As gas stations add EMV-chip card acceptance at the pump, they will also find themselves rebuilding systems for loyalty programs and special offers that were reliant on their older hardware.
And the clock is ticking. The card brands set an October 2020 deadline for the EMV liability shift at pumps, delaying it from an earlier deadline of October 2017. The new deadline is fast approaching, requiring some gas station owners to rebuild their networks and software capabilities to adapt to their new pump hardware.
For gas stations and other companies to advance with modern payment technology or omnichannel services, they have to have a network behind it that connects all of the working parts.
"To actually build out a network piece by piece and roll it out, can take five times longer than they ever imagined," said Paul Melton, vice president and general manager of Nashville, Tenn.-based Cybera. "In the past, we have seen a retailer pick a POS provider with not enough thought put into the network provider part of it. They may request a proposal from us, but they feel that their POS equation is not relevant to us. And it is very relevant."
Cybera, a software-defined wide area networking provider (SD-WAN) with significant focus on the petroleum retail industry, is engaging in a global partnership with POS and the back-office software provider Orbis Tech with the goal of simplifying the network process for businesses with numerous sites.
Cybera currently works with Shell, Exxon Mobil, Citco, Marathon and other petro retailers. The partnership with Obris is designed to take that type of business beyond North America with those companies or others.
"We have been aligning ourselves well, with the Orbis partnership as an example, where we have seen the clients' needs coming together before the network is built, rather than in reverse," Melton said.
The SD-WAN aspects of a network have been critical for a long time, starting as a value-add for payments services while also tackling "really technical and different connectivity" as the payments industry has moved into virtual or encrypted networks, said Tim Sloane, director of emerging technologies advisory services for Boston-based Mercator Advisory Group.
"It has been a core component of the acquiring business for quite some time," Sloane said. "It's an area in which, if it gets screwed up, it can really get you in a lot of trouble."
Cybera addresses the complexities of a network that has to start at the gas pump, which has its own software for turning on and off, and move into the layers of the POS and any active applications that move the payments to gateways or communicates with other locations.
"It sounds like they have moved up the layers, doing some integrations at the application level, which is more unusual," Sloane said. "It's a very specific area of technical expertise."
U.K.-based Orbis built an integrated single-platform POS, back-office and head-office software that translates to retail, hospitality and the petroleum businesses. It developed an open platform, but it enables hybrid business models to run on the platform using existing hardware.
In that scenario, Cybera sees its role as a major facilitator for all of those options.
"If the network is taking standard payments, or if it is taking virtual cards through a virtual POS, we don't want to be in conflict with companies that are doing POS in different manners," Melton said. "Our methodology removes any barriers. We work with any format because that is the beauty of software defined networking. We just need to understand the parameters of the application."
Retailers seeking a move into more modern payments technology do not have to confront a major overhaul or ripping out of older legacy POS systems all at once to enter a more omnichannel or mobile world.
"We can come in with Orbis and introduce enablers such as tablets, smartphones and Wi-Fi, all of the things to enhance the customer experience and make adoption more powerful," Melton said. "It can be done in such a slick manner now, without experiencing any down time."