Count ATM equipment among the fast-changing technologies in today's payments landscape, as ATM vendors and banks contemplate newer devices that can provide a wider range of services

But getting banks and consumers to embrace some of those new technologies could take some time, says Sam Ditzion, CEO of Boston-based ATM consulting firm Tremont Capital Group Inc.

"Using mobile phones for access to an ATM is years away, no doubt about it," says Ditzion. "And most people may never adopt it, so banks aren't going to make many changes to their ATMs that older customers won't like or use."

Still, banks consider all of the more advanced technology while contemplating new ATMs, says Tom McDermott, senior vice president of cross channel strategies for Atlanta-based SunTrust Bank Inc.

McDermott should know. SunTrust announced last week it has placed 1,200 NCR Corp. SelfServ ATMs throughout its network in the Atlanta region, with plans to place the new units in the bank's 1,600 locations throughout the southeast by the end of the year.

A key selling point for SunTrust was NCR's ability to upgrade the new ATMs with future technologies, McDermott says. The pending conversion in the U.S. to EMV smart cards was the most immediate concern regarding the ATMs, McDermott says.

"When we were looking at the units, we wanted to make sure they could be upgraded for chip-and-PIN in the future, because being ready for EMV was a really big thing for us," he adds.

In addition, NCR continues to develop the software in which ATM authentication would be possible from a mobile phone, McDermott says. After requesting a cash withdrawal from the ATM through a passcode, the consumer could receive a bar code to display on a mobile phone to scan at the ATM and authorize the withdrawal, he says.

With that technology, NCR hopes to enhance customer convenience at the ATM with mobile phones as a vehicle to eliminate the need for cards or PINs for cash withdrawals. 

The new ATMs can also accept that upgrade in the future, McDermott says.

However, SunTrust customers indicated that they would like an ATM with a single-slot deposit feature to accept both checks and cash at the same time, McDermott says. The NCR units featuring single-slot deposit, or Scalable Deposit Module, fit the bill perfectly for the bank, he says.

As such, the NCR and SunTrust deal is an example that tried-and-true ATM technology remains popular with customers, especially the single-slot deposit feature for small business owners or others who have to deposit cash and checks through an ATM on a regular basis, says David Albertazzi, a senior analyst and ATM expert with Boston-based Aite Group.

"The single-slot deposit is becoming increasingly popular, and similar announcements continue to come from other banks as well," Albertazzi says.

NCR first introduced the single-slot deposit, or SDM, units nearly two years ago and have since placed orders for nearly 10,000 units for U.S. customers, says Jeff Dudash, NCR spokesperson.

"The single-deposit SDM is a big winner for us," Dudash says. "But we are also seeing some deployment of interactive teller units, with mobile and online banking capabilities offered."

The single-deposit ATM enjoys current favor because a customer can deposit up to 50 checks or notes in any orientation at the same time, without using an envelope.

The envelope-free aspect also cuts down on potential fraud, Albertazzi says.

"In some cases, bank employees would find empty envelopes, but a recorded deposit," Albertazzi explains. "Then it would become a case of my word against your word, as the customer may claim there was money in the envelope when he submitted it."

Ditzion says the single-slot deposit concept was a controversial subject for years as NCR, Diebold Inc. and Wincor-Nixdorf Inc. argued about whether one slot was better than two. "Diebold, which featured two slots, always said that if one slot failed or had a problem, there was another slot that would work," Ditzion explains.

Each company put its own spin on the debate, until finally it appears the single-slot deposit is viewed as better for customers, especially if the unit allows consumers to deposit checks and cash at the same time, he adds.

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