The evolution of point of sale systems
Point of sale systems have come a long way since they first appeared. The concept of a transaction tool can be traced back almost 150 years, to 1879 and an entrepreneur named James Ritty of Dayton, Ohio.
Known as ‘Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier’, the device was inspired by a steamboat mechanism, discovered whilst on trip to a Europe, which counted the revolutions of a ship’s propeller. Ritty owned a saloon, and wondered if a similar mechanism could be employed to record transactions within his business, to prevent theft.
Together with his brother John, they created the mechanical device which was to become known as the first cash register. It was operated by pressing keys that represented a monetary value, and had no cash drawer.
James and John began to manufacture these registers on a small scale for a short time, before selling the business to a national manufacturer in 1881; the company that would eventually become the National Cash Register Company (NCR).
The evolution of point of sale systems
Over the years, the original cash register design was improved and enhanced, with still-familiar features making an appearance, including cash drawers, and paper transaction recording.
It wasn’t until almost 100 years later, in 1973, that the first computer driven cash registers appeared, developed by IBM. These simple early terminals connected back to a large central processor which did all of the work. Their functionality was limited, offering rudimentary transaction, inventory, and reporting information.
The next major advancement came in the early 80’s, with the introduction of credit card terminals. Terminals had to advance quickly to accommodate this new technology, and the first microprocessor controlled cash registers were introduced in 1984, the brainchild of William Brobeck.
Together, these would greatly advance the point of sale checkout process, improving efficiency and transaction speeds. New York restaurateur Gene Mosher used this advancement as a basis for his deli/restaurant POS programme, and within 2 years, the first POS software application, ViewTouch, was launched for the Atari ST. This led to POS software being developed across other platforms.
By 1992, the first Windows-based electronic point of sale software, IT Retail, became available. Created by Martin Goodwin and Bob Henry, this software is credited with being the foundation of the point of sale software we know today. EPOS became more accessible to the mainstream, and its popularity continued to grow with improved graphic and touchscreen technology.
In 1993, Europay, MasterCard and Visa introduced the ‘EMV’ credit card payment standard in Europe, increasing the security of card transactions via use of a microchip, and direct communication with POS systems.
Throughout the 90’s, point of sale systems became a common sight in shops and restaurants, steadily moving towards automating more processes and taking over tedious regular tasks. Further advancements in technology brought about more compact hardware, including all-in-one systems, which contained the both touchscreen and processor within one unit.
From the 2000’s, computers become steadily more powerful and streamlined. A variety of software providers offer independent services, becoming more tailored towards specific sectors and industries. Increased competition has led to better features, such as detailed analytics, plus customer, inventory, and financial management tools. Systems become more affordable and are attainable even for smaller businesses.
As internet services became faster and more reliable, cloud based software systems began to emerge, as far back as far as 2002. This offered greater convenience to retailers, with software updates and back up all being managed by the provider, plus offered the option of a reduced outlay subscription model.
With cloud based systems, mobile point of sale is possible. Wireless technology allows smartphones and tablets to be used as point of sale devices and even card readers, throughout the business. POS data can be accessed and acted upon from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, thanks to cloud storage.
Integrations with compatible third party services, such as ecommerce platforms, allow multiple businesses and services to work together from a central point of sale set up. Integrated services share data such as inventories and customer information, streamlining for speed and a better flow of information. This also affords the business an opportunity to grow by offering additional or specialist services, but with less disturbance and outlay.
Self service POS and kiosks also become an increasingly common sight, with improved touchscreen technology and integrated payment features. Many retailers now offer a choice between staffed or self checkout services, improving the speed of transactions.
Today and the future
POS features and services will no doubt continue to grow and evolve, as technology continues to improve.
The current focus is very much on integrated services, and cloud based options.
The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to integrations, as new third party services and innovations are becoming available all the time. Once their software is compatible with your POS software, you’re good to go, from loyalty services, to payment options, to waste management and more. As new suppliers and services emerge, businesses can pick and choose those that will benefit them and their customers the most.
Cloud based software and services offer great flexibility and storage capacity. POS software vendors ensure your system is always updated with the latest features, and your precious data is secure offsite, allowing you to 24/7 access to focus your efforts on your business.
As customer transactions become more and more independent, the focus may need to shift to new ways of customer engagement, and breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence technology could provide just that. AI could mean powerful new tools for POS, providing new levels of analytics and predictions based on customer trends and behaviours.
We could see even more convenient payment options emerge and with this, enhanced security features to better protect customers and businesses.
Artificial intelligence/Augmented reality developments could also enhance in-store dynamic signage and customer engagement, bringing instant, up to the minute information and promotional offers to the right place, at the right time.
Who knows what POS may look like given another 150 years, but there’s no doubt there are still plenty of exciting developments to come.
Who are we?
Retail Solutions is a market-leading EPOS provider with over 25 years of business experience. Our leading sectors are convenience stores, supermarkets, forecourts, pharmacies and coffee shops.
We are dedicated to providing your store with the most up to date and reliable point of sale hardware, along with software management tools to help you manage your business effectively.
Our self-checkout partners are NCR, who are global leaders in self-checkout technology.
Want to know more?
Take a look at some of our EPOS solutions here: https://retailsolutions.ie/product/epos/
About the author:
Susan McGuire is originally from London, United Kingdom, and has now lived in Galway, Ireland, for 15 years. She has been with Retail Solutions for almost 7 of those, and during that time has enjoyed various roles within the areas of Maintenance, Finance, & Marketing. You can follow her on LinkedIn!