Apriva says it has "future-proofed" its services for merchant acquirers by connecting to a digital currency gateway and developing a universal point of sale application that will handle upgrades on EMV-enabled terminals.

Over the next year, Apriva will integrate with the GoCoin payment gateway to provide acceptance of digital currency such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and Dogecoin at the point of sale, said Stacey Finley Tappin, senior vice president of North American sales and marketing communications at Apriva.

In addition, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company is making its Apriva POS Universal Application available to acquirers, enabling software updates on major terminals through one app.

The universal application will be essential to acquirers and independent sales organizations working to replace older POS terminals with EMV-ready units that will call for various software upgrades, Tappin said.

"It's basically a replacement for all of these individual applications for various terminal families," Tappin said. "A typical processor has to support 100-plus applications right now as terminal manufacturers come out with new versions of applications for each piece of hardware."

Migration to EMV chip-based cards from magnetic stripe cards carries an October 2015 deadline, after which companies face a shift in fraud liability if they cannot handle EMV cards.

Merchant acquirers can log into the Apriva system and "do a mass update for EMV" through the single app when their merchants are ready, Tappin added. "It will be just like flipping a switch."

The universal app will work in terminals from VeriFone, Ingenico and Equinox and communicate with any of more than 35 processors connected to Apriva's gateway. Apriva plans to add other terminal manufacturers as acquirers request them.

Acquirers will likely be anxious to deploy Apriva's new app, said Tim Sloane, director of emerging technologies advisory services for Boston-based Mercator Advisory Group.

"Any changes in the payments value chain usually requires a terminal upgrade, so the ability to minimize the disruption of those changes to the terminal operator is really important," Sloane said.

In the past, acquirers had to contact merchants and set a 40-minute time slot for terminal upgrades, during which time the merchants could not accept card payments, Tappin said. "Now, the download of the new app should take about 5 minutes and future upgrades even less time, so there is no disruption for the business."

Apriva's integration with GoCoin will allow acquirers to serve merchants to accept digital currency in the future.

If a merchant picks up a Dogecoin transaction on the Apriva PayPlus app, that transaction runs through the Apriva gateway and is routed to GoCoin, Tappin said.

GoCoin acts as the processor and will exchange the digital currency, sending the transaction back through Apriva to the merchant account.

Apriva is able to step into the digital currency game because it operates as an aggregator in front of the acquirer, Sloane said.

"They are a gateway and will move that transaction to whatever acquirer their customer wants to send it to," Sloane added. "They route it to their Bitcoin partner and therefore you don't have a single acquiring bank that has to say to their regulators that they are accepting Bitcoin."

Not every acquirer will be able to do that because of their tight links to their merchant acquiring bank, Sloane said.

Late last year, Apriva introduced wireless gateway services allowing independent vending machine operators to accept credit or debit cards at their vending machines.

"We like to think of our company as an innovative one," Tappin said. "We have been doing mobile payments since 1999 before anyone else was doing that. We view ourselves as always thinking ahead."

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