ATM deployers aren’t likely to experience many years as interesting – or challenging – as 2012.

The year began with the race to meet a March 15 deadline to adhere to Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. Advancements also came in mobile deposit, video tellers and prepaid-card issuing from ATMs. Meanwhile, they began to shoulder the burden of the United States’ EMV smart card transition.

The industry endured a test of its products' ability to deliver in a time of need when Hurricane Sandy struck just before Halloween and left thousands of victims scrambling for cash.

"This was certainly an important year for the industry," says Bruce Renard, National ATM Council Inc. executive director. "When you look back at it, many good strides were made on behalf of the ATM industry to raise the level of awareness of key issues significantly."

Still, there was no easy answer for ATM operators struggling to update voice guidance, keypad input controls and Braille signs so people with disabilities, particularly the visually impaired, could operate them.

Even with most ATM owners meeting the regulations' deadline, some faced lawsuits over the handful of machines that failed to meet the requirements.

Yet ATM operators who have kept their eyes on Capitol Hill feel they are finishing the year on a high note because the president signed a bill Dece. 20 to eliminate fee-disclosure placards on the machines' exteriors.

That represented promising news for ATM deployers who had argued most of the year that the exterior stickers could become dated or difficult to read, and that on-screen disclosure should suffice.

Passing the fee sticker law stands out as the industry’s most significant accomplishment of the year, Renard says. "Any legislation passed by Congress to help the industry's situation says a lot about our ability to play on the stage of public policy," he adds.

Illustrating the potential for ATMs, Better ATM Services introduced Discover-branded, ATM-dispensed myGIFT private-label gift cards good at nine merchants and restaurants. The company also announced it would offer Visa-branded open-loop, ATM-dispensed gift cards nationwide.

In another new use for ATMs, Korala Associates Ltd. introduced a "retail teller machine," a cashless ATM. Bank executives said the machines could serve a purpose in bank branches as promotional or educational tools for customers seeking information about bank services.

At the same time, ATM manufacturers positioned their equipment as products ready to enter a new age in payments and technology, transforming bank branches with self-serve banking kiosks or video tellers.

As banks surveyed the ATM technology landscape, it was becoming clear many would proceed with caution while assessing exactly what their customer bases were seeking in ATM services. In general, however, consumers viewed the development of the single-slot deposit at ATMs for cash and checks as a service they would embrace.

"On the ATM customer experience, video banking and video tellers were a key development during the year," says David Albertazzi, a senior analyst and ATM industry expert with Boston-based Aite Group. "Also, the single-slot technology adoption to simplify and streamline remote deposit transactions was important for customers."

Bank customers can expect to see further development of technology that unfolded this year in the virtualization of ATMs and cloud services at the ATM, Albertazzi says.

But the U.S. switch to EMV smart cards represented one facet of future technology that made independent ATM owners anxious because of a lack of knowledge, potential costs and what they perceived as timeline uncertainty on the part of the card networks.

In September, MasterCard set an October 2016 deadline for liability shift related to EMV for ATM operators, providing some guidance on when ATMs had to accept chip-based cards.

With so much discussion of technology during the year, it was not surprising to hear data security vendors claim the advancement of mobile and ATM technology represents a new arena for cybercrooks as well.

Controversy arose at the Summer Olympics in London when Visa Europe pulled the ATMs of independent operators out of the Olympic Village, leaving only Visa-branded units. Supporters of cash as a vital payment method spoke out against Visa, as did the ATM Industry Association.

ATMs became vital when Hurricane Sandy struck. Besides providing access to cash in devastated neighborhoods, ATMs accepted donations to the Red Cross for disaster relief.

"Overall, it was a year of challenges," Renard says. "From the ADA and the serious costs it imposed on the industry, to the ongoing drop in interchange rates for ATM operators, to the introduction of EMV, they are all significant challenges."

Moving into 2013, Renard says the ATM industry hopes to receive a favorable ruling in the National ATM Council's lawsuit against Visa and MasterCard, The in council and independent ATM operators contend the card brands conspired to fix ATM prices and suppress competition among networks.

The council filed a motion in court last month, seeking exclusion from any settlement resulting from retailers' battle with the card brands over interchange fees. The ATM industry wanted to break away from the because it would preclude ATM operators from pursuing their own grievances with Visa and MasterCard.

 

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