Some recent advances in ATM technology are a clear benefit to independent, nonbank deployers — but others seem likely to cause more trouble than they're worth, observers say.

Thus, experts advise deployers to choose their technology carefully.

On the plus side, software that enables deployers to manage their machines remotely (instead of making repeated trips to the 7-Eleven for monitoring and maintenance) can save time, money and hassles, observers say.

That's especially important at a time when high gasoline prices add to the cost of maintaining machines in person, says Bryan Bauer, president of Kahuna ATM Solutions, a Bloomington, Ill.-based business development company that serves independent deployers.

"Anything you can do remotely is going to be more efficient, save time and not only cut your expenses but also help you maintain a higher level of service and keep the ATM up and running more," he says.

Bauer cites remote re-booting of terminals and remote key loading as opportunities for deployers.

He also predicts virtual ATMs, which are driven by a host or a server instead of an internal computer, will grow in popularity because they promote remote management of the machines.

As ATM technology advances, transactions like check cashing, bill pay and gift card dispensing will appear more often, he says.

Other near-term innovations seem likely to relate to check imaging and mobile technology, says David Tente, executive director, USA, for the ATM Industry Association. Deployers can benefit from the reduced cost of the imaging technology, he says, and may find imaging another feature they can offer on their systems to differentiate themselves from competitors.

He also cites pilot projects in Europe using Near Field Communication to facilitate faster and easier ATM withdrawals.

"You pre-stage your withdrawal, so when you go to the ATM with your phone, you don't have to do anything more. It recognizes that you're there. Here's your money, here's your receipt, and away you go," he says.

In the more distant future, biometrics such as fingerprint readers and facial recognition may replace card-and-PIN-based authentication, Tente says, but he acknowledges that such technologies have disadvantages, especially with respect to ATMs.

"What happens if the fingerprint doesn't read correctly — because that does happen," he says. "Or the facial recognition doesn't work properly? Then you've still got to get out your card and potentially delay the line at the ATM."

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