-in modules for SmartNS is designed exclusively to process EMV transactions in a Windows CE environment, the footprint of STS’ Emvelink EMV Level 2 kernel has been reduced and the memory requirements minimised to fit in with the constraints of running on a pocket sized multi function device.

The checkout queues are not the only place that the next generation HHT is going to be invaluable. Sticking with the Christmas theme, imagine how many more sales the average supermarket would make if they could accept credit card payments for Christmas trees from a mobile terminal in the car park. The infrastructure is there all year round so the cost of setting up a sales function outside is reduced to nil, how about dispatching a man in a van (with an HHT) full of sandwiches, drinks and snacks to all the fetes, carnivals and concerts over the summer (although plastic mac’s and wellies would probable be more appropriate), or giving your personal shoppers a HHT so that their preferred clients receive the desired experience. The list of ways in which the HHT can be utilised goes on and on, and we haven’t even looked at trains, planes and delivery drivers yet.

SmartNS, the core software that has made the EMV enabled HHT possible, is essentially a smart card enablement layer that links any point of interface (with the ICC card) to any business system. The point of interface can be anything from the payments orientated half of a next generation HHT to a more conventional PIN pad, an unattended card reader or even a contactless reader (more on that next quarter).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006