One theme that really has my attention this year is mobile payment technology, so I was intrigued by the introduction over the weekend of an Apple iPad application from Square that turns the tablet into a cash register.
Square Register for iPad teams up with the company's free credit-card reader to let businesses accept payments that aren't tethered to a specific point of sale kiosk, via credit cards, cash or even just by entering a customer name (one that is associated with payment information within its databases).
The video below explains the Square Register iPad app in more detail:
What is intriguing, though, is the notion that this application -- or something like it -- might become the center of the small merchant's transaction universe over time.
Not only does it accept payments, but it can serve up some pretty detailed analysis about things such as consumer payments or transactions. You can control who accesses what data, but configuring the application for certain employees. The software allows the manager to create reports by month, day, size of payment, pretty much any parameter that he or she uses.
If I were a small-business owner, I would be asking myself, "Do I really need that cash register in the future or is this mobile payment system enough?"
Maybe now isn't the time for a complete switchover -- the fact that the iPad doesn't really multitask well right now while it is processing transactions is definitely a drawback. But it is pretty easy to imagine a future in which stores don't necessarily have a "front end" checkout counter where customers have to go to make their purchase and in which clerks actually have the power to complete transactions while they are interacting with customers out in the store -- and have access to valuable customer data at the same time.