Point of Sale (PoS)

Point of Sale or PoS is one of the most heavily used applications by the everyday consumer. Anytime you pay with a credit card or debit card there is a modem (dial-up or broadband) behind it transferring that data and returning an approval or denial quickly, and in the case of dial-up solutions with less costs associated.

Modem used for Point of Sale

Examples of Point of Sale

  • Credit Card Payment Terminal in restaurants, movie theaters, or retail stores
  • Ticketing machines in trains stations, bus stations, and airports
  • Pre-pay gas pumps
  • ATM cash machines

To fully understand PoS it helps to know about all the pieces that make up the puzzle. Below you will find a complete break down of how PoS systems work including a quick overview, PoS explained, why use dialup for PoS, PoS usage, PoS applications, USRobotics products for PoS, and why USRobotics.

PoS Overview: Behind our daily transactions

PoS Terminal credit card swiper

There are some connectivity products that are so common, we take them for granted. The Point of Sale transaction system is used daily by just about everyone. Look behind the credit card swiper at your favorite restaurant, store, ATM machine, or pre-pay gas pump and you will find a modem sending your data. Odds are good that modem is from USRobotics.

Why use a USRobotics modem for Point Of Sale? Well, USR products offer security, quality, and reliability and can be embedded in just about any system, for any purpose. First, let’s learn all about the Point of Sale system and how it works.

PoS Explained

Point of Sale, or PoS, is literally the location where a transaction occurs but can also reference the hardware or software that facilitates the transaction. This system is basically a computerized cash register. As technology grew, so did the functionality of the PoS systems. Over time the systems expanded and have much more functionality beyond the cash register - which is now referred to as a retail management system. The term “point of sale” now refers solely to the computerized cash register portion of that system.

Let’s look in detail at the common pieces that make up a PoS system.

PoS Software

# 1. Personal Computer

A PC operates the PoS software and provides the interface for other devices such as credit card readers, printers, bar code scanners, and so on. Most PoS systems are based off PC workstations running Windows or Linux with some legacy systems still using DOS or Unix.

# 2. PoS software

Software for the PoS system runs on the PC and is set to control the attached devices of the system. The software normally controls the cash register portion of the system and may vary depending on what operating system was chosen.

PoS Cash Register

# 3. Cash Drawer

A locked register drawer that stores cash and is triggered to open by the PoS system.

# 4. Receipt Printer

A receipt Printer is connected to the PoS system and prints a paper copy of the transaction for the customer.

# 5. Pole Display

A pole display is the LED or digital display that faces the customer showing each item and price on the display.

PoS Bar Code Scanner

# 6. Bar Code Scanner

A bar code scanner is an electronic device – typically a laser based device in the form of a gun or stationary table scanner - that reads printed barcodes. The scanner normally converts the barcode lines into numbers which coincide with the product’s SKU, which then gets sent to the PoS system for price lookup.

PoS Credit Card Machine

# 7. Magnetic Swipe Reader

The magnetic swipe machine reads the magnetic strip on the back of a credit or debit card. The information stored in the stripe contains the bank identification number (BIN) which also includes the type of card (debit or credit) and issuing organization (Visa, MasterCard, et cetera), card number, expiration date, customer name, and address. The PoS system sends the required information to a bank or credit card processing network based off the BIN. The BIN provides the telephone number to dial as well as data rate of transfer, line protocols and encryption in order to finalize the transaction in the most efficient and secure manner.

PoS Terminal with a PCI modem

# 8. Modem & Data transfer

Modems allow the PoS computer to communicate with the banks or credit card processing centers to get the transaction approval. The modem also allows daily transaction totals to be sent to other locations within the company such as corporate headquarters. Modems can be embedded within the PoS computer system or can be attached externally to the PC.

Many systems use LANs or Local Area Networks to transfer the data locally via an Ethernet cable instead of using dialup modems. This type of connection is ideal for systems that have multiple computers that need to access the same information such as restaurants, but ultimately the call for card approvals is still sent via a dialup modem.

So why still use dialup?

There are 3 reasons to still use dialup modems: minimal data and speed requirements, cost associated with setup, and security of a on demand connection.

  1. Most current modems transfer data up to 56 Kbps, but the PoS systems don’t always require those kinds of speeds. Transactions are normally quite small and may only require 300 bps up to 2.4 Kbps – only a fraction of what normal dialup modems can support, so 33.6 Kbps modems can be used with no loss of time. The 56K modem connection allows some of the more sophisticated PoS systems to transfer more data and utilize the faster connection speeds.
  2. With these small amounts of data and minimal speeds needed, the faster Ethernet networks are not needed and the dialup solution can be much cheaper to implement. Most businesses need to be able to accept card transactions, and installation of a simple dialup PoS terminal may only require a dedicated telephone line, whereas installing a network and paying for business quality broadband service could be quite expensive to set up as well as the higher fees each month. In addition the nightly transaction summaries sent out can be scheduled during off peak hours which can also save even more money.
  3. Connecting only when you need to also insures better security. The “always on” broadband connection means the computer and PoS system is constantly connected to the Internet with makes hacking and security breaches a higher threat. With dialup the computer is only connecting to the Internet just long enough to complete the transaction, making hacking into the terminal very difficult.

PoS Usage

Dialup PoS systems are easy to set up and typically only require a telephone line to start accepting credit cards. These dialup systems are relatively inexpensive to implement and typically last over 8 years. Due to the easy and cost effective implementation the dialup PoS system has become the most widely used form of electronic payment processing used around the world. In North America alone there are 28 billion dialup transactions, which make up over 60% of all the transactions.

PoS Applications

Point of Sale terminals are just about everywhere. The most common locations include any retail stores such as clothing stores, department stores, supermarkets, grocery stores, restaurants, and hotels to name a few. ATM machines are another major application that need real time feedback and use PoS systems.

Restaurants and the retail locations tend to have the most sophisticated systems due to the complexity of the setups with multiple PCs and interfaces throughout a facility and multiple uses for delivering orders or payments being made.

USRobotics products for PoS applications

USRobotics modems have been used in so many PoS systems for decades due to the quality and reliability of our modems. Our flagship Courier modem is used on some of our higher end, more complicated systems. The USR internal low profile modem is embedded into a major manufacturer of hospitality, petroleum, cinema, and arena PoS systems. USB modems are also starting to work their way into the PoS systems and due to the small size of the modem, the USR USB controller based modem is getting implemented in locations where space is an issue.

Why USRobotics?

So why choose USRobotics modems for your PoS system? USR has been selling modems for over 30 years, making us one of the most popular modem brands for any dialup product. Our modems have won numerous awards around the world showing the quality and reliability that USR is known for. The USR modem product line covers most major form factors from standard and low profile PCI for internal needs to serial ports and USB connections for external options – all with controller based options for situations that require extra control or security.

Support can be a big issue when it comes to complex implementations and we have separate support available for VARs that sell our products. So if there are any issues with installation they can be dealt with in a quick and efficient manner.

Courier Business Modems