Powa is launching a bundled mobile point of sale offering, called PowaPOS, which U.S. merchants can use to accept EMV-chip cards.

Powa is also introducing PowaPOS in the U.K., Spain, France, Sweden, Germany and China. The bundle is built on the T-Series point of sale platform, which includes a high-speed printer, bar code/QR code scanner and cash drawer. The PowaPIN mobile chip-and-PIN device handles EMV acceptance.

"The tablet, cash drawer, printer, bar code scanner, mag strip readers…all of these things have had their own plugs that go into the wall with tablet-based point of sale systems, it's just a mess," says Paul Rasori, an executive vice president at Powa. "Bringing this all into a single package enables [tablet] payments developers to have hardware to go along with their application."

PowaPOS works with iOS, Android and Windows tablets. "There are a lot of Windows developers out there that have created payment apps for PCs, who can now migrate those apps to a tablet environment," Rasori says.

The card reader is about 62.5 square millimeters, which Rasori says will enable merchants to carry it with them in their pockets, then attach to tablets or smartphones to accept payments. "EMV capabilities for merchants will be necessary for U.S. merchants within the next couple of year," he says.

The size of the hardware is important for a couple of reasons, says Thad Peterson, a senior analyst at Aite Group.

"The first is that one of the major uses for mobile point of sale is 'line busting' where clerks can handle the transaction in the aisle instead of making the customer pay at the cashier in front of the store," Peterson says. "The form factor needs to be sufficiently small so that it's not a hassle for the clerk to use, and it needs to be configured so that it's comfortable and convenient for the clerk."

Also, for EMV transactions, the mobile phone screen can't be used as the PIN pad, Peterson says. "So, an additional device needs to be carried by the clerk in order to effect the transaction."

In the U.S., the card networks have set a deadline for most merchants to accept EMV by October 2015. Merchants who miss the deadline face a shift in fraud liability. However, most mobile card readers available to U.S. merchants do not handle EMV-chip cards.

"When EMV comes to the U.S., magstripe mobile point of sale readers will no longer be sufficient, so platforms capable of handling EMV transactions will have an advantage," says Zil Bareisis, a senior analyst at Celent.

Many U.S. merchants are not rushing to accept EMV-chip cards ahead of the card networks' deadline. In particular, debit cards remain problematic, as the debit networks and card brands have had to work out licensing agreements to make sure EMV debit cards are handled properly under the Durbin amendment's routing rules.

Even so, it is important that companies like Powa make EMV-capable technology available to merchants at an early stage, says Rick Oglesby, a payments consultant.

"Having EMV now is beneficial in two ways, it helps for penetration in international markets where EMV is prevalent, and it shows readiness for the U.S. market," Oglesby says. "This will be particularly important for larger mobile point of sale merchants."

Powa's other merchant services in its bundle include the PowaPOS SDK, which provides smartphone and tablet OS support and an API for integration; the PowaPOS Server for enterprise payments; and the PowaPOS Developer Program tools to simplify integration.

The developer program will help make it easier for app developers to build EMV compliant systems, Rasori says. "Most tablet developers do not have experience integrating EMV apps with tablets, it's not something that's been done in the U.S., and not even that much elsewhere."

Four merchant services companies are selling the new platform at the time of launch, including The Phoenix Group, an O'Fallon, Mo.-based distributor for issuers, ISOs and other payment companies; Worldline, a Belgian distributor; Secure Retail, a Coalville, U.K.-based point of sale company; and another company Powa would not identify.

Boosted by recent investments, Powa has been bulking up on technology and services as the mobile acceptance market migrates toward serving larger retailers. For example, Powa recently adopted Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), a wireless technology that allows consumers to initiate payments when an app detects a Bluetooth signal from inside a retail store.  Companies such as PayPal and shopkick are also deploying BLE.

Other point of sale providers are broadening their own merchant services capabilities. Leaf has incrementally added features such as inventory and staff management to its tablet app; and more recently introduced an online marketplace to connect merchants and acquirers. Square has steadily added features to its Register app, with the goal of getting more merchants to use Square instead of a traditional cash register.

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