The chance of ATMs disappearing from the landscape any time soon is pretty much slim to none. Some marketplaces may experience less growth, given changing demographics and population shifts in developed countries, along with financial crises. But in a global context, ATM populations will continue to grow. And the demands placed on their operators will change significantly.
In a previous post, "How far can we see?" I asked what our response could be if the cost of ATMs shrank even more dramatically than we expect — perhaps not to the $99 level that I suggested in order to grab readers' attention in the post — but at least as low as the low $1,000s.
What I was getting at was this: Just how radical a change would we witness if, truly, ATMs were available on every street corner, and at every train station, bus stop and place of business we visit? The demands placed on their operators would evolve; with so much data being generated in real time we would come to better understand the behavior of our customers. And so armed, we would be in a position to roll out new products with greater potential for traction, or "stickiness."
In the post, "Changing my central nervous system … " I wrote that I have been associated for many years with vendors who provide monitoring tools — the tools capable of providing the type of analytics that will allow financial institutions to compete more effectively. That post retold the story of one very large American bank that changed its payment platform — sticking to the same hardware vendor but rolling in a new application — a true indication that the status quo is being overturned. And this applies as much to how we view monitoring as to how we view the application.
In "How far can we see?" I touched on the subject of monitoring tools as well. I wrote that I expect to see much more attention focused on the software — in particular, the software that monitors these new networks of inexpensive ATMs. I also said that taking the costs (hence the selling price) out of ATMs, makes the scope of what needs to be monitored much larger. With price erosion and a significant uptick in ATM populations comes the responsibility to monitor and manage ever-larger networks of ATMs, as well as to mine their data to better compete in the financial services marketplace.
With this in mind, I caught up with ESQ Business Services CTO, Paul Sandhu, who has been engaged in monitoring complex networks for many years. His latest product offering, the ESQ OperationsBridge, is just beginning to get noticed, as the final set of functions are being completed.
"We are moving from where simply observing what is taking place and intervening with related commands is no longer enough when those in IT operations talk of today's solutions for manageability," Sandhu said. "It's the demands of the line-of-business managers seeking greater insight into what is transpiring across the entire population of ATMs or kiosks, or even POS [devices], that is more important."
When I returned to the topic of ATM networks continuing to get larger — particularly in emerging marketplaces where prices are under considerable pressure — Sandhu said, "Indeed, it's not a question of whether ATMs will become less expensive, but when. And that will only increase the demand for monitoring products to populate databases suitable for supporting the type of analytics line-of-business managers need."
I have been close to hardware vendors for many years, and it has been my consistent observation that the hardware vendor's motivation is to ensure that there's just enough monitoring capability in place so that the bases are covered. So, as soon as there's any heterogeneity in play, the monitoring offerings from the hardware vendors leave too many gaps. Should the population of ATMs increase and the data flowing back to servers climb as I expect, perhaps it will not be hardware vendors we need to pay attention to, after all.
"Legacy ATM monitoring tools are beginning to show their age. They do not provide adequate operational intelligence or the insightful analytics needed by the line-of-business managers for proactive decision making," said ESQ Managing Director, Harish Bhat, of these older products.
When I broached this subject of legacy products and how they lack functionality, particularly when it comes to the heterogeneity we now have within the data center, Sandhu said, "There is a real opportunity for all involved with the business to better leverage the information that can only be pulled from the mass of data being generated by so many ATMs and their supporting infrastructure."
As I said, ATMs are not disappearing anytime soon. But ATM users will gravitate to those networks that are more responsive to their requirements. And only the better-informed line-of-business managers will be able to fully understand and meet their customers' needs.