October 2015 is a deadline that hundreds of thousands of U.S. merchants dread. That’s when any business that swipes customers’ credit cards must have swapped out its payment terminals with costly new ones that follow the EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) protocol. Those who don’t make the switch will be liable for any fraud charges that may occur.
This mandatory upgrade, which will affect almost 1 billion cards and 16 million terminals in the U.S., is a once-in-a-generation undertaking, according to Osama Bedier, founder and CEO of Poynt, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based company that has developed a smart payment terminal. “Think about it compared to the Euro currency change a few years back—that’s how significant this is,” he says.
Poynt’s $299 smart terminal accepts every form of payment that consumers pack, from Apple Pay to credit and debit cards to cash. Beyond its POS basics such as a card reader and thermal receipt printer, the terminal works as a beacon (see Ask a Geek, page 66) and can connect to the internet through Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or 3G wireless data signal. Its two programmable touch displays (one facing the store employee, one facing the customer) can be customized to the retailer’s wishes. It even packs a GPS system to track where sales are made (think: food trucks).
“We call it a future-proof payment terminal,” Bedier says. “No matter where the world goes, no matter what the merchant’s or consumer’s preference is, no matter what app or plastic card is getting used or what type of phone—here’s a technology that works with all of it.”
Bedier would know. He has worked in the payment space for most of his career, including stints with AT&T Wireless, eBay, PayPal and Google, where he founded Google Wallet. That track record landed Poynt an impressive cast of partners, including Chase and accounting software giant Intuit, not to mention interest from roughly 1,000 credit card processors worldwide.
Currently running as a pilot program with a few thousand terminals rolled out nationwide, the product is slated to start shipping officially in June. Merchants will get a device powered by a quad-core processor to speed transactions, a dedicated security chip to handle the encrypted payment information and a tamper-detecting case.
But the software holds the key to Poynt’s longevity. Yes, the terminal works right out of the box, but the company is working with developers on third-party apps; similar to Apple’s iOS model, Poynt will allow merchants to download apps for everything from loyalty programs to industry-specific solutions, such as handling tips or tracking commissions. Bedier claims that hundreds of developers have bought the Poynt kit to start building out their ideas.
“The POS solution that a hair salon or a hotel needs is very different than a yogurt shop or a restaurant or a spa,” he explains. “We want all of those guys to be able to build their industry-unique solutions and integrate them into our device with very little effort.”