ATMs look to the future … except that the future’s already been around for a while.

The new SelfServ 80 ATM from NCR
The new SelfServ 80 ATM from NCR.

Last week, the Yahoo newsfeed republished a trade article from BGR News titled “This Futuristic ATM Means You’ll Never Have to Go into a Bank Again.”

It was a rather breathless piece reporting that NCR (once called National Cash Register) will be introducing a new ATM dubbed the SelfServ 80 to a number of major banks as well as several community banking organizations.

In addition to dispensing cash, the SelfServ 80 machines have large touchscreens and video conferencing capabilities that will enable banking customers to do “virtually anything” they’d normally go into the bank to transact, according to the news article.

This includes applying for loans or credit cards – or any other communications that would typically occur with a bank officer.

It sounds quite intriguing – and major step forward for ATMs, which haven’t changed that much since they were unveiled decades ago.

It’s easy to forget that ATMs were among the very first devices to “automate” activities previous carried out by humans, because they’ve seemed rather “old hat” for a while.  They haven’t quite kept up with the times …

… Or maybe they have?

Reading this news piece my brother Nelson Nones, who has lived and worked outside the United States for more than 20 years, was amused.  Here’s what he wrote to me:

Those new machines from NCR may seem “futuristic” in the United States, but they are nothing new in the Far East. In Thailand, for instance, you can go to just about any bank branch and you’ll see three types of machines lined up in a row: 

ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines)

thai-banking-screenUnlike in the United States, these ATMs aren’t only for withdrawing cash and depositing checks. With your debit card you can also use these machines to transfer funds to other bank accounts within Thailand, and you can also pay bills, too – either on-the-spot or in advance.  Other functions are also available as well.  [See the image to the right.] 

Most consumer-facing businesses which send out monthly statements to customers put a barcode on the bottom of the statement. The ATMs have barcode scanners and so, when paying a bill, you just scan the barcode at the ATM.  All transactions take effect instantaneously. 

These services are available at any ATM – not just the ones at bank branches. As an example, every single one of Thailand’s approximately 9,400 7-Eleven stores has full-service ATMs for all the country’s banks. 

CDMs (Cash Deposit Machines) 

These machines allow you to deposit cash straight into your bank account – with or without a debit card. The machines come with money counters; just put your bank notes in the slot (local currency only) and the machine will count them for you. 

PUMs (Passbook Update Machines 

Passbook accounts might be a thing of the past in the United States, but they are still widely used in Thailand. Want to update your passbook?  Just go to any PUM and insert your book.  The machine will read it and then print all the transactions needed to bring it fully up to date. 

Of all the places I’ve ever visited, Thailand has the most automated banking machinery I’ve ever seen.

Imagine that: United States banking and commerce trying to keep up with … Thailand!

tatm
My brother providef this photo of an automated banking kiosk located in the lobby of a hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. (My sister-in-law is also in the picture, looking elegant and happy.)

What about you? If you’ve encountered similarly sophisticated financial services automation in other countries that makes the U.S. system seem hopelessly outmoded, please share your experiences as well.

One thought on “ATMs look to the future … except that the future’s already been around for a while.

  1. Often, first adopters of something new get stuck with an early version. Every bank in the United States had ATMs by 1973 or 1974. Now even most upgrades of these are old.

    New York City had early superhighway design — long before the Eisenhower Interstate system — but what wretched, narrow offramps and cloverleaf interchanges! The city was built up around them and is still forced to use them …

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