The world was a different place in 1999-cell phone use was just leaking into the mainstream, Palm Pilots were the next big thing and almost no one had ever thought about the concept of a mobile point-of-sale. Well, almost no one-as it turns out Infinite Peripherals has been tinkering with the concept since the first PDA entered the scene. Fifteen years later, the rest of the world is catching on to the mPOS craze that is sweeping the nation, and Infinite Peripherals is still on the forefront of mPOS. MPD’s Karen Webster caught up with Infinite Peripherals Founder and President Andy Graham about the mPOS space and the ecosystem that has grown up around it.
Nowadays, mobile point-of-sale is everyone’s favorite topic—from the small business that use it to accept cards for the first time, to the large retailers using it to recreate in the in-store experience, to the rampant speculation about what mPos providers like Square are going to do next – the mPOS ecosystem’s future is intimately tied to the future of commerce.
However, in 1999 no one was really asking themselves about mPOS. Well, almost no one anyway—Andy Graham and the company he leads and founded Infinite Peripherals have been looking at and developing for the mPOS market since long before anyone care that they was a market to develop for. Graham spoke to MPD CEO Karen Webster about the history of mPOS that he’s had a front row seat at since the beginning, and where the space and his company, are likely to go next.
In the beginning, Graham says, mPOS became an area of interest for the company as the “golden age of the PDA” began to emerge. Before the smartphone—in fact before the majority of Americans were carrying a cell phones – the Palm Pilot, and similar devices, provided an opportunity to take payments on the go. Infinite Peripherals seized that opportunity and began developing PDA compatible peripherals that made early mPOS possible—albeit on a small scale due to limitation in the devices’ designs and operating systems.
That changed, Graham says, with Apple’s release of the mPOS compatible iPod 3.
(Jump to 2.40) “Mobile point of sale had been kind of an afterthought I think, there really wasn’t a platform that lent itself easily to use in the retail space. You need to be customer focused when you’re using these kinds of devices and the pull out stylus and having to go through the menus and what not of some of the older operating systems just did not lend itself to be used for mobile POS.”
Apple’s entry changed the market in two ways. One the iPod touch 3 was able to accept mobile payments easily, which made designing peripherals and systems for it easy. Second, this big investment from a big player made it possible for mPOS to really take off because it signaled a vote of confidence from a major player on a the shape of things to come.
From there, players like Square were able to emerge, says Graham, because they were able to capitalize on what Apple had made possible, particularly for small business.
(Jump to 4:15) “What Square did was bring that style of mobile commerce to the small single operator type of business.”
The mPOS ecosystem is now changing as it bifurcates between two user categories. For small merchants and retailers mPOS functions as a low cost card acceptance system. For larger already to scale players, on the other hand, the technology exists as another tool in their “customer-convenience” tool box.
Going forward, Graham says the future of mPOS relies on two things—more access to data faster and a continually developing consumer electronics marketplace to spur development.
(Jump to 5:27) “Where mobile POS is headed is that as the mobile POS devices are used they are going to need to deliver more data, faster. The only way they are going to be able to do that is to continue to use consumer mobile devices as gassers for business due the economies of scale and the sheer size of the consumer market for mobile devices. That’s driving the technology now.”
As for Infinite Peripherals, next up they are working on developing scanning devices for a variety of verticals. Most recently, they are taking on the medical market with a custom scanner. This will give healthcare workers the same basic ability to scan on-the-go UPS employees now possess—though they will be working with a much smaller scanner.
(Jump to 6:57) “That’s the trick, that’s where we leveraging what’s happening in the consumer mobile device space with the decrease in size, increase in processing power it allowing us to make protective cases that are much smaller now then they were in the past.”
To hear PYMNTS full conversation with Andy Graham, click here.
For the latest on the mPOS market place, check out the ROAM mPos tracker.