First Data jumps into retail POS tablet fray

Applications for the Android-based system can be customized to suit the individual needs of small retailers and restaurants.

Clover Station_full system


Although its own debt burden is substantial, First Data's footprint in the world of credit-card processing is enormous: it is behind the scenes at more than 6 milion merchant locations. Given that presence, it was really only a matter of time before the company jumped into the increasingly competitive tablet point of sale (POS) marketplace.  

Its offering, developed by a company called Clover that apparently was bought quietly by First Data in 2013, was piloted with several hundred small businesses across the United States in the second half of last year. It was slated to become available to all of Bank of America's small-business customers at the end of December. (Right now, though, it looks like there's still a wait list.)

Like many of the other offerings focused on small retailers, the Clover solution comes pre-integrated, to make it relatively simple for stores with few tech resources to bet it up and running.

It has an 11.6-inch touchscreen with integrated card reader, a cash drawer, and a thermal receipt printer, and comes with peripherals such as high-resolution camera, wihch offers instant QR code recognition. The system sits on an 11 inch by 7.5 inch base.

The applications running on the Android-based system are hosted in the cloud, but the system can be run in an offline mode in case the Internet connection is lost.

Merchants or restaurants can visit the Clover App Market to customize what they want their staff to use: Aside from the basic register functions, there are customer reporting features, order tracking capabilities, and features meant for full-service restaurants. New apps will be added over time by third-party developers, as well as the Clover development team. The system allows for various data exports, such as employee timecards, transaction reports and inventory updates.

As is the case with many of the systems like this, First Data is cagey about pricing, with a spokeswoman saying only that "it is at the discretion of the merchants." That's because the fees that different merchants will pay for their processing services depends on transaction volume and other variables.  

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