Breaking EMV’s Land Speed Record

Cayan platform EMV transaction times

Merchants may be shifting towards EMV, but new software solutions are shifting their focus towards making transacting at the point of sale faster. Henry Helgeson, cofounder and CEO of Cayan, joined Karen Webster for a candid discussion about what’s really slowing down EMV transactions in-store and why “quick chip” solutions might not be the long-term fix.

Midway into EMV month eight, the U.S. market is now looking at how to make the secure transactions move faster.

Research and frustrated merchants have reported that EMV transactions can take upwards of 15 seconds to complete — after the consumer has been told by the cashier to dip and not swipe and has figured out that she put the card in upside down. Those 15 seconds may not sound like much but can feel like minutes for today’s consumers and merchants who just want to get consumers through the line and out the door.

From MasterCard’s M/Chip Fast to Visa’s Quick Chip for EMV, new software solutions will soon hit the market that are expected to help merchants shave precious seconds off of EMV transaction times.

But Cayan Cofounder and CEO Henry Helgeson says that while these solutions are “awesome,” they may not entirely address the real issue behind the sometimes lagging time span that comes with processing EMV transactions.

Wanting to solve for those complex issues — making EMV as efficient as possible, while delivering a consistent consumer experience — is how Cayan’s Genius platform and ChipIQ technology enable retailers to process EMV transactions at an average of 3.66 seconds.



Once the EMV migration in the U.S. hit the six-month mark, payments players began turning their attention to the issue of speed at the point of sale.

Not only has EMV been a major behavior change for consumers — the obvious switch from swiping to dipping — that’s just the start. It’s the fact that consumers have to leave their card in the terminal for those precious 15 seconds, all the while being “told” by the customer-facing terminal not to remove the card, then being bleeped out when the all clear has been sounded — literally — and it’s safe to do so.

The card brands’ “quick chip” solutions allow consumers to dip and remove the card in almost the same amount of time that it takes today to swipe. The transaction itself still takes the requisite time to complete, but the consumer isn’t left staring at the terminal and doing the 15-second countdown in the process.

Helgeson noted that these solutions simply shorten the time a card has to be dipped and create inconsistencies for consumers as they are encouraged to remove a chip card prior to the transaction actually being complete.

As Helgeson explained: “I think our concern right now is that, even though we love that [quick chip] technology, could that create some confusion on the consumer side?”



Cayan’s Genius platform, Helgeson emphasizes, optimizes the EMV experience at the point of sale in a way that decreases the amount of time that the card interacts with the terminal, as well as purchase authorization times. As a result, the overall throughput at the point of sale is increased.

Something that Helgeson said has gotten interest from merchants in the fast food and QSR market, where keeping the lines moving is critical to business.

Helgeson said that his engineers were asked to architect the ChipIQ platform from the consumer’s perspective, not the engineer’s. Although Helegson was reluctant to disclose too many details about its “secret sauce,” ChipIQ is “within the construct and the regulations and rules around an EMV contact transaction” but optimizes the Level 2 and Level 3 application kernels in a way that reduces overall transaction time “dramatically.”

“EMV is very prescribed, and there is not a lot of room for interpretation. But, where there is, you can do some things differently,” Helgeson explained.

And as retailers begin the countdown to the holidays, Helgeson believes that there will be a lot of pressure for merchants to find a viable solution that sticks for speeding up EMV transaction times.

It begs the obvious question: Why did we have to wait six months to recognize the need for speed?



For a somewhat obvious reason, Helgeson pointed out. The EMV deadline left many rushing to get ready rather than taking the time to build solutions to both enable and optimize its performance. As much as everyone wanted to, Helgeson suggested, the “let’s just get this done as quickly as possible to hit the Oct. 1 liability shift deadline” mentality quickly set in.

“Because of that and it being the first time EMV has been done for a lot of these [terminal] engineering shops, in a lot of cases, it was just a function of rushing the implementation,” Helgeson explained. “There’s a lot of interaction that happens with the card, and if there isn’t efficient code running on the device, that’s where you get into trouble.”

Helgeson said his concern for the U.S. market now is the amount of time it is going to take to correct some of the rushed implementations that have already been rolled out, especially at the bigger retailers.

For terminals that are already operating slowly and inefficiently, Helgeson said that more than just a software solution is needed. “If you’re already talking about a 10-second transaction, it’s not EMV that’s the problem.”

To truly address the issues causing lag in the terminal for EMV, it may actually require re-architecting and looking at solutions from a different perspective.

“If somebody isn’t working on fixing this today, it may be too late,” he added.