From the moment the first ATM started dispensing cash at Chemical Bank in New York in 1969, the banking industry has been pushing us further and further from the human touch of the teller window. But that process is about to come full circle.
First, ATMs became available on weekends, eliminating the need for people to make large Friday afternoon bank withdrawals to get them through until Monday. Then the service became available 24/7, and we all forgot there was ever a time when you couldn’t quickly get your hands on some cash at just about any location in the developed world.
Then debit cards arrived and allowed us to purchase our way through life without carrying cash at all, or incurring credit card interest.
Finally, smartphone tap-and-pay technology landed, leaving us with nothing to keep in our wallets but a driver’s license and a photo of mom and dad. Now, we’re heading back to the future and will soon be welcoming the human teller back into our lives via video conferencing.
Vidyo and NCR Bring Video Conferencing to ATMs
Interactive-ATM manufacturer NCR announced early in 2016 that it had partnered with video conferencing innovator Vidyo to improve the video calling services of its machines.
NCR has been building video calling tech into ATMs for several years already, and has some big name banks as clients, including the third-largest in the country, Wells Fargo.
What it wants from Vidyo is their expertise in cyber security ability, the ability to rollout a connected network of video conferencing ATMs on a national scale, and the ability to operate its service in areas where only standard internet speeds are available.
Vidyo was one of the first start-ups to successfully, and seamlessly, send HD-quality video calls across commercial grade networks. Essentially, the company is really good at chopping data into tiny pieces that fit through everyday networks and fitting them back together on the other end in all their original glory.
However, what is most intriguing about the announcement is that Vidyo shared the possibility that the partnership could lead to future products for web and mobile devices.
A Bank Teller in Your Pocket
Vidyo seems well placed to embed teller-connecting video conferencing into smartphones as efficiently as NCR hopes they will into interactive ATMs.
In 2014 the company helped the Mercy health system create a single TeleICU that allows experts to monitor patients across 15 hospitals in 4 states.
Remote Patient Monitoring at Mercy SafeWatch | Telemedicine Video Conferencing Solutions – Vidyo from Vidyo Inc. on Vimeo.
And the year prior it rolled out a remote neurology service that links off-site specialists with emergency rooms to provide near-instant diagnosis and treatment for stroke victims.
Compared to life-and-death medicine, making a person-to-person video call to a bank teller seems quite tame.
Unless you’re a bank.
NCR’s video-enabled ATMs are aimed at a banking industry that wants to maintain a personal relationship with its customers while unclogging their shrinking bricks-and-mortar presence. The new ATMs will let people conduct any business they currently wait in line for at the bank–save handing over wads of cash–while also giving the bank a way to promote other products in a friendlier manner.
But it’s not without challenges.
Virtual Service, Real Staff
POSB Bank in Singapore is currently rolling out their own version of video calling ATMs, and it’s encountered the problems of security and staffing NCR’s clients will have to negotiate.
The bank is using fingerprint identification to prevent identify theft and other forms of fraud, which prompts the intriguing question: could we one day do away with plastic cards altogether and just use biometrics to access our accounts? But right now, for POSB Bank the installation of such technology has limited the number of ATMs it has put into the field.
Similarly, while the service reduces the amount of staff you need inside the branch, it also introduces the need for a smiling, informed face to answer all these video calls. As a result, the VC ATMs are available for only a couple of hours each day.
That last problem will likely see U.S. banks turn to 24-hour call centers, or at least modified ones that now have a webcam pointed at every operator. But they’re also gambling that customers will appreciate video call centers more than they currently do the audio version.
And while Vidyo encryption service can go some way toward fighting off hackers, identity theft concerns will have to be addressed at the ATM location, and ultimately on the smartphone. If fingerprint tech isn’t affordable or robust enough, perhaps facial recognition software could be pressed into service, just as it currently is at a few key U.S. border points.
Video Conferencing Replaces the Bank Branch
The obvious upside to VC ATMs is that it offers a replacement service in the instance of branch closures. For small communities that can’t sustain enough business to keep a local branch open, that could be a real asset.
And if Vidyo makes good on its hint of taking this tech to smartphones, things get even more accessible. Imagine being able to report and replace your lost or stolen bank cards instantly, no matter where or when the misfortune occurred. Or being able to apply for a loan in person without having to trek from the office down to the branch on your lunch break. Or being able to open an account in the first place while sitting at your kitchen table on a Sunday.
The bank teller is coming back.