Pay at the Table

I visited Legal Seafood in Boston last week, and they used "pay at the table." Instead of handing over my credit card, they brought the terminal to me. This particular model, from Ingenico, used 802.11b wireless networking to transmit back to a base station, which in turn connected to the network. That's the first time I've seen that technology used in the US, although I've used it in Europe lots.

magic9000.jpgTen years ago I worked on a similar system from Schlumberger, a French company that specialized in smart cards (amoung lots of other things). Our product line was called MagIC, which supported magnetic stripe cards as well as integrated circuit cards (i.e. smart cards). I thought it was a clever name. The MagIC series ran an embedded real-time operating system, an application manager, and one or more applications. (The CPU was an 8088!) When a card was swiped or inserted, the application manager determined which application was best to process the transaction. That way you could run separate applications for debit, credit, stored value, loyalty, etc.

smartcard.jpgAfter working on various smart card projects in the US, I finally gave up. The US networks (phone and internet) are just too efficient and cheap to worry about procesing transactions offline, which is one of the main cases for smart cards. They are great for vending, which makes them popular on campuses like universities, resorts, and ships. But they will never take off as general purpose payments in the US, although they continue to be popular in Europe and Asia.

Back to Legal Seafood. The "pay at the table" payment allows restaurants to simplify payment. Instead of running the credit card for the meal then adding the tip in a second transaction, its all done in a single transaction. This is one less trip for the waiter, skips the need for keying tips into the terminal, and saves embarassment when a card is over limit. Plus if the terminal is also certified as a PIN pad, it can accept debit cards too. I hope other restaurants give it try.

Comments:

In Europe this type of terminal is common, but in part because many credit cards are smart cards linked to PIN authentication - the PIN is usually centrally validated against the card provider. When chip enabled cards were first introduced the industry driver was fraud prevention - it is harder to clone the chip than the stripe.

Posted by Pete Scott on April 12, 2009 at 07:54 PM CDT #

This tech is more or less the rule in Ireland now The card doesn't ever leave your sight, so added security for the customer [ no cloning ]

Posted by Chris Slattery on April 14, 2009 at 10:23 PM CDT #

For sure its more secure than a magstripe for the reasons you both stated. The technology is way better than magstripe, yet I don't think it will ever gain traction in the US. Amex issued smartcards and even offered free readers for your PC, yet no one was really interested. If we really wanted to stop credit card fraud the banks could just required a PIN (similar to debit), but they don't want to inconvience the customer.

Posted by David on April 22, 2009 at 02:04 PM CDT #

AmericaOne Merchant Services offers Bluetooth 128-bit encryption with Ingenico terminal. Please call me at (512) 495-9990 if you are interested in using Pay-at-the-Table.

Thank you,
Patrick Benadum
District Manager
AmericaOne

Posted by Patrick Benadum on June 25, 2009 at 04:20 AM CDT #

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David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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