How Android is shaping the next generation of POS terminals

3 mins read

Point of Sale (POS) systems have seen plenty of changes over the past decade, including larger screens, contactless payment solutions and the integration of NFC technology. They’re about to get a whole lot smarter, however.

Credit: NXP Semiconductors

POS systems have evolved. Consumers expect to be able to pay for goods using a wide array of payment methods, from cash to card, mobile phones to smart watches, and even cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, along with payment processing, retailers also rely on POS systems for everything from inventory management to analytics and visual menus, and new technologies are opening the door for even faster, smoother customer experiences.

The POS industry has seen significant innovation in recent years, driven by advancements in technology such as cloud computing, mobile connectivity, and data analytics. These innovations have led to more efficient, adaptable, and user-friendly solutions for businesses of all sizes, from small retailers to large enterprise chains.

One of the biggest shifts for POS in recent years was the industry’s move to contactless technology, with the rise of NFC helping to make payment by a range of new devices a whole lot simpler. Throughout these changes, POS systems have traditionally remained tied to the Linux operating system, but a shift to Android offers the potential for an exciting new world for retailers.

How Android can drive a shift in use cases

The latest generation of POS terminals run on Android, and the switch from Linux provides multiple benefits for developers, retailers, and consumers. Android terminals are easier to upgrade than older terminals based on proprietary versions of Linux, and it’s also easier to add new features.

NCI (NFC Controller Interface) is an interface that’s natively optimised for Android systems and used in mobile phones, and the inclusion of NCI in the latest terminals simplifies the communication between the NFC reader and the Android processor used in the POS terminal.

This helps developers and manufacturers to integrate far more features. For example, the latest Android-based PN7220 contactless payment terminal is the first EMVCo3.x and NFC Forum compliant NFC Controller to feature an NCI 2.2 interface for the connection of multiple host processors. Support for more than one host processor means the terminal can be used in multiple ways outside of simple payment. Along with accepting EMVCo and non EMVCo payment schemes, the PN7220 also supports loyalty cards and other NFC functions.

This includes ticketing, enabling retailers to sell tickets at physical locations without the need for additional hardware or compromising on security. POS ticketing can help venues to increase revenue, providing consumers who prefer to avoid online shopping an alternative way of purchasing.

There are several benefits to multi-use tap functionality. It can reduce costs when it comes to parts and materials, for starters. Retailers don’t need to rely on multiple devices, or terminals with several different sensors, to deliver additional features. There’s also potential to speed up the customer experience, with the ability for customers to use a single device to access loyalty schemes while paying for products with a single tap, for example.

We currently live in an era where consumers are increasingly impatient and switching to online shopping alternatives en masse. In fact, according to IVR Technology Group and Accenture, 75% of surveyed consumers rank “fast response times” as the most important attribute of their customer experiences. As such, the ability to provide speedy, friction-free transactions, could be key to attracting and retaining business in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

The challenges of implementing additional features

Along with a change in operating systems, we’re also starting to see bigger, higher resolution screens in the latest-generation devices, and this naturally means operators and consumers can look forward to additional features. While bigger screens have obvious benefits, there are challenges for terminal and silicon manufacturers to overcome. Higher resolution displays result in more noise, for example, which can affect NFC radio performance.

With NFC radio antennas typically located behind the terminal’s display, they’re particularly sensitive to noise, making it more important than ever that terminals are designed with high immunity to additional noise.

NXP’s PN7220 controller features a high output power and high receiver sensitivity that helps to support the NFC antenna and combat noise.

Terminals offering multi-use functionality still need to meet PCI mobile payment security requirements as well. Manufacturers looking to implement additional features, such as loyalty schemes and ticketing, can meet requirements using the flexibility of dual-host processor designs. 

Accelerating change across the industry

Of course, with POS terminal manufacturers only just starting to make the switch from Linux to Android, there’s still a lot more potential for the technology to develop.

Either way, both retailers and consumers are set to benefit.

Author details: Fabrice Punch, Marketing Director, NFC IoT Security at NXP