TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-How big a game-changer is new technology that syncs a smartphone with an ATM? As big a breakthrough as iTunes and Apple PCs, according to several people.

"It's fantastic technology," said Mansel Guerry, CEO of Credit Union 24, Tallahassee, Fla. "We already are in love with our smartphones-we do everything with that phone. Now you don't have to dig into your wallet and pull out what amounts to a 40-year-old piece of technology."

Jeff Russell, senior advisor for The Members Group, Des Moines, Iowa, sees Diebold's new ATM as a bridge between current and future technology. "Go back to the Macintosh computer when it came out. It was new technology but the graphic interface used folders, something we were all familiar with. That was a bridge. This is the same thing." The move by Diebold, suggested Russell, is another example of how technology and payments providers are seeking ways to incorporate smartphone technology into the payments space even before the establishment of a widespread infrastructure to accept smartphone payments.

Stating it is unclear today how the new technology will affect ATM traffic, Russell said Diebold's product further leads FIs down the path of determining how they can deliver more services via the ATM. "Think about it, a good-size segment of the membership never walks into the branch. So your interaction with them is online and at the ATM. Instead of having 100 cash dispensers, now you have 100 mini-branches. This opens the door wider for what you can do with an ATM."

Norm Patrick, director of strategic consulting for Advisors Plus, a part of PSCU, St. Petersburg, Fla., sees pros and cons with the technology. "From a users' perspective it is downright cool-you may forget the plastic at home but you always have your phone, and there is less risk of fraud."

However, Patrick is not sure how quickly a transaction is completed with the smartphone ATM, saying there are a number of steps, instead of just swiping the card and entering a PIN. "For example, your preregister the smartphone, take a picture of the QR code...the process looks a little clunky."

Diebold said the time it takes to complete a smartphone ATM transaction is similar to a card swipe or even faster.

While Patrick said it appears the ATM will be less costly due to the ATM's cloud capability (Diebold did not share costs with CU Journal), he wonders how much appetite CUs will have for purchasing a new ATM or upgrading, especially with all the recent ATM upgrades due to the ADA. "Plus, will it have a card reader?" (see story, above).

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