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From Cash Registers to Mobile Payment Systems: Tracing the Evolution of POS Technology and What the Future Holds

All businesses need a payment system, and Point-Of-Sale (POS) technology has come a long way. From mechanical cash registers to mobile POS systems, the future holds more electronic and contactless payments with NFC and softPOS at the forefront. Be aware of this digital transition!

From Cash Registers to Mobile Payment Systems: Tracing the Evolution of POS Technology and What the Future Holds

Different businesses offer a variety of services and products. But there’s one thing they all have in common—a payment system. You can’t find any online or offline business that doesn’t use some Point-Of-Sale payment system to receive money and track sales. These POS systems may vary, but they are an improvement from the days of paper registers and counting cash by hand.

In this article, we’ll trace the history of POS technology from your regular countertop cash register to the marvellous gizmos we have today and what the future holds for the payment ecosystem.

The Original Countertop Terminal

In the beginning, there was only one cashier. Cash transactions and payments were made through hired cashiers, who could steal from your day’s earnings without your knowledge. This was so rampant and frustrating that it pushed a saloon owner from Dayton, Ohio –James Ritty – to invent the first cash register in 1879.

The Ritty Register could count sales but couldn’t issue receipts and didn’t receive much welcome, so it ended up in the hands of the National Cash Register Corporation (NCR) in 1884.

The NCR added a paper roll for receipts and tweaked certain things, but it was primarily mechanical until the 1970s when electronic registers were invented.

In 1985, IBM created the first PC-based POS system, which Gene Mosher later improved. Mosher introduced the touchscreen graphic functionality.

After this, various companies released more POS system variations into the market. And each was smaller and better than the last.

Then came the invention of smartphones which revolutionised POS tech.

The Current Mobile Point-of-Sale (mPos) System

American Express made the first plastic credit card in 1959, but these cards were mostly a physical means. Your details still had to be input manually. But, in the 1960s, IBM’s Forrest Parry invented magnetic strips on cards to store the card owner’s bank info.

The strip enabled you to slot a card into a POS machine and pay for your purchase.

However, magnetic strips were bumped aside with the proliferation of hacks and scams. EMV payment tech became the new deal. It utilised an encrypted smart chip instead of a magnetic stripe and was hard to copy.

But cards still required a lot of contacts and specialised equipment (mPOS) to read them.

The Pandemic Effect

Before COVID-19, companies like Google were already releasing e-wallet features, and some businesses used POS systems that didn’t require you to slide your card through a POS machine.

But the pandemic blew those numbers up.

Social distancing measures and lockdowns forced companies to become more creative with their payment options, prioritising contactless payments over physical ones.

E-commerce boomed, and so did digital wallets. It is estimated that e-commerce reached an estimated $794.50 billion in 2020.

Cash was no more king, at least not the physical one.

What the Future Holds

As more merchants move to e-commerce to keep their businesses running, electronic and contactless payments are expected to increase. Mobile POS systems with their special hardware and maintenance troubles would be set aside, while NFC and softPOS would come to the forefront.

It would help if you made your payment process flexible and straightforward. And trust us; you want to be included in this historic transition to a fully digitalised world.

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