Just a few weeks ago I became a U.S. citizen. After living in America for more than two decades it was probably time to step up and complete the formalities. Just this week a brand new passport arrived, even as I was anxiously counting down the days before I head to Germany for an HP NonStop user event. But I cannot shake the feeling that I am still an Australian, and neither can the Australian government, which is allowing me to become a citizen of both countries — essentially living with dual citizenship.
My American wife, Margo, is from Poland, and while there had been little incentive to request Polish citizenship, now that Poland is part of the European Community, the interest level has escalated somewhat. A few years back we spent a day in Gdansk, on the Baltic Coast, and loved the place.
Who knows? We may spend a summer there at some point, so perhaps getting the Polish and, by default, the European passport may be something we could both benefit from. I will need a bigger travel wallet — well, at least one with more pockets.
But surely, for those who live where business dictates and need the freedom to simply pack up and take residency wherever, there's a need for a "World Passport." All of this came to me when I received a picture from a colleague of mine who was travelling to Japan.
He couldn't stop himself and just had to send the photo (right) of a label on an ATM at the airport. There may be more impressive displays elsewhere in the world, but come on — there's really that many networks and switches up and running in that part of the world?
It's not just the ATM networks that are supported, it's also the ATMs themselves. While I have gotten used to the lineup of ATMs at some European airports, I have to admit that the photo sent to me last year (and now featured in their powerpoint presentations) of a row of ATMs at Indonesia's Jakarta airport looked impressive.
Check out the array of ATMs depicted at left. Do we need the availability of all these networks? Do we need access to all of these ATMs? Surely, all we need is the World ATM card plugged into the World Network — a giant "distributed" switch overseeing everything? (Yes, it would be distributed, as individual systems within the network would likely differ based on financial institutions' preferences.) Hasn't the technology developed to a point where we can deploy such a robust and reliable infrastructure economically, to the point where any country or financial insitution can buy in cheaply?
I have included references to OmniPayments and comments by their CEO, Yash Kapadia, in previous posts. Yash is pursuing the purchase of the latest NonStop system, the NS2100 and his company replaced ACI's BASE24 payment platform this year at a top five bank in the U.S. Yash's views on networks and their proliferation are something I take to heart, as their support within his products is crucial to the ongoing success of OmniPayments.
"ATM networks will only get bigger — particularly in emerging marketplaces. And the choice of networks will likewise grow as well," said Yash. "It certainly would make our job a lot easier if all that needed to be supported was the World Network, but realistically, I just cannot see a situation like that happening anytime soon. Well, maybe. There would have to be more than one — so yes, two or even three may be all that is needed. That would be a good starting point."
"Perhaps a more important discussion may not be about the need to reduce the number of networks, and hence, the number of ATMs, but about what's transpiring on them — a reflection on the level of maturity of ATM users," Yash said. "We know that the types of transactions will get more sophisticated as the bank's customers get used to interacting with ATMs (and expect even more capabilities) so you could speculate that a couple of networks with a wide radius may accommodate a wide audience whereas a smaller radius network might better appeal to those expecting more. This could have an influence over the number of networks we need but again, I just cannot see a World Network ever emerging at this time."
Well I had to ask! And I expect Yash is right in one way — the genie is out of the bottle when it comes to the proliferation of networks and the prospect of life getting easier for vendors who develop payment platform solutions is dim. But if networks continue to emerge and the width of the labels identifying them increases, how big an ATM will we need to deploy? And then how far down a row of them will we expect customers to walk?
When you look at technology at face value, so much appears that easy to do. And yet, technology alone is not the only item influencing the decisions of financial institutions — there's no letup in the competitive nature of these financial institutions. And maybe it's all for the better — perhaps it is the only way to ensure that global penetration continues and everyone has access to an ATM. Perhaps I am being too harsh on those abetting the proliferation. And perhaps being able to walk through the airport doors after a long flight, knowing there will be an ATM nearby, is all that really matters and I should be a lot more appreciative of the investments being made. Yes, all of them!