What has changed?
For decades, POS workplaces have been built on standard PCs. Starting with DOS, then moving to other operating systems, COM-ports have been replaced by USB, but the situation hasn’t changed much: industrial PCs are put inside a specially designed computer casing.
However, today things are changing faster than ever. Nobody wants to pay extra license fees for an embedded version of Windows, or spend much money on industrial PCs, or buy a stand-alone terminal for payment cards processing. So, what do they really want?
The answer is obvious – people want cheap and compact devices so they purchase an mPOS, a Mobile Point of Sale. Thanks to mass production, touch screen tablets with their own operating systems cost practically the same as a regular computer monitor. What’s more, they have an external power supply, as well as an internal battery, which saves users from losing any data in case of a power outage. Another advantage is that a receipt printer, a cash drawer, a barcode reader, an external customer display, a payment cards reader – everything can be connected with modern tablets through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or a USB.
POS workplaces are becoming less expensive, but it is not just price reductions that change the world. The real game changer is cloud computing.
You no longer need your own datacenter to run POS workplaces. Today small shops can process payments automatically the same way as large supermarket networks. Before the age of cloud computing, only large companies could have cashier workplaces integrated with databases of available goods providing automated checkout. Now even a hole-in-the-wall selling peanuts can afford such a payment system.
How does it work? A central server in a cloud stores merchants’ accounts. Each merchant has their own credentials and can conduct a full range of operations with their own data. A merchant’s supervisor can edit their database and import and export data through a web interface. This server is not a full-fledged ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, though it has a basic warehouse database functionality. A mobile POS workplace provides cashiers with a list of goods and services available in their departments and sends information about the number of commodities sold.
It’s called a Mobile Point of Sale, is there anything really mobile here?
Quite a lot. A light, accessible POS infrastructure can be provided through the cloud directly to any mobile device. The disruption is underway. As this technology becomes mainstream, many restaurants already have waiters enter your order on the tablet and have it momentarily transferred to the kitchen by a wireless network, where the chef is ready to cook your meal. Even your table identification is entered to the tablet automatically using an integrated RFID or a hidden barcode.
Once you’re done, the waiter just closes your order and gives you a receipt, without entering all your items into the system once again. Not to mention that you can pay by card or even through your cell phone.
But today you even don’t need to wait for a waiter to come. You can order your meal from your own tablet or smartphone. Either already sitting in the restaurant or while only going there. You can make an order in advance, so that when you arrive there you don’t have to wait for your steak to be cooked.
With the new technology, there is no need for an investment in internal IT infrastructure, as such level of service automation becomes affordable even for a small snack bar selling kebab and pizza. Mobile POS systems reduce the cost of entry into the market and fast-forward business set up.